Mitochondria, ageing and cancer

Montserrat Romero, Antonio Zorzano, David Sebastián and Juan Pablo Muñoz from the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria Lab at IRB Barcelona. Source: Fundación BBVA

Montserrat Romero, Antonio Zorzano, David Sebastián and Juan Pablo Muñoz from the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria Lab at IRB Barcelona. Source: Fundación BBVA


A project headed by Antonio Zorzano at IRB Barcelona has been awarded funding from the BBVA Foundation to explore a possible link between ageing and cancer.

Called MitoFuss, the project focuses on the mitochondrial protein Mitofusin 2.

The BBVA Foundation’s Grants for Research Teams in Biomedicine seek to promote highly innovative investigation projects with the potential to unlock significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. In the last call, six projects have each been granted 125,000€ of funding over three years.  The project entitled “Identification of a novel mechanism of metabolic reprogramming and analysis of its implications in cancer and in aging”, presented by researchers with the Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria Lab at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), is among those selected for funding.

Both ageing and cancer are characterised by metabolic dysfunction, and in some circumstances it has been reported that glucose is replaced by glutamine as a source of energy. This dysfunction involves mitochondria—cell organelles responsible for the generation of most cell energy and for the synthesis of biomolecules. In this regard, the project aims to determine the role of the mitochondrial fusion protein Mitofusin 2 in the metabolic programming that occurs in a variety of cell contexts.

“The basic hypothesis of the project is that the underlying basis of the metabolic alterations present in a range of pathological conditions such as ageing and insulin resistance is similar to the metabolic changes observed in tumour cells,” explains Antonio Zorzano. “If successful, the project will identify Mitofusin 2 as a therapeutic target for both metabolic disorders and cancer,” he says.

In addition to Antonio Zorzano, the project team comprises Juan Pablo Muñoz, Montserrat Romero, and David Sebastián, all researchers at IRB Barcelona, the University of Barcelona, and CIBERDEM.