We try to stay safe and help as much as we can!

These are difficult days all around the world. Here in Barcelona, the number of infected people is still increasing, with no prospects for improvement in the short term. Hospitals are facing a lack of human and material resources, hence our University made a call to gather protection and detection equipment. Among other material, they collected around 90000 gloves and 4000 masks. Great job!

In the Quintana lab we are trying to help as much as we can, donating protection equipment and loaning an extraction station to Parc Taulí Hospital. This machine is an automatic processor for obtaining nucleic acids, that can be used for the diagnose of CO-VID19.  Also, some people in the lab offered their hands to help doing PCR diagnosis if the Health Department needed it.

We stay at home, but try our best to continue with the scientific activity. Today we did our first long distance lab meeting, pyjamas allowed:

We hope everything will get better soon, and all of you will be okay!

Take care <3

The VII INc Scientific Conferences

At the beginning of the month, the Institut de Neurociències celebrated its 7th Scientific Conferences, and we were -obviously- there!

The event was held in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, by the sea, in the nicest hotel, and gathered together more than 120 students and institute members.

Albert was the conference coordinator and worked very hard for everything to be perfect.

There were more than 30 talks, poster sessions and time for having fun, as well:

(Please, take your time to observe this picture of the costume contest, don’t miss any details…)

Several members of the group participated in the conferences: Elisenda gave a talk on the first day regarding new techniques we are using, Patrizia explained the research she is currently carrying out, and Emma chaired a scientific session. Also, Andrea, Laura, Pablo, Pati and Patrizia presented a poster.

On the fun side, Abel organized an amazing trivia game, on the first night, that Laura’s team won. Pablo’s team won the costume contest, dressing as Disney characters; and Albert and Eli won the partying contest, almost closing the disco.

They were great days with great people! Already looking forward next year’s edition!

New article!

We have a new article! Elife published our study in Leigh Syndrome, the most common mitochondrial disease with affectation of the central nervous System. In this disease, there are two brain regions that are particularly compromised: the brainstem (that controls all basic functions that keep us alive) and the basal ganglia, involved in refining motor coordination. In our study, we wanted to explore the role the protein Ndufs4 has in this affectation.

Ndufs4 is a subunit of the Complex I. It is located in the mitochondrial membrane and is involved in the respiratory chain. We knew that animal models lacking this subunit in all their cells reproduce the classical signs of Leigh Syndrome, but do symptoms appear due to all cells in the body not working properly, or some specific cells are responsible for them?

To study this, we selectively inactivate the gene codifying the protein Ndufs4 in three neuronal populations we suspected could be key, and keep it working in all other cells in the body. Observing what symptoms remained we could know the role of these neurons in the alterations these patients suffer.

What we found was that the inactivation of this subunit in a certain kind of excitatory neurons (the fancy-scientist name is vlgut2-expression glutamatergic neurons) caused brainstem inflammation, motor and respiratory deficits, and early death; and that its inactivation in inhibitory (GABAergic neurons) led to basal ganglia inflammation, severe refractory epileptic seizures and premature death.

These results are very important to contribute understand the underlying cellular mechanisms of Leigh Syndrome, as we identified which specific neurons are behind the brain alterations. Therefore, now we have new knowledge to try to identify which cellular aspects are failing in those cells so we can start to envisage different methods to correct them.

Congrats to all the team and collaborators!

MitoTreat won the 9th edition of the Generació d’Idees Program!

Generació d’Idees is a program organized by Parc de Recerca UAB, to promote entrepreneurship among researchers. Communications, mental health, environment… They focus on a different topic in each edition, and this time, it was the turn of biotechnology.

During 17 sessions, researchers were given the tools to develop innovative solutions in the biotechnology field. They had modelling classes, mentoring sessions, etc., and then, after all this time, they presented six different projects to a board of experts. The most innovative one was selected… and guess which one was it! Yessss: MitoTreat!

