Two Vici grants for Maastricht researchers

Two researchers from Maastricht University (UM) have each received a Vici grant of € 1.5 million from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Professor Chantal Nederkoorn (Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience) and Professor Lorenzo Moroni (MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine) will use the grants over the next five years to conduct research and develop or expand their own research groups. NWO announced the approved proposals for the 2020 round today.

Learning to like vegetables

Chantal Nederkoorn has been awarded a Vici grant to help her take a closer look at a well-known phenomenon: why do children sometimes refuse food without ever having tasted it? What is the role of cognitive processes such as perception, expectations and the fear of bad tastes? ‘I’m going to follow a cohort of young children and test how different cognitive processes develop and influence their acceptance of fruit and vegetables,’ Nederkoorn explains. ‘I will also be testing whether it’s possible to influence these cognitive processes in order to teach children to like vegetables.’

Robotic bioprinting

The incidence of bone and cartilage injuries is on the increase as our society ages, and the existing implants to treat the damage are not ideal. Lorenzo Moroni is working to develop new medical implants in which cells can be introduced and mechanically guided to achieve optimal regeneration of the affected tissue. ‘This Vici grant will allow my team to open new doors in the field of biofabrication for regenerative medicine,’ Moroni says. ‘In the 3D-MENTOR study, we intend to create new technologies based on robotic bioprinting and stimuli-responsive biomaterials to improve the regeneration of joints. Robotic bioprinting offers new possibilities to redesign porous medical implants known as scaffolds so they are better able to mimic the structural properties of our joints. By combining this technology with stimuli-responsive biomaterials, we can create smart implants housing cells which train themselves at programmed times, as if they were at a gym, to repair the damage optimally.’