Interview with Dr Elisenda Sanz

“Neuroscience is one of the fields where one can expect the most significant advances to take place in the next few years”


Dr Elisenda Sanz Iglesias, 37 years- Marie Sklodowska-Curie researcher Department of Cellular Biology, Physiology and Immunology Mitochondrial Neurohatology, Institut de Neurociències.

1.- How and why you ended up working as a neuroscientist?

After obtaining my Degree in Biology, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in Neuroscience. At that point, Dr. Mercè Unzeta from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology gave me the opportunity to join her group and obtain my PhD in the UAB’s Neuroscience program. This experience got me hooked on research and encouraged me to continue my training in this field (in which I already got the feeling that was going to be very stimulant)

2.-What research are you currently developing?

I’m currently developing novel tools for the cell type-specific isolation of mitochondria in complex tissues such as the brain. The brain contains multiple types and subtypes of cells, physically intermingled, which challenges the study of the cell-specific functions. In addition, mitochondria, which are known as the powerhouses of the cell, are cellular structures present in all cells. However, recent studies suggest that not all mitochondrial are equal, and that its composition and function is related to the cell type-specific environment. Our technology will provide the scientific community with a new tool that will allow the study of mitochondria at a level not currently attainable, and address the issue of cell type-specific mitochondrial heterogeneity.

3.-What are the major contributions in neuroscience in the past 20 years?

To me, one of the major contributions in Neuroscience in the last years has been the possibility to characterize and define, at an unprecedented level, all the different neuronal populations making up the brain. In the last years, a wide variety of tools
that allow for the dissection of neuronal complexity at all levels, from their transcriptional profile to its function and connectivity, have been developed. In my opinion, obtaining this level of resolution has been one of the major advances in Neuroscience in the last decade.

4.- Could you recommend us a research paper published during the last years?

I would suggest Ed Boyden and Karl Deisseroth’s paper where they describe for the first time the use of optogenetics to modulate neuronal activity (Boyden et al. (2005) Millisecond-timescale, genetically targeted optical control of neural activity. Nat Neurosci. 8(9):1263-8). Optogenetics have revolutionized the Neuroscience field. Therefore, this paper, along with the report describing the discovery process from the first author point of view (Boyden ES. A history of optogenetics: the development of tools for controlling brain circuits with light. F1000 Biol Rep. 2011; 3: 11), seem to me a quite stimulating read.

5.- How will you encourage future scientists to be part of Neuroscience research?

Neuroscience is one of the fields where one can expect the most significant advances to take place in the next few years due to the intense activity on the generation of novel tools and discovery technologies targeted to the nervous system that has taken and will take place during this decade. Neuroscience is a mystery in which there is still a lot to be discovered, and a significant part of this new knowledge, which has a direct impact on society, will be acquired in the next few years. It is not to be missed!

Interview with Dr Alfredo Miñano

“The more we know about our enigmatic brain, more new challenges appear in its complexity. More efforts are needed to find out why our central computer fails and to find a way to fix it.”


Alfredo J. Miñano Molina, 36 years Postdoctoral Researcher Molecular and Cellular Basis of Neuronal Survival– Dr. José Rodríguez Álvarez.

1.- What research are you currently developing?

I am currently working in finding out which are the processes that are affected by the presence of beta-amyloid peptide at the synapses in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in their loss when neuronal death is still not occurring. The result of the progressive loss of synapses is the onset of cognitive deficits.

2.- How is the day-to-day inside your laboratory?

My day to day is pretty intense. The planning and organization of the group work in the laboratory is very important, so everyone who works in it can do it in the best conditions. One of my daily tasks is to ensure that the laboratory processes work perfectly. From there, you need to read to keep abreast of how science is going on in the world (as reading daily newspapers but at scientific level), consider this information and see how you can answer in the best way and with our resources issues that we are developing with our project. Here comes purely laboratory work: to plan experiments and carry them out. After that, analyzing the data and draw conclusions. Every week we have a day to share results with the rest of the group, to discuss the results and to see how we continue focusing our research. It is also very important to support students who are learning to move in a lab and those who are developing their thesis projects. It is key to having a reference nearby to help them learn to think and acquire their own criteria about the work they do every day and to be demanding with themselves. I try to help them with my experience to create solid foundations in their early formative stages as “scientifics.”

3.- What therapeutic applications do you think can your research have?

This is the fashionable research question, in this increasingly utilitarian world and how to respond it is what we are trying to learn in order to win points to get funds for our research. What we do should be useful to society (or any pharmaceutical company), and fast. Let’s see if you are convinced… We want to find out how are starting at synapses early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, because if we are able to do it we will know on what targets to act. We know that in these early processes there are altered molecules which are gaining importance in the recent years, that can give us clues about what is happening in the synapses long before the disease begins to manifest itself. These molecules can be analyzed using non-invasive methods for people. If we demonstrate the relationship between the alteration of one of these molecules and early-stages of the pathology, we will find a powerful therapeutic application with our work that could be useful to fight against the disease since the beginning.

4.- How you encourage future scientists to be part of neuroscience research?

The most important motivation is that biomedicine and neuroscience are the future. As time goes on, our life expectancy is higher. The more we know about our enigmatic brain, more new challenges appear in its complexity. More efforts are needed to find out why our central computer fails and to find a way to fix it. We can live a hundred years, but if you miss the computer that controls everything, what’s the use? I would encourage young people with talent, creativity and curiosity to know, to see in brain research the new challenges, and in neuroscience the way to develop their creativity to advance further in the knowledge of our brain. The question made by young people will be how to do it if this country is not committed to R & D? If there is enough motivation, dedication and desire we will succeed to convince people of this country about the importance of doing research. Doing outreach and education about what we do and why we do it, and if we get closer and people understand basic research as a leg of our society as they are health and education, then they will get pressured to change the research working in this country. If we think that many of these young people in ten or fifteen years will be leading research in the country, it is in their hands to fight for it.

Entrevista a la Dra Núria Daviu

“El dia a dia sempre és diferent”


Núria Daviu Abant, 30 anys- Personal Docent i Investigador Post-doctoral.
Neurobiologia de l’estrès i de l’addicció, Institut de Neurociències

1.- Quina recerca concreta estàs desenvolupant actualment?

Actualment estem estudiant la transmissió intergeneracional dels efectes de l’estrès i de les drogues, a través de canvis epigenètics, en models en rata.

2.- Com és el teu dia a dia dins del laboratori?

El dia a dia en un laboratori, sobretot si treballes amb animals, pot arribar a ser molt variat. La planificació i la distribució de les hores de feina depèn molt de si en aquell moment tens un experiment en marxa. Quasi tota la feina experimental es fa al matí i a la tarda intentes organitzar-te el dia següent. Un cop acabada la feina experimental el dia a dia sempre és molt diferent. Cal analitzar totes les mostres i dades obtingudes durant l’experiment i llegir molt per estar al corrent de tot el que es publica sobre el teu tema d’interès.

3.- Quines aplicacions terapèutiques penses que pot arribar a tenir la teva recerca?

Bé, tot i que nosaltres treballem amb recerca bàsica crec que la nostra feina és necessària per poder avançar en el  coneixement del comportament i la psicopatologia humana. El fet d’identificar factors de risc relacionats amb la transmissió genètica en una patologia com és l’addició pot aportar informació molt útil per desenvolupar estratègies preventives o dianes terapèutiques a llarg termini.

4.- Com encoratjaries a futurs científics per formar part de la recerca en neurociències?

Jo encoratjaria a tothom que li agradés la neurociència a  que s’involucrés en un projecte científic durant els últims anys de Grau. Des de la meva experiència és una feina que t’agrada des del primer moment en que comences. Tens la oportunitat de treballar en un ambient on estàs constantment aprenent. És una feina que no arriba mai a ser monòtona ja que sempre has d’estar en constant canvi. En definitiva, el que en realitat em va decidir a triar aquesta feina va ser l’oportunitat de conèixer un mica com funciona el cervell  i la conducta humana.


1 minuto y medio: el Parkinson

¿Qué es la Enfermedad de Parkinson?

La enfermedad de Parkinson es una enfermedad neurodegenerativa progresiva caracterizada por la pérdida gradual de motilidad, enlentecimiento de movimientos, rigidez, temblor y trastornos posturales.

¿Qué ocurre en el cerebro de los pacientes con enfermedad de Parkinson?

Los pacientes sufren la desaparición de una pequeña población de unas neuronas específicas, denominadas neuronas dopaminérgicas, las cuales sintetizan dopamina, un neurotransmisor involucrado en importantes funciones motoras.

¿Es curable o tratable?

Desafortunadamente, la enfermedad de Parkinson no es curable, aunque los tratamientos farmacológicos son muy efectivos por largos periodos de tiempo. Para algunos pacientes, la intervención quirúrgica puede ser efectiva. Sin embargo, estos tratamientos solamente reducen los síntomas de forma temporal mientras el proceso degenerativo sigue progresando.

¿Es hereditario?

La forma más común de la enfermedad de Parkinson, no es trasmisible genéticamente. Sin embargo, existen algunas alteraciones genéticas raras en algunas familias que causan un síndrome parkinsoniano prácticamente idéntico.

¿Los pacientes mueren de la enfermedad de Parkinson?

La enfermedad de Parkinson no es mortal por si misma. Los pacientes con enfermedad de Parkinson mueren por complicaciones derivadas. En las fases más avanzadas de la enfermedad, los problemas respiratorios son una de las causas más frecuentes de fallecimiento, debido a la debilitación de los músculos torácicos.