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Dr María Rodriguez Aburto, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience researcher awarded prestigious ERC Starting Grant

18 Feb 2022
Dr Maria Rodriguez Aburto

Congratulations to Dr María Rodriguez Aburto who has recently been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant of €1.75m to support her research project RADIOGUT: Radial Glia as Neurodevelopmental Mediators of Gut Microbiota Signals.

From a competitive field of over 4,000 applicants Europe-wide, Dr Rodriguez Aburto  was one of eight researchers based in Ireland to have secured a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant, this being the most competitive call in the past 15 years. The Starting Grants, administered by Europe’s leading research funding body, are awarded to emerging research leaders across Europe who are at the stage of growing their own independent research teams, so that pioneering research can be conducted.

In her project RADIOGUT Dr Rodriguez Aburto will investigate how the gut microbiome communicates with the developing brain. Understanding this communication could have ground-breaking implications for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, as well as precision medicine.

Speaking about her work María explains “Currently there is limited understanding of how our gut microbiome communicates with the brain. We have more microbes than human cells in and on our bodies, most of them inhabiting our gut. I believe that understanding how gut microbes communicate with the developing brain will provide a new lens to view neurodevelopment.” María is confident that understanding how gut microbes communicate with the developing brain “will provide a new lens to view neurodevelopment”.

María received a PhD from the Neurobiology of Hearing Laboratory at the Biomedical Research Institute, in her home city of Madrid in 2011. She followed this with a post-doctoral position in the Neuro and Vascular Guidance Group at The Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences in Frankfurt, Germany and in 2020 María was awarded a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship to join Professor John Cryan’s group in the APC Microbiome Ireland, UCC. María’s RADIOGUT project builds on her research at APC Microbiome Ireland and the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience UCC.

Professor John F. Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research & Innovation congratulating María on her grant success noted “María is one of the most impressive scientists I’ve had the pleasure of working with and she has consistently impressed me with her passion for her innovative science. This project combines her strong background in brain development with the microbiome capabilities here in UCC and will be very impactful for the field”.

The Irish Research Council has joint responsibility with Science Foundation Ireland for promoting and supporting engagement by Irish researchers with the European Research Council. Welcoming the outcome of the call for Ireland, Dr Gráinne Walshe, assistant director of the Irish Research Council said: “European Research Council grants are among the most prestigious of any funding body worldwide.”

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News item and photographs B. Riedewald

Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience

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