L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellows 2018

The award ceremony of L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science will be held at the 5th Annual Summit of Global Female Leaders.

Since 1998  the L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO have supported more than 3,000 talented young female scientists through research fellowships, across 117 countries. These L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science fellowships are awarded annually to 275 promising scientists, at national and regional ceremonies.  This is to encourage the vocations of girls in high school, to support women in research, and recognise excellence in fields where women are underrepresented.

“The world need science, science needs women”

The Global Female Leaders 2018 is very proud to announce the presentation of the German For Women in Science Award. Three scholarships of 20,000 Euro are granted during our summit in June. The women are honored for their major scientific contribution in the fields of medicine, paleontology, molecular biology, ecology and developmental biology. We would like to take the opportunity to present the three award nominees and their great achievements here in this article.

Dr. Dr. Sarah Wiethoff is a German neurologist and neuroscientist working between the Institute of Neurology, University College London, and the Center of Neurology, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research and Clinic of Neurology at the University Hospital Tübingen.

As a medical doctor and scientist, her work focuses on clinicogenetic and cellular aspects of inherited neurodegenerative diseases. Neurodegenerative diseases, where incurable degeneration of neurons results in progressive health problems, are equally fascinating as they are devastating, illustrating both function and pathology of neurons, the most complex cells in our body. Despite recent technological breakthroughs, for many patients with different neurodegenerative diseases, no genetic diagnosis can be established. For another significant proportion of neurodegenerative diseases the genetic defect and the resulting clinical spectrum might be known, but knowledge about exact pathomechanisms remain elusive. This delays successful translational research and eventual clinical treatment. Sarah Wiethoff’s interdisciplinary work improves clinical characterisation and genetic analysis of patients with neurodegenerative diseases by identifying underlying genetic causes and modifiers of disease. By generating novel disease models using stem cell technology it aims to shed light on pathogenic and potentially druggable mechanisms of disease in order to improve therapy for those relentless and to date remediless conditions.

Dr. Dr. Sarah Wiethoff

Dr. Dr. Sarah Wiethoff

Institute of Neurology, University College London, and the Center of Neurology, Hertie Institute, University Hospital Tübingen

Dr. Wlodarczyk-Biegun works at INM-Leibniz Institute for New Materials in Saarbrucken. She develops three-dimensional structures produced by 3D Bioprinting technique to support animal and human cell growth. Thanks to the use of bioprinting, she can pattern with high precision different materials and cell types to obtain complex constructs. Such “living scaffolds” made of gel-like material and patient’s cells, could be used in medical treatment to facilitate regeneration or to replace damaged tissues. Currently, Wlodarczyk-Biegun focuses on developing new formulations of printable materials, which provide cell friendly environment and can change properties on–demand, resembling dynamic character of native tissues and allowing in-situ control of cell behavior. In addition, she investigates how bioprinting can be used to produce mimics of complexity and highly ordered structure typical for natural tissues present in the body. These studies can help to build up models of tissues and organs that could be a meaningful alternative to animal experimentation.

Dr. Anne Wuttke studies the role of the endosomal system in liver physiology. Cells are delimited by a membrane, which is equipped with channels, transporters and receptors to allow controlled information and material exchange with its surroundings. Channels and transporters make the membrane permissive for certain substances and receptors allow for information propagation after binding of extracellular clues. However, the setup is not static: small fractions of the outer membrane constantly invaginate and bud off. The resulting vesicles contain a portion of the transporters or receptors, which previously resided on the plasma membrane. They enter the endosomal system, which is a highly dynamic network of constantly fusing and splitting intracellular vesicles. Through this, the vesicular content is sorted and either recycled back to the outer membrane or routed towards degradation, allowing the cell to adjust its communication toolkit with its surrounding.

This basic cell biological process has been extensively studied in single cell systems; it is, however, particularly important for cells in a tissue-context and upon changing metabolic demand. Both holds true for hepatocytes – the main cell type of the liver. Therefore I am studying the role of the endosomal system in liver physiology, which should provide insights into disease mechanisms.

Reflections on Diversity, Parity and Equality

In the exclusive interview with Martina Macpherson, speaker at the Global Female Leaders 2018, we are celebrating women's achievements but also discussing past developments and key equality issues. How do you achieve constant positive performance with gender diverse teams? And most importantly, how will the female workforce change in future?

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