Harriet Schellekens APEX

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Harriet Schellekens 

Dr Schellekens research interests are focussed on the impact of diet and nutrition on human health and physiology, in particular metabolic health, brain fitness, mental and cognitive health throughout life. Her group investigates the neuronal circuitry and signalling mechanism underlying the complex relationship between food intake, mood, stress and brain function. In particular, her work has focussed on the pharmacology of centrally expressed G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), neuropeptides and gut hormones within the brain-gut axis. In addition, she has recently identified a novel heterodimer between two key GPCRs regulating feeding behavior, the GHS-R1a receptor and the 5-HT2C receptor, and is investigating crosstalk and dimerization of other PCRs within the gut-brain axis.

Harriet has established and runs a world-class cellular-based screening platform for the identification of novel probiotic-derived bioactives (or other naturally-derived bioactives or small molecule libraries) that modulate appetite and satiety, mood and cognition. Dr Schellekens has successfully identified bioactives from food sources, including dairy-derived peptides and herbal root extracts that induce satiety and may assist in weight reduction. In addition, she is currently working to identify components for inclusion in functional foods that enhance appetite in malnourished elderly population. Dr. Schellekens is also investigating the potential of nutrition and diet to attenuate age-related cognitive decline and reduce stress sensitivity throughout life in preclinical models. Moreover, she is interested in the effect of nutrition on synaptic plasticity and cognition and has recently set-up electrophysiological capabilities to investigate the impact of diet, metabolic risk and gut microbes on brain function.

Dr. Harriët Schellekens is a Lecturer in the department of Anatomy & Neuroscience and a Principal Investigator with Food for Health Ireland (FHI) and within the APC Microbiome Institute. She received a PhD in Pharmacy from the University College Cork, Ireland and a MSc in Biology and Medical Biology (Hons) from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. She was awarded a Marie Curie Host Fellowship for Transfer of Knowledge (TOK) in 2006. She has gained considerable experience in the pharmaceutical industry in research and development, lead development and optimization at Organon NV (Akzo Nobel), during a 5 year stint. In addition, she has worked at Eirx therapeutics where she has been contributing towards building a focused drug discovery capability. Dr. Harriet Schellekens returned to the academic settings in 2010 after which she has also worked as a lecturer and module coordinator in the School of Pharmacy, University College Cork. Dr. Schellekens has published several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters since her return to academia. She coordinated and wrote a funded Joint Project Initiative (JPI) a healthy diet for a healthy life (HDHL), which included international partners from UK, Italy, France, Germany and The Netherlands, entitled AMBOSIAC: A Menu for Brain Responses Opposing Stress-Induced Alterations in Cognition. The project aims to investigate the interrelations between diet, stress and cognition across the lifespan, using both preclinical and clinical approaches. https://www.ucc.ie/en/ambrosiac/about/. She also took a leading role in writing the grant for another funded JPI-HDHL project, in which UCC was involved as a partner, entitled HEALTHMARK, which investigates biomarkers for nutrition and health in large clinical cohorts.

Harriet has a h-index of 14 (google scholar).

Contact details: E-mail: H.Schellekens@ucc.ie; Tel: +353 21 420 5429