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Bjørn Panyella Pedersen


Current position: Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics - Protein Science, Aarhus University, Denmark.

During his AIAS Cofund Junior Fellowship, Assistant Professor Bjørn Panyella Pedersen worked on the project "Molecular Mechanism of Sugar Uptake in Humans".

Project at AIAS

The project supported by my AIAS fellowship addresses fundamental scientific questions pertaining to an essential  membrane transport system in humans; namely facilitated sugar transport, where new insights will have immediate scientific impact.

Facilitated sugar transport is the process by which sugar-molecules are taken up from  circulation into the individual cells of the body as an ubiquitous energy and carbon-source.  Furthermore sugar uptake contributes to the generation of reducing power in the cell.

Facilitated sugar transport in humans is made possible by sugar transporters called GLUTs  and SWEETs located in the cellular membrane, and every cell possesses these sugar  transport systems. For both GLUTs and SWEETs, structural information is sorely lacking  to address important mechanistic questions to help elucidate the molecular mechanism by  which they can move sugars across the cellular membrane in a efficient manner.  I will address these systems using a complementary set of methods founded in macromolecular crystallography  to elucidate 3-dimensional structure.

Promising  preliminary results have established the feasibility of this approach. This will be followed  up by characterization of the molecular mechanism in vitro and in silico, probing e.g.  partner interactions, inhibitors and mutations. Parts of the characterization will be conducted in association with a well-established network of national and international  collaborators.

The proposed work will help to uncover general principles of facilitated diffusion systems.  Furthermore an improved understanding of sugar homeostasis in humans has tremendous  potential for improving general public health, and the proposed work will stimulate  pharmacological efforts to identify and develop compounds of therapeutic value for e.g. obesity, diabetes and cancer.

Project title:

Molecular Mechanism of Sugar Uptake in Humans

Area of research:

Health and Medical Sciences

Fellowship period:

1 Oct 2014 – 30 Sep 2017

Fellowship type

AIAS-COFUND Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow

This fellowship has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 609033 and The Aarhus University Research Foundation.