Molecular Nutrition and Health

We aim to understand the nutrition-related mechanisms of cellular processes at the molecular level and associated to lifestyle-related chronic illnesses.

We are particularly interested in the study of polyphenol metabolism in humans and animal models by metabolomics approaches, i.e., bioaccessibility, bioavailability, brain permeability and cellular metabolism, as well as polyphenol metabolites bioactivity towards neurodegenerative diseases, focusing on Parkinson’s disease, neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation and in blood- brain barrier dysfunction.

We perform mechanistic studies using yeast, state of art cellular and animal models of disease, and molecular approaches to unravel the molecular mechanisms of cytoprotection mediated by polyphenol-derived metabolites.

LIMBo’s Project

A big concern of our society is to efficiently delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, which are progressively rising in incidence. The paradigm that a diet rich in phenolics is beneficial to brain health has reached the public. However, their mechanistic actions in brain functions remain to be seen, particularly since the nature of those acting in the brain remains overlooked. LIMBO’s project addresses this gap by identifying candidate compounds that can support the development of effective strategies to delay neurodegeneration. We have been analyzing the potential of dietary phenolics in both the prevention and treatment of neuroinflammation. We are focused on the low molecular weight polyphenol metabolites (LMWPM) derived from dietary phenolics and study their brain permeability and effects in both established and unknown response pathways of microglia cells either alone or when communicating with other brain cells.

The project’s 3 main objectives are:

• To identify LMWPMs in the brain and screen their capability to attenuate microglia-mediated neuroinflammation

• To elucidate the molecular mechanisms mediating the effects of LMWPM in brain cells undergoing inflammation

 • To attain an integrated perception of dietary phenolics effects in mice models of neuroinflammation and Parkinson’s disease.

We aim to use specific LMWPM to study new routes of their metabolism inside the brain and push our knowledge on the neuroactive molecular mechanisms of the novel end-route metabolites. LIMBo will provide valuable scientific insights for the future implementation of healthy brain diets and the potential use of phenolic metabolites as prodrugs.

ERC-2018-Starting grant (N° 804229) PI- Cláudia N Santos

  • FCT exploratory project, PERCEPT - Parkinson’s disEase bRain-Chip modEl to unveil Polyphenols potential, 2022.02127.PTDC (01/01/2023 – 30/06/2024)- IR: Inês Figueira
  • ERC-2018-Starting grant,LIMBo-Zooming the link between diet and brain health: how phenolic metabolites modulate brain inflammation. (1/4/2019-31/3/2024) (in collaboration with iBET-Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica)
  • H2020 project, CHIC-Chicory as a multipurpose crop for dietary fibre and medicinal terpenes. (1/1/2018-30/6/2022) (in collaboration with iBET-Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica)
  • FP7 project, BacHBerry-BACterial Hosts for production of Bioactive phenolics from bERRY fruits. (29/10/2013-31/10/2016) (in collaboration with iBET)
  • FP7 project, EUBerry: The sustainable improvement of European berry production, quality and nutritional value in a changing environment. (1/5/2011-31/10/2014) (in collaboration with iBET)
  • FCT project, Therapeutics@DIAPP_Perceiving Diabetes as an Islet Amyloid PolyPeptide oligomeropathy: disease progression and therapeutic focus. (in collaboration with iBET)
  • Inova4health project, TherDIAPP_Islet Amyloid Polypeptide oligomers as critical entities in diabetes: early diagnosis and therapeutic focus. (1/1/2018-31/12/2018) (in collaboration with iBET)
  • FCT/ANR project, CardioBDP- Mechanisms of Cardioprotection by Berries-driven Polyphenols. (1/2/2014-31/07/2017) (in collaboration with iBET)
  • Fundo EDP para a Biodiversidade 2010/2012: ”Conservation and Recovery of Threatened endemic Flora in Portugal”. (in collaboration with iBET)
  • FCT project, Polyphenols as protective agents in cellular models of alpha-synucleinopaties, in particular Parkinson’s disease, (in collaboration with ITQB)



  • Prémio Inovação - 9º Encontro Nacional de Produtores de Mirtilo, 2020 (Cláudia Santos)
  • Food & Nutrition Awards 2019, honourable mention for Research and Development, Project: Poli4Hiper-(Poly)phenols beneficial effects in hypertension (Claúdia N. Santos, Andreia Gomes)
  • Nutrition Awards 2012, Research and Development - 2º Honorable mention, Project: Portuguese wild blackberries, new functional foods for the brain. (Lucélia Tavares; Cláudia Santos -ITQB)


Strong presence of NMS Research in international congress on Food and Health

Researchers from the Molecular Nutrition and Health group presented several of their works at the Food Bioactives & Health Conference (FBHC).

NMS Research promotes brain science literacy among youth and seniors

To observe the Brain Awareness Week, NMS organized two neuroscience fairs in two schools in Lisbon and one "pop-up" science center at Museu da Saúde, between March 13th and 17th.

  • Catarina Brito, Animal Cell Technology Unit, ITQB-NOVA and iBET, Oeiras, Portugal
  • Rita Ventura, Biorganic Chemistry, ITQB-NOVA, Oeiras, Portugal
  • Teresa Pais, IGC, Oeiras, Portugal
  • Regina Menezes,Universidade Lusófona, Lisboa, Portugal
  • Maria Alexandra Brito, Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
  • Derek Stewart, James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee, Scotland, UK
  • Francisco Tomas-Barberan, CEBAS-CSIC, Murcia, Spain
  • Danielle Del Rio, Parma University, Parma, Italy
  • David Berry, University of Vienna, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • Ana Rodriguez Mateos,King’s College London, London, UK
  • Alexander S. MosigJena University, Jena, Germany
  • Urska Vrhovsek, Fundazione Edmund Mach, Trento, Italy
  • Sabina Passamonti, Trieste University, Trieste, Italy

Principal Investigator

Cláudia Nunes dos Santos


Natasa Loncarevic-Vasiljkovic
Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher
Inês Figueira
Post-Doctoral Researcher
Paulo Bastos
Post-Doctoral Researcher
Rúben Rodrigues
Post-Doctoral Researcher
Ana Filipa Raimundo
Lab Manager
Catarina Pinto
PhD Student
Daniela Marques
PhD Student
Diogo Carregosa
PhD Student
Liza Hilman
PhD Student
Rafael Carecho
PhD Student
Rita Ramos
PhD Student
Carlos Pita
Inês Silva
Bernardo Rocha
MSc Student
Diogo Moura-Louro
MSc Student
Hugo Taínha
MSc Student