Prof. Dr. Nina Henriette Uhlenhaut from the DZD partner Helmholtz Munich has received a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant for her research on mechanisms of stress hormones in her project GRACE: The pandemic, war, or climate change are stressful for many people. In response to stress, the body’s own hormones glucocorticoids are released. High stress hormone levels are associated with metabolic disease and aging, whereas dieting might increase hormone levels but extend lifespan. What are the molecular and physiological effects of elevated hormone levels, and are diets beneficial?

© Helmholtz Munich / Uhlenhaut

Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones that are released every 24 hours during the day-night cycle and in stressful situations. They play an important role as endogenous hormones and chemically as drugs. High levels of stress hormones are associated with metabolic disorders and premature aging. In contrast, diets such as caloric restriction or intermittent fasting improve metabolic function and prolong life. However, these diets also increase glucocorticoids.

With the ERC Consolidator Grant, Prof. Uhlenhaut now wants to answer the open question: What are the effects of these elevated hormone levels, and are these diets beneficial because or in spite of the steroids? The project 'GRACE' aims to identify nutritional, "rejuvenating" proteins and genes that influence our internal, circadian clock. Ultimately, studying the molecular mechanisms of stress hormones may identify new pharmacological or dietary interventions for longer, healthier lives.

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organization for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC Consolidator Grant is part of the EU’s Horizon Europe program and helps excellent scientists, who have 7 to 12 years of experience after their PhD, to pursue their most promising ideas.

About the scientist:
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Nina Henriette Uhlenhaut, Director of the Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Helmholtz Munich and Chair of Metabolic Programming at the Technical University Munich

Most important awards:
Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Preis of the DFG (2019)
Friedmund Neumann Preis of the Scheringstiftung (2015)
ERC Starting Grant SILENCE (2014)
DFG Emmy Noether Programm (2013)
EMBO Long Term Fellowship (2010)