Appointment of Albert Pol, Group leader
The human body is a unique apparatus with the ability to walk, speak, invent and reproduce. Thirty billion cells that function as a society make this possible. Our challenge? Deciphering the cell

Current research

Problem

The human body has 200 different types of cells that are exquisitely coordinated. The failure of one or more components of this orchestra gives rise to disease.

One of the most common causes of disease is lipotoxicity. Lipids such as cholesterol or fatty acids are basic elements in building cells and keeping them active, but when they are present in excess, they damage them. Lipotoxicity gives rise to, or aggravates, obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer and neurodegeneration. Statistics show that 100% of Europeans will develop at least one of these diseases during their lifetime.

Approach

Lipotoxicity can affect any type of cell and the first step to prevent it is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This does not mean eliminating lipids from one’s diet, as they are essential for life and account for 10% of a cell’s weight and 50% of the cell membranes.

The group strives to understand the molecular mechanisms of lipotoxicity and find out why some lipids are toxic and others, beneficial, studying the way in which cells store, use and eliminate fat. This knowledge leads to the establishment of correct therapeutic targets and effective medicines to treat the different aspects of lipotoxicity.

Impact

Since 2001 the group has studied the cell biology and physiology of lipid bodies (lipid droplets, LDs). LDs are intracellular organs specifically designed during the evolution of diverse forms of life to prevent lipotoxicity. The group has studied them from the time they are formed to the time they are used and is also evaluating the role they play in different situations such as obesity, liver regeneration and immune response.