University of Dundee

£1.9 million award for Dundee Scientist

31 May 2009

A University of Dundee scientist has been awarded a £1.9 million Wellcome Trust grant for innovative basic research which could lead to the development of new treatments for a range of debilitating diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.

Professor Daan van Aalten, at the College of Life Sciences at Dundee, has received the funding from the Wellcome Trust for his research on how proteins in the cell are regulated by an unusual chemical modification called O-GlcNAc.

The human body is made up of billions of cells, each containing more than 10000 different proteins, which Professor van Aalten describes as 'the molecular machines that do all the work in the cell.'

He continued, 'These molecular machines need to be tightly controlled, and are regulated in the cell by small chemical modifications. The O-GlcNAc modification regulates how cells respond to insulin and other stimuli and inappropriate levels of this modification have been implicated in the development of conditions such as Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes.'

Professor van Aalten’s research will examine how this modification acts at a molecular level and will look to give us a greater understanding of how this affects key processes in the body such as insulin signalling, energy expenditure and neuronal development.

'At present, our understanding of the proteins involved in creating this modification is limited', said Professor van Aalten.

'Our work is aimed at generating new molecular tools and then use these to study this modification in live cells. While this is all very much basic science, it is possible that it will ultimately lead to the development of novel treatments.'

The £1.9million Senior Research Fellowship will fund Professor van Aalten’s research for the next five years. This sum includes funding to create the equivalent of 3.5 full-time research positions.