19 October 2016

Pilar Martinez wins the first Weston grant for UM

Dr Pilar Martinez is the first UM researcher to win a grant from the Weston Brain Institute in Canada. She will use this grant to continue her research into Alzheimer’s disease.  The €107,000 grant comes from The Selfridges Group Foundation, which also owns the Dutch department store chain De Bijenkorf and which explicitly supports Dutch scientific research into brain diseases. Martinez’s research is specifically focused on the role of lipids in our brains.

Martinez will use this grant to focus on data from the Maastricht Study, a large cohort study of the health of ten thousand Limburg residents, carried out from 2010 through 2018. The blood of four hundred study participants will be used to investigate the changes in lipids (fats) because these might make an important contribution to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Martinez: ‘So far, the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease has mainly been focussed on proteins that clump together between the brain cells and thereby impede communication between cells. But disturbances of the lipids or fats in the brain can also play an important role, and I hope to unravel that further. Grants like this are important to being able to continue building this research, and hopefully it will result in something for the patients.’

Euregional platform
She is also part of an inter-university consortium that is using a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) Meomrabel programme to examine whether a particular multiple sclerosis drug (known for its effect on certain lipids) can also have beneficial effects for patients with Alzheimer's disease. In addition, she is involved in an initiative in the Euregion in which universities and industry are collaborating to establish a platform for the diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases and brain disorders. The focus of the platform will be on brain lipids. This autumn they will decide whether the platform will be created.

Martinez earned her PhD cum laude in 2003 from the University of Valencia in Spain. She came to Maastricht on a Marie Curie Fellowship grant in 2002, and has worked for Maastricht University ever since.