16 December

NWO Veni for Imke Mandemaker and Delilah Hendriks

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Imke Mandemaker (Mattiroli group) and Delilah Hendriks (Clevers group) each receive a Veni from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Both researchers receive €280.000 for their projects. Mandemaker will use the grant to show how a newly identified player controls gene activity by placing the epigenetic marker macroH2A on DNA. Hendriks will generate human mini livers in the lab to study the role of genetic risk factors in fatty liver disease.

Imke Mandemaker: “Macro”-managing genes

All cells in the human body contain the same DNA but can specialize into different cell types. They do this by turning genes on or off, which is carefully organized through so-called epigenetic processes. Regulation of these epigenetic processes is crucial for maintaining the identity of cells and to prevent diseases such as cancer.

DNA is wrapped around histones: proteins that play an important role in epigenetic regulation. “My research focuses on the histone variant macroH2A, which is important for suppression of gene activity. I previously discovered a new factor that places macroH2A on DNA. In this project, I will study how this factor regulates gene activity by placing the epigenetic marker macroH2A on the DNA,” Mandemaker explains.

Delilah Hendriks: “When fatty livers become personal”

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a growing disease worldwide and affects more than 25% of the global population. It is strongly linked to the Western diet and can eventually lead to the need for liver transplantation. Yet, there are still no drug therapies, which is predominantly due to our limited molecular understanding of the disease.

In recent years, several genetic risk factors have been identified that make some individuals at increased risk for NAFLD. “In this project, we will generate human mini-livers engineered to carry these genetic risk factors to study their role in the context of NAFLD. We will also use the personalized mini-livers to study drug treatment options for the disease,” says Hendriks.

About NWO Veni

Together with Vidi and Vici, Veni is part of the Talent Programme of the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Veni is intended for researchers who have recently obtained their PhD and who display a striking talent for scientific research. With the grant, laureates can conduct independent research and develop their ideas for a period of three years.