3D Lab Development, Differentiation & Degeneration

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Our group was created in 1991 initially under the name of “Growth Factors in Vertebrate Development” and changed its name to “3D Lab” in 2007, after new themes got consolidated. We address basic biological problems in model systems of development with the aim to understand the underlying mechanisms of formation of various tissues. We use vertebrate models (chick, mouse), a lower eukaryote (Dictyostelium) and pluripotent cells to study the physiological mechanisms of regulation of cell proliferation, differentiation, competition and death, together with the alteration of these processes in pathological situations. We have additionally given a translational focus to the study of models of nervous system degeneration, including retinitis pigmentosa and Alzheimer’s disease. In the last 5 years (2006-10) our group has published 40 articles in journals included in the SCI, with a mean Impact Factor of 5.4. In addition, we have published 14 articles with a science communication perspective. Our achievements are not only published in relevant journals but are also linked to patents, registered or obtained (see “more info”), four since 2006.

Programmed cell death is a physiological process of development that is also altered in different diseases. We have characterized its incidence and regulation in the development of the nervous system, especially in the retina. Double DNA strand brakes are generated and repaired, and this process impacts on the newly generated neurons death. In turn, proinsulin (the molecular precursor of insulin) is a potent antiapoptotic factor during development, capable of activating several cell survival pathways and, thus, we have started to study its possible use in human therapy. Proinsulin delays photoreceptors apoptosis in a mouse model of Retinitis Pigmentosa and prolongs visual function. The spin-off created by our group, ProRetina Therapeutics S.L. is developing a possible therapy applicable in clinic. We have also analyzed the role of autophagy during neural development, retinal differentiation and degeneration. This research line has been coordinated by Patricia Boya who, recently, has established her independent group within the Department of Cell Proliferation and Development, and with whom we will continue collaborating. Additionally, we use D. discoideum to find new proteins involved in the universal mechanisms of cell differentiation. We have identified a new gene that codifies a transcriptional co-represor, PadA, and we are identifying the molecular mechanisms implicated in cellular competition. We have succeeded, in collaboration with physicists and chemists of the CSIC and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in introducing silicon microdevices intracellularly (in various types of cells) without interfering with cell survival. Finally, using mouse stem cells, we have demonstrated that dopamine has a stimulatory effect in cardiomyocites differentiation; in vivo, in chick embryos, Tyrosine Hidroxilase (TH, the rate limiting enzyme of catecholamines synthesis) participates in the regionalization of cardiac chambers. Now, we are studying through which receptor and intracellular signalling  pathways may be acting dopamine, as well as the function of TH in other developing organs, such as the pancreas.





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