MitoTreat was developed by Emma, Elisenda and Albert, and consists in using Cannabidiol, a substance found in cannabis, to treat mitochondrial disease. Cannabidiol has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, analgesic, neuroprotective and anti-convulsive proprieties.

In animal models of mitochondrial diseases it showed excellent results, and now they want to start the preclinical trial in humans.

The project obtained a 1500 euro prize and 6 months of incubation at Eureka building, at Parc de Recerca, to improve the transference of the drug to the market.

Congrats!

Swiss Light-sheet Microscopy Workshop

Last 24th and 25th of April, Andrea, Pablo, Elisenda and Albert went to Zurich to attend the Swiss Light-sheet Microscopy Workshop.

 

 

It was a two days meeting in which researchers from all over the world gathered together to share the observational techniques they are using. Users and developers discussed newest advances in the field and exchanged ideas.

Elisenda was telling me about these 3D glasses that transported you inside a gigantic transparent brain in which you could observe a specific neuron from all possible angles. Exciting!  Pablo is there in the picture:

 

 

They were very impressed by everything they saw, and learned a lot! Albert said it was a very productive conference and can’t wait to have the chance to try some of these techniques in the lab. He also told me they were happy they had the chance to have a typical Swiss dinner: fondue, raclette and rösti. Fabien might not agree about this being a typical Swiss dinner and not a French one…

VI INc Scientific Conferences

Last 10th and 11th of October, the INc celebrated its VI Scientific Conferences, and we were obviously there. It was fantastic! More than 130 researchers and students gathered together in a beautiful hotel, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, to present their research and foster collaborations.

PhD students of 2nd year gave scientific communications explaining their projects, and Andrea was one of them. Pablo gave a talk as well, and Irene, Álex, Fabien, Pati and Laura presented posters. It was a great opportunity for them to receive interesting comments about their work.

Dr. Carmen Sandi, president of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), attended the conferences and gave an amazing plenary lecture. It was a pleasure to have the chance to talk to her!

After the plenary lecture, we all played a Trivia game, and guess what team was winning! Albert, Elisenda, Irene and Álex; ‘The Tsunamis’. Then, some technological issues happened… A conspiracy?

The conferences were also a good opportunity for us to better know some companies that provide services related to our work: publishing houses, lab material suppliers, etc. We would like to thank all of them for sponsoring the conferences!

Even knowing all the stress involved in the organization, we are already looking forward to the next edition of the conferences. Hopefully, the sun will rise to the occasion next time!

(The sun was only there for this picture…)

We will receive an ERC Proof of Concept Grant!

The European Research Council (ERC) has selected us for a Proof of Concept grant to develop a new research line focused on a novel approach to figh antibiotic resistances: the ResisTEST. This project, derived from the knowledge and experience gathered with NEUROMITO, has been chosen for its innovation potential, its significant impact and its quality, and will receive an amount of 150,000€ for a 18 month period. The objective is to bring closer to the market a new tool to help face one of the most important challenges that society will have to face within the next years: the antibiotic crisis. We are very glad to have this opportunity!

 

Research: Altered protein modifications in mitochondrial disease

Our latest paper is out!

In collaboration with the Frizzell lab at the University of South Carolina we have published the article titled:

Succination is increased on select proteins in the brainstem of the Ndufs4 knockout mouse, a model of Leigh syndrome.” 

in the journal Molecular and Cellular Proteomics.

In this paper, we have been able to identify that the metabolic deficits mediated by mitochondrial dysfunction (we used our Leigh Syndrome mice for this study) lead to permanent modifications in discrete proteins in affected neurons.

These modifications (called succination) have been shown to impair the activity of proteins in other studies, therefore we believe these mitochondrial proteins will also lose function in our model. Interestingly, our study shows that these modifications are only observed in cells residing in areas affected by the pathology, further enhancing the idea that they may mediate the selective damage observed in mitochondrial disease.

The main proteins observed to be altered, VDAC1 and VDAC2, are key factors controlling transport of ions and molecules inside the mitochondria, so these results open a new and interesting line of research in the lab in the overarching goal of finding a cure for mito disease.