Jamil Kitoko, postdoctoral researcher at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), was awarded a long-term fellowship from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP).
Born in Angola and raised in Brazil, Jamil received his PhD in Immunology at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. He arrived at the IGC in May 2021 for a postdoctoral position at the Inflammation laboratory, led by Miguel Soares. Now, with this award from the HFSP, Jamil will be able to broaden his research skills in a new field of study at the institute.
Jamil is one of the 65 outstanding early-career scientists to see their research funded by the HFSP in the edition of 2022. Starting in January 2023, and over the course of three years, the fellow will receive around 200.000€ to study how neuronal heme-sensing can promote adaptation to infection.
Heme is a molecule that is mostly found inside red blood cells and that supports a variety of vital biological functions. In the context of infectious diseases, such as malaria, this molecule can be released from damaged cells, triggering inflammation and cell death. Recently, the Inflammation group at the IGC has shown that when mice are injected with heme they mimic hallmarks of malaria, including changes in appetite, lack of energy, and abnormally low metabolism. These behavioral and metabolic alterations are orchestrated by circuits in the brain. With this new project, Jamil aims to understand whether and how free heme elicits the activation of these circuits to allow the host to adapt to systemic infections.
“This HFSP fellowship will allow me to conduct my project in a challenging and new field comprising neuronal control of metabolism during inflammatory diseases”, says Jamil. “I will be able to gain technical and scientific expertise in a leading laboratory on host-pathogen interactions in IGC’s vibrant scientific environment. As an HFSP fellow I will also be able to establish new collaborations through the program’s annual meetings and, possibly, new networks, besides acquiring invaluable skills to boost my future career as an independent researcher”, he adds.