I’m Greta Klejborowska and since April 2021, I have been working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Medicinal Chemistry Research Group (UAMC), led by Prof. Koen Augustyns. Before moving to Belgium, I completed my PhD research at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland with Prof. Adam Huczyński. During my PhD project, I did international stays at Humboldt University, Germany with Prof. Hans Börner, and at Stony Brook University, USA with Prof. Iwao Ojima. Currently, my work is focused on the development of novel ferroptosis inhibitors. But what exactly is ferroptosis and why is it important to block or inhibit it?
Ferroptosis is a type of programmed cell death that is characterized by iron-dependent lipid peroxidation. In more simple terms, it’s a type of cell rust that easily spreads to the surrounding tissues. Cell death is an important biological process that allows a healthy body to get rid of damaged or unwanted cells. If cellular metabolism is disrupted, this can lead to the death of cells that are essential for the proper functioning of the body. Hence, causing disease processes to start.
Ferroptosis inhibitors are like a rust-proof paint that can be used to prevent or treat organ injury. For example, for organ transplantation or stroke-related or multi-organ failure. Ferroptosis has also been linked to various neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Neurological disorders are one of the leading causes of disability and death worldwide. The incidence of neurological disorders is increasing as people are living longer. The treatment options for most neurodegenerative diseases are currently very limited, and treatments often only target some of the symptoms.
This year, I was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) postdoctoral fellowship for the NeurroFerro project that I’m working on. This aims to tackle challenges related to the design and synthesis of novel ferroptosis inhibitors for neurodegenerative disorders. Together with Prof. Koen Augustyns, Prof. Tom Vanden Berghe and Pathophysiology lab members, we will try to overcome blood-brain barrier permeability limitations to be able to deliver active substances to the brain. This will hopefully lead to new therapies for treating neurodegenerative disorders. I’ll keep you updated on our progress!
Article written by Dr. Greta Klejborowska. Edited by Dr. Bronwen Martin. Photos by Nicolò Filippi.