Ten scientific milestones of the Institute for Neurosciences in 2023

25 de January de 2024

The year 2023 has ended with a very positive balance for the Institute for Neurosciences (IN), a joint center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Miguel Hernández University (UMH) of Elche. This center of excellence is consolidated, for yet another year, as the largest publicly funded institute dedicated to brain and nervous system research in Spain. In addition to continuing to advance knowledge of various fields of neuroscience through discoveries published in high-impact scientific journals, IN researchers have enjoyed numerous successes in competitive calls, resulting in the launching of new projects that have begun to be developed throughout the year. Among them, the project UNFOLD ‘Unfolding the dynamic interaction between mechanical and molecular processes in brain folding', a Synergy Grant from the European Research Council worth 10.8 million euros, coordinated by researcher Víctor Borrell.

Likewise, in 2023, the president of the CSIC, Eloísa del Pino, and rector of the UMH, Juan José Ruiz, renewed the collaboration agreement between both organizations that constitute the IN as a joint center of both institutions since 1999. This renovation aims to strengthen and update the organization of the institute to continue the fruitful collaborative relationships between the research staff of the two institutions after 24 years and realize its promising prospects.

Throughout the year, the IN has received visits from relevant personalities at an academic and institutional level, such as the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Ardem Patapoutian, or the leaders of the Spanish Association Against Cancer. In addition, the Institute has hosted numerous events, including the award ceremony of the XI Remedios Caro Almela Prize for Research in Developmental Neurobiology to the researcher from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) Frank Bradke.

- Ten research articles to summarize the year -

A study led by the laboratory directed by Félix Leroy discovered a neural circuit that suppresses social interaction with familiar individuals and promotes interactions with novel ones. The research, published in the journal Cell, described, for the first time, a group of neurons located in the prefrontal cortex, which are characterized by producing the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and emitting their axons to the region of the lateral septum. These results could lead to the development of medications to treat disorders such