The 19th edition of the L'Oréal Portugal Medals of Honor for Women in Science distinguishes four more Portuguese scientists, in a medal award ceremony on 10 May, at Ciência Viva - Pavilhão do Conhecimento.
Research on cardiac devices, type 2 diabetes, glaucoma and recovery of degraded soil are the themes addressed by the four scientific projects awarded and developed, respectively by Andreia Trindade Pereira (i3S - University of Porto), Joana Sacramento (Nova Medical School - New University of Lisbon), Raquel Boia (iCBR - University of Coimbra); and Sara Peixoto (University of Aveiro).
The female researchers, with PhDs and aged between 31 and 35, were selected by a scientific jury, chaired by Alexandre Quintanilha, and will receive an individual prize of 15 thousand euros. A total of 60 thousand euros will be awarded to support the research projects of young female PhD researchers.
In Portugal, 65 young female researchers have already been distinguished with the L'Oréal Portugal Medals of Honor for Women in Science. The first edition of this initiative in Portugal took place in 2004, inspired by the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program, a L'Oréal support to women in science in partnership with UNESCO, which has been running since 1998.
Since its beginning, the L'Oréal Portugal Medals of Honor for Women in Science program brings together L'Oréal Portugal, the National UNESCO Commission and the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) to support young female researchers.
Winning projects of the 19th edition of the L'Oréal Portugal Medals of Honor for Women in Science:
Andreia Trindade Pereira
31 years old
i3S - Institute for Health Research and Innovation, University of Porto
Project "BloodStream2Power - Exploring blood stream to generate energy for cardiac electrical devices
The project proposes to use the mechanical energy produced by the human body as an alternative and inexhaustible source to power implantable electronic cardiac devices, such as pacemakers, for example, which currently use conventional batteries with a limited life span, needing to be replaced in surgeries that carry a high risk for patients. The way to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy relies on the principle of static electricity produced by friction (also called triboelectricity), in an effect that Andreia compares to "the friction of a pencil on a wool sweater or of our hands on a balloon".
35 years old
NOVA Medical School, New University of Lisbon
Project "Closed-loop electroceutical targeting of carotid sinus nerve to treat type 2 diabetes"
This research explores an emerging medical field, bioelectronic medicine, and intends to use its potential to modulate the electrical activity of the human body to selectively alter the activity of the carotid body, a small organ located in the neck, which has been shown in previous studies to be involved in the development of type 2 diabetes. "We observed that when we cut the connection between the carotid body and the brain, by cutting the carotid sinus nerve, it is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes," says Joana Sacramento. However, this approach cannot be performed in humans, because the carotid body has several other essential functions to our organism, such as controlling the oxygen levels in the blood. Alternatively, Joana and her team have proved that electrical modulation of the carotid sinus nerve activity, rather than cutting it, can also reverse type 2 diabetes.
34 years old
Coimbra Institute for Clinical and Biomedical Research (iCBR), Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra and VectorB2B - drug development
Project "A new therapeutic approach to leverage vision restoration in glaucoma"
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness in the world and is characterized by substantial loss of retinal ganglion cells and damage to the optic nerve, consisting of cell extensions, the axons, which transmit visual information to the brain. This research project aims to find out if it is possible to regenerate the axons of the retinal ganglion cells and reintegrate them correctly into the visual system to promote vision recovery. "We have already identified that the activation of a receptor present in retinal ganglion cells is able to confer them protection", explains researcher Raquel Boia, who will now assess whether this receptor - the adenosine A3 - can promote the regeneration of the axons of these cells and integrate them back into the visual system, so that the optic nerve is again able to transmit visual information to the brain.
Project "MicroStimulus - The ecological role of microbial-based plant biostimulants in the resident rhizosphere microbiome from degraded agricultural and forest soils"
With this research, Sara Peixoto wants to understand the ecological effect of the application of biostimulants in the recovery of degraded soils and understand whether these products can support the functional recovery of soils affected by intensive agricultural use and forest fires. To this end, she will analyze the role that different formulations of biostimulants based on microorganisms play in the communities of microorganisms that are naturally present in the soil (soil microbiome), specifically in the area where soil and plant roots come into contact (rhizosphere).
In general, biostimulants facilitate the availability of nutrients in the soil (for example, they help fix nitrogen or make phosphorus soluble), improving its fertility and favorable conditions for plant growth and productivity, as well as its tolerance to environmental stresses.