Working on how we stay healthy [Spinoza Prize on Campus]

Friday 25 September 2015

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As you would expect we are very proud as Healthy Ageing Campus of our professor Cisca Wijmenga, professor of human genetics at the University Medical Center Groningen, is awarded with the highly regarded Spinoza Prize - the highest scientific award in the Netherlands. But how is she going to spend the premium of 2.5 million euros?

Wijmenga receives the award especially for her work unraveling the genetic basis of gluten intolerance (celiac disease). She discovered that the cells of the immune system of these patients are overactive and showed that the disease has a common basis with other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatism, MS and Crohn's disease.

While unraveling the genetic secrets she also discovered new secrets. “We now learn how complicated our DNA is”, Wijmenga said in KennisInzicht. “Since 5 years we discover things we could never imagine. But despite that knowledge, we still don’t know what makes people ill. We have seen people with genetic predisposition for a particular disease without getting ill. How is that possible? What protects us against these “mistakes” in DNA? What makes someone stay healthy?

The Spinoza premium allows Wijmenga to search for answers to these specific questions. It enables her to hire talented young scientists for an extended period. Besides that she wants to give young people a chance to do research abroad and gain experience,  invite foreign researchers to come to the Netherlands for a sabbatical and lastly expand her own foreign visits to gain knowledge and inspiration.