Congratulations to Nicolas Calo for his outstanding thesis defence!
On Thursday, June 29th 2017 Nicolas Calo from the lab of Prof. Michelangelo Foti successfully defended his thesis entitled “Roles of mir-21 in the Development of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Hepatocellular Carcinoma”, which was awarded with High Distinction.
Nicolas joined the Foti lab in 2012, where he took on the challenge of investigating the effects and therapeutic potential of the microRNA miR-21 in correcting fatty liver disease and liver cancer. This tiny RNA molecule, which is produced by cells under stress conditions and is capable of regulating the expression of many genes, was shown previously to be overproduced during the early stages of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), a hepatic metabolic condition that can lead to liver cancer development. Some studies suggested that blocking its function might be a helpful therapeutic strategy for treating both NAFLD and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the second most deadly type of cancer, which is refractory to other treatments. Nicolas meticulously documented the effects of genetically removing of miR-21 either in the whole body or specifically in the liver of mice under normal conditions and metabolic stress induced by high-fat diet feeding. In his first author study, published in the journal Gut last year he found that miR-21 deletion both in the whole body and in a liver-specific manner decreases the magnitude of metabolic disorders associated with excessive energy intake (e.g. glucose intolerance, fat mass gain and hepatic steatosis). He is now investigating the molecular roles of miR-21 in liver cancer development using various HCC murine models. In addition, Nicolas participated in two additional collaborations as well as in the writing of a review article on microRNAs in fatty liver disease and a book chapter on PI3K/PTEN signaling and liver diseases, resulting in his authorship in 4 additional publications.
In the future Nicolas plans to pursue postdoctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, to investigate the molecular mechanisms leading to loss of insulin secretion by pancreatic beta-cells during type 2 diabetes progression.
We wish him all the best in his bright future!
Posted by: P. Nunes-Hasler
2 August 2017