In Vivo - April 2018





INVIVO - Newsletter of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine - IRB Barcelona
Can't see this properly? Click here APRIL 2018
TOP NEWS
ON THE MOVE
Dr. Francesc Posas, new director of IRB Barcelona
The renowned scientist will take up office on May 1, succeeding Joan J. Guinovart, who has been IRB Barcelona's director since the foundation of the Institute in 2005. Dr. Posas was appointed unanimously by the Board of Trustees on 11 April and acknowledged by the External Advisory Board for “outstanding achievements, not only as a leading scientist in the field of cell signalling in Europe and worldwide, but also his important contributions to local science policy”. Director Joan J. Guinovart has “every confidence in Dr. Posas’ ability to build upon the successes” at the Institute and looks forward to working with him during the transition, after which he will remain at IRB Barcelona as Group Leader of the Metabolic Engineering and Diabetes Therapy lab.
RESEARCH NEWS
NATURE CELL BIOLOGY
Is there such a thing as chubby & healthy?
A study headed by Montserrat Romero and Antonio Zorzano, from the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria lab, has revealed the role of DOR protein in obesity. Low levels of this molecule cause an increase in the number of adipose cells, thereby enhancing obesity but allowing fat to be stored in a less toxic manner, without some of the associated diseases, such as diabetes and inflammation. Published in Nature Cell Biology, the study sheds light on the different types of obesity in humans.
ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY
Beta-amyloid dimers emerge as potential biomarkers of Alzheimer’s
Natàlia Carulla, IRB Barcelona Research Associate and group leader at the Institut Européen de Chimie et Biologie (IECB), has led a group of researchers at IRB Barcelona in a study that has provided the first direct evidence of beta-amyloid dimers in brain samples of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The study has been published in Analytical Chemistry. The next steps would be to address whether these dimers are present in cerebrospinal fluid and whether they correlate with the stage of the disease and are thus potential indicators of the medical condition.
JASN
Tight collaboration is the key to proper renal function
LAT2 and TAT1 work together in the absorption of neutral amino acids, as discovered by a group of researchers from IDIBELL and IRB Barcelona’s Amino Acid Transporters and Disease lab, led by Manuel Palacín. Deficiencies in renal transport of amino acids can cause metabolic diseases (aminoacidurias), some of which, such as cystinuria and Hartnup disorder, can be severe. The study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), is the first to provide details of the synergistic action of these two amino acid transporters in vivo.
EMBO
Mitochondrial defects in the spotlight of chronic muscle inflammation
Opa 1 is a key protein in mitochondrial dynamics as it is involved in internal membrane fusion. Researchers in the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria lab have generated a mouse model that lacks Opa1 in the skeletal muscle and have observed that it suffers from severe inflammation, which causes a reduced body size and premature death. Published in EMBO journal, with Aida Rodríguez-Nuevo as first author, the study points to mitochondrial defects as a potential underlying cause of a group of diseases known as inflammatory myopathies.
CORE FACILITIES
 
NEW EQUIPMENT
Nanoscopy lands at IRB Barcelona
The Advanced Digital Microscopy facility has a new piece of equipment. A reflection of IRB Barcelona’s commitment to Super Resolution (SR) is the recent installation of a Carl Zeiss Elyra PS1 Airyscan system. The new microscope enables 3D SR microscopy and SR for in vivo samples to enable better observation of the cell cycle, asymmetric division, DNA replication, and nuclear and cytoskeleton organisation.
AWARDS AND PRIZES
ERC Advanced Grant
The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Salvador Aznar Benitah an Advanced Grant worth €2.5 M for his project “Dietary Influences on Metastasis: How, When, and Why”. This study aims to unravel the behaviour of metastatic cells and pinpoint the influence of fatty acids, especially palmitic acid, on metastasis. His group will combine state-of-the-art in vivo functional models of metastasis with quantitative metabolomics, proteomics, and epigenetics, among others, as well as integrated computational analyses, using preclinical models and patient-derived carcinomas of melanoma, oral cancer and breast cancer.
Olof Palme Medal
Eduard Batlle, group leader of the Colorectal Cancer lab, has been awarded the Olof Palme Medal in recognition of his recent discovery regarding the treatment of advanced-stage colon tumours with immunotherapy. The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, and the president of the Fundació Internacional Olof Palme, Anna Balletbò, presented him with the Medal in a ceremony in the city hall on 10 April.
“Vanguardia de la Ciencia” Award
Research done by Antonio Zorzano, head of the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria lab, and Marc Claret, from IDIBAPS, got third place in the "Vanguardia de la Ciencia" Prize, given by La Vanguardia newspaper and the Fundació Catalunya – La Pedrera. Their study discovered that a small group of neurons communicates with the pancreas to regulate the release of insulin. This finding represents an advance in the understanding of type 2 diabetes.
EVENTS
 
JOINT EVENT AT ESADEFORUM
Taking up the challenge of metastasis
Causing 90% of deaths by cancer, metastasis is a major public health issue, and society must join forces to fight it. To engage different sectors of society, on 14 March IRB Barcelona and ESADE Business School brought together key figures from the research, business and innovation, and private sectors to debate the state of the art in metastasis research, the strength of business and innovation to drive cures and future challenges.
 
BARCELONA BIOMED CONFERENCE
International experts in metastasis unveil its weaknesses
On 12-14 March, IRB Barcelona, with the support of the BBVA Foundation, held a Barcelona Biomed Conference on the Mechanisms of Metastasis, hosted by Roger Gomis and Salvador Aznar Benitah. The meeting brought together over 150 researchers to attend the talks of 20 leading scientists in the field, who covered a variety of topics, including immune evasion, metabolism, latency of metastatic cancer cells and tumour-stromal interaction, among others.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
 
International Women’s Day stands out not only because it recognises the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women, but also as a reminder that there is still a lot of work ahead in terms of equality. To mark this important day, In Vivo presents two interviews of female scientists at IRB Barcelona and shows a group photo of female employees, which was widely shared in IRB Barcelona social media.
INTERVIEW
Equality and Diversity from the lab
After obtaining a degree in Molecular Biology and Physiology and an MSc in Biology from the University of Belgrade, in 2003 Jelena Urosevic decided to come to Spain to do a PhD at CNIO. Later, in 2010, she took up a postdoctoral position in IRB Barcelona's Growth Control and Cancer Metastasis lab. Besides her passion for science, she talks about her participation in the Equality and Diversity Committee. Find out more about her!
IN THE MEDIA
Women in senior positions
ICREA researcher María Macías, head of the Structural Characterisation of Macromolecular Assemblies lab, participated in a TV report (on TV3) on women who occupy key positions in work environments traditionally dominated by men. She said that although most PhD and postdocs in labs are women, female presence falls the further up the career ladder you go.
 
INNOVATION
 
BUSINESS ADVISORY BOARD
Hands-on visit
On 2 April, IRB Barcelona received a visit from the Business Advisory Board (BAB). The Board was presented with IRB Barcelona’s strategy in innovation and technology transfer for the next three years and debriefed on the status of some transference projects. “IRB Barcelona has always been a benchmark for scientific quality and is working hard to advance basic science and have an impact on society,” states Javier García, new member of the BAB.
SOMMa
 
SEVERO OCHOA AND MARIA DE MAEZTU UNITS
An alliance to promote science of excellence
Involving the Severo Ochoa Centres and Maria de Maeztu Units, SOMMa is a new alliance that aims to increase the national and international visibility of Spanish research, as well as its scientific, economic and social impact. The alliance was presented on 12 March in Madrid, where the centres submitted the “SOMMa Position Paper: Actions required to safeguard the competitiveness of science”. In this regard, Joan J. Guinovart participated in an interview to talk about this new alliance and how science could regress 20 years due to administrative and bureaucratic obstacles.
 
ALUMNI
 
Joan Font-Burgada, 2018 Alumni of Excellence
His important contributions to our understanding of the development of cancer and his identification of a special type of hepatic reparative cell convinced the jury: Joan Font-Burgada has been awarded 2018 Alumni of Excellence. Between 2006 and 2010, Font-Burgada was a PhD student in the Cell and Developmental Biology Programme, under the supervision of Ferran Azorín. He then moved to the US to undertake a 6-year postdoc at the University of California, San Diego. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, heading his own laboratory, which focuses on how tissue and organ degeneration, regeneration defects, and decline in regenerative capacity affect the initiation of cancer.
OUTREACH
 
CAB "TREBALL DE RECERCA" CERTIFICATES
And the award goes to...
Crazy About Biomedicine (CAB) fellows are offered the chance to do their “Treball de recerca” (the research project for Baccalaureate) in a lab at IRB Barcelona. In 2017, 18 young students had this opportunity. The wrap-up session took place on 14 March and participants, together with students from Batx2Lab initiative run by the Barcelona Science Park (PCB), received a certificate of completion. Also, outstanding work by CAB fellow Víctor Torrecillas Mayayo was acknowledged through a prize, which comprised a tablet and a €200-voucher for his school to spend on lab material. His research project on the role of a specific drug in cancer treatment was tutored by Saska Ivanova, from the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria lab.
COMING UP
11 - 13 JUNE
 
Centrosomes, cilia and cell cycle in development and disease
BARCELONA BIOMED CONFERENCE
INSTITUT D'ESTUDIS CATALANS, CARRER DEL CARME 47, BARCELONA
Chairs: Renata Basto (Institut Marie Curie), Jens Lüders (IRB Barcelona) and Travis Stracker (IRB Barcelona)
 
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Authors: 
NAHIA BARBERIA