€500,000 to examine the role of zinc in public health

25 June 2013

Quad

Researchers at UCL will play a major role in an international science project to examine the role of zinc in public health and well-being.

Dr Imre Lengyel from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology has teamed up with nutritionist Dr Nicola Lowe (University of Central Lancashire) and Professor Mike Watkinson from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) to establish a global network of scientists to collaboratively research zinc, a mineral which is essential for growth, development and protection from disease.

The team has been awarded a grant worth up to half a million euros over four years from the European Commission’s European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action funding stream.

Silva Code Source «Misc: Display quotation»author: Dr Imre Lengyel, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology url: quote: Particularly important is the fact that Zinc-Net will help to train early career scientists interested in zinc research and will address the gender inequality commonly found in science by encouraging female scientists to take leadership roles.

Particularly important is the fact that Zinc-Net will help to train early career scientists interested in zinc research and will address the gender inequality commonly found in science by encouraging female scientists to take leadership roles.

Dr Imre Lengyel, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

Zinc is found primarily in red meat but the richest dietary source of the mineral comes from Oysters. Zinc imbalance and deficiency is the 11th leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide according to the World Health Organisation.

Despite the significant implications for human health that can be directly correlated to zinc, the substantial scientific knowledge base of zinc biology dispersed throughout the world remains virtually untranslated into an understandable message to the public.

Dr Nicola Lowe, who will co-ordinate the project from the University of Central Lancashire, commented: “Zinc is involved in an extraordinary range of biological processes and is essential for growth, development and protection from disease.

“It is especially important for growth in children and in the region of Pakistan where I conduct my research, 40 per cent of the children have stunted growth as a consequence of zinc deficiency.  Zinc is also needed for cognitive development in children and a deficiency also results in poor immune function and increased susceptibility to infection.”

The purpose of the project is to bring together different scientific disciplines; specifically chemistry, biology, nutritionists, health professionals and other end users, with industrial stakeholders and policy-makers. The team’s strategy is to develop a coherent platform for discussion, collaborative research and dissemination of information relating to the role zinc plays in biology, public health and well-being.

Professor Mike Watkinson, from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: “We know that zinc is involved in a number of processes within the body and it's also known to be associated with many disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and age-related macular degeneration, but we don’t understand whether zinc is the cause or the consequence.

“We hope that this COST Action will help translate fundamental research, such as the sensor systems we're working on to detect the presence of zinc, so we can better understand its biological role.”

Dr Imre Lengyel, from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said: “Zinc-Net is the expansion of the extremely successful, informal Zinc-UK network that has been building valuable collaborations. We have already attracted interest from over 20 partner countries around the world and the network is expanding rapidly. Particularly important is the fact that Zinc-Net will help to train early career scientists interested in zinc research and will address the gender inequality commonly found in science by encouraging female scientists to take leadership roles.”