First INTER ANR funding for LIH for a research project in epigenetics

2017 - 12 - 19

In September 2017, the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) announced the bilateral research projects that will be funded jointly by FNR and the “Agence Nationale de la Recherche” (ANR) in France from the INTER call 2017. Dr Jonathan Turner, principal investigator at LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity, together with Prof Muriel Darnaudery (University of Bordeaux) and Prof Jamileh Movassat (CNRS), are among the successful applicants with their joint research project investigating the epigenetic origins of concurrent diabetes and neuropsychiatric disorders.

As part of their INTER program, the FNR has a bilateral agreement with the ANR that aims to reinforce collaboration between scientists in Luxembourg and France. Five out of 33 proposals involving Luxembourg partners were retained for funding in the ANR-FNR call, representing an FNR commitment of a total of 1.85 million Euros. The LIH project “Maternal diabetes and neuropsychiatric vulnerability in offspring: role of DNA methylation” or shortly MADAM was endowed with 327,000 Euro within this INTER program and will start in January 2018.

It is broadly accepted that negative early life events have consequences on health that persist through the lifespan. Recent epidemiological studies suggest that maternal diabetes has a detrimental effect on their offspring’s vulnerability to develop mental disorders such as autism or schizophrenia. The aim of the project MADAM is to examine the links between the exposure to maternal diabetes and the development of both diabetes and emotional disorders in the offspring. There is growing evidence that disease loci are epigenetically regulated, and that epigenotypes are transmitted from one generation to the next and play a significant role in disease development. In this project, epigenetic processes - in particular DNA methylation - will be examined in both emotion-related brain areas and the pancreas in a model of concurrent type 2 diabetes and depression.

Epigenetic changes caused by environmental factors such as early-life adversity are the field of expertise of Dr Jonathan Turner who leads the “Immune Endocrine and Epigenetics” research group at LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity. “With this project, we hope to improve our understanding of the epigenetic origins of both type 2 diabetes and depression to be able to better prevent and treat the two associated disorders,” states Dr Turner.