The EPNA 2017 was awarded to Dr. Cristina García Cáceres for her publication ‘Astrocytic Insulin Signaling Couples Brain Glucose Uptake with Nutrient Availability’ in the journal CELL (issue 166, pages 867–880). As she explained: ‘My work was focused on figure out how sugar gets into the brain which has been so far thought that was independent on blood insulin levels. Brain is the most sugar-demanding organ because its functionality is closely linked to glucose availability that depends on how efficient to get access to sugar. Our findings help to broad understanding of non-neuronal cells such astrocytes are therapeutic targets in regulating sugar transport into the brain.’
At the 11th FENS Forum in Berlin the award ceremony was held as special lecture of ERA NET NEURON/Excellent Papers in Neuroscience entitled “Astrocytes co-regulate systemic metabolism in response to hormones and nutrients”. The award emphasizes the importance of research into brain function and its diseases and will contribute to integrate the neuroscience research community. The award is designed as a form of support and encouragement for early-career researchers at the early stage of their career.
Over 500 attendees witnessed the award ceremony when Dr. Cáceres detailed on the impressive neuroscientific findings. The lecture explained that insulin signaling in astrocytes mediates the transport of glucose into the brain regulating glucose-induced activation of Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the hypothalamus. Hypothalamic insulin receptors in astrocytes regulate CNS and systemic glucose metabolism and astrocytic insulin receptors are required for proper glucose and insulin entry to the brain.
Dr. Cáceres emphasized: "I am really happy to get this award. Such support is indeed promoting a scientific career." The audience perceived Dr. Cáceres presentation of experiments and results with rapt attention and both, peer early career scientists and experienced researchers enthused the high-level lecture.
The special lecture and award ceremony was opened by Dr. Marlies Dorlöchter, the coordinator of ERA-NET NEURON with an overview of the NEURON network activities and opportunities for early-career researchers to apply for research funding within the annual joint transnational calls. The EPNA was introduced by Dr. Erkki Raulo, the Finnish initiator of the NEURON award program which he presented as a continuous highlight to honor outstanding research achievements by early career scientists and introduced the special lecture on behalf of the FENS forum organizers. The award honors the first authorship of a researcher under 35 years of age in a high impact journal within the first five years after dissertation. Since 2009 the ERA-NET NEURON launches annual calls for the early-career scientists as supportive measure to add to the research funding activities of the network.