Appointment of Ramon Trullàs, Group leader
Humanity improves thanks to the knowledge that emerges from the collective effort of scientific research in which, as the poet says, "giving the best of oneself ceases to be a virtue and becomes knowledge"

Current research

Problem

At present, there are no effective treatments to combat the causes of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, due to a lack of knowledge of the mechanisms directly responsible for the death of the neurons. The group is working on identifying these molecular mechanisms that are essential for the neurodegenerative process to take place, and on finding the necessary tools to prevent this.

Approach

One of the molecular mechanisms that is essential for the survival of neurons is the production of energy, a process in which the mitochondria participate. These organelles also intervene in certain types of cell death (apoptosis), in the degradation of macromolecules (autophagy) and in inflammation. The group has based its research on the hypothesis that neurodegeneration leads to alteration of the mitochondrial function. Studying the mitochondrial function, identifying the causes of its alteration and determining how it triggers neurodegeneration are the group’s main objectives.

Impact

Mitochondria have their own DNA which regulates the energy they produce. The group has discovered that a reduction in mitochondrial DNA content precedes the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It is now investigating the role of mitochondrial DNA transcription and replication in neurodegenerative diseases, and how mitochondrial oxidative stress and changes in glutathione levels (an enzyme) regulate cell processes such as autophagy and contribute to cytotoxicity induced by beta-amyloid peptides, which play a crucial role in Alzheimer’s disease.