D. Manuel de Mello Grant awards young doctors who are involved in clinical research projects, in the Research and Development Units of the Portuguese Faculties of Medicine.
This 12,500 EUR award works on an annual basis and is aimed at honoring medical research works, in a competition that is open to all healthcare professionals.
Helder Novais e Bastos wins D. Manuel de Mello Grant with his project on tuberculosis
Helder Novais e Bastos, portuguese researcher from Health Sciences School/ Institute for Life and Health Sciences of University of Minho [Escola de Ciências de Saúde/ICVS da Universidade do Minho], and also a Hospital de São João’s physician, has been awarded, on the last November 27th, with Bolsa D. Manuel de Mello, a 12,500 EUR award.
The ceremony took place in Hospital de Braga, and was attended by António Sousa Rêgo, president of Fundação Amélia de Mello; Salvador de Mello, CEO of José de Mello Saúde; and Rui Raposo, Chairman of the Administrative Board of the Saúde CUF network of the North.
“The majority of researchers have been focusing on the study of the human host factors that increase the predisposition to develop tuberculosis. However, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis also has an important genetic diversity that we think that explains, at least in part, the wide spectrum of this disease's clinical manifestations”, explains Helder Novais e Bastos.
“With this work that has now been awarded with D. Manuel de Mello Grant we want to characterise the phylogeny of the bacteria that is causing tuberculosis in the North of the country, which means that different cell line or strains, of different evolutionary origin and that are genetically diverse, have been circulating and infecting people”.
He adds: “I have a keen understanding of the bacteria’s genetic diversity, and knowing how it influences the severity of tuberculosis will give us tools to develop treatment strategies that will be more appropriate for each case. For example, if we find out that a particular cell line of tuberculosis is associated with a worst disease prognosis, doctors will then know that they have to intercede at the earliest possible stage, and possibly with a more potent therapeutic approach”.
(left to the right: Helder Novais e Basto, António Sousa Rêgo, Salvador de Mello and Rui Raposo)
Summary of the award winning work
Tuberculosis still is a global public health problem. It is estimated that some 8,8 million cases occurred in 2010, around the world, with a mortality rate of 1,4 million people. This means that tuberculosis constitutes the second infectious cause of death in the world. In Portugal, there has been an average annual decrease of 7,3%, in the last years. Nevertheless, the incidence threshold of 20 cases/100,000 individuals has not been reached, which would put us in the category of low incidence country.
Despite the progress achieved, the fight against tuberculosis has failed in some of its main goals. One of the challenging factors in fighting this disease, outlined by the World Health Organisation, is to have a better understanding of the immunopathological processes that affect the person infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We have used epidemiologic studies to evaluate the environmental risk factors that are connected to tuberculosis. However, it is not possible to predict which individuals, who are in contact with the pathogens, are capable of eradicating or holding back the infection in the latent state, or those who actually develop the disease. The answer to this question is complex and comprises other fields of knowledge, such as the immunology and the genetics, both of the human host and of the pathogens.
Young Oporto researcher wins D. Manuel de Mello Grant
Fundação Amélia de Mello, in partnership with José de Mello Saúde, has just awarded Inês Bastos Correia Sá, researcher of Faculty of Medicine of Porto University [Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto] on her work on the cicatrisation process.
“The main goal of this study was to analyse the skin cicatrisation process in cases of injury, namely in patients that have undergone surgery or are extensive burn victims, so that we are able to find a treatment”, explains Inês Bastos Correia Sá.
She also adds: “It was found that this cicatrisation process can get out of control, culminating in the creation of aberrant scars, for which there is no effective treatment. We have also discovered that the endocannabinoid system, which has mediators that are chemically similar to those found in the Cannabis plant, could well be a part of new medicines for the treatment of these aberrant scars”.
D. Manuel de Mello Grant, a 12,500 EUR award, is awarded every year with the aim of contributing to the advancement of Health Sciences and is intended to reward young doctors, up to 35 years old, who are involved in clinical research projects, within the Research and Development Units of the Portuguese Faculties of Medicine.
Summary of the award winning work
Although the cicatrisation process is a biological process that is basic to one’s survival, it can become deleterious to a person's survival if it is not controlled. An example is the formation of the aberrant cicatricial tissue that can be formed as a result of a surgery or an extensive burn. These injuries deeply affect the functional and aesthetic result in these patients, and therapies are scarce and considered ineffective.
There are growing evidences that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the pathological formation of fibrous and cicatricial tissue on the skin and subcutaneous tissue, and that its modulation may limit this answer. Cannabinoids can thus act as profibrotic or antifibrotic agents.
This project is aimed at evaluating the importance of endocannabinoids in the cicatrisation process. The main goal of this project is to develop new therapeutic strategies that can change these patients’ course of cicatrisation, since the existing therapeutic approaches are largely unsuccessful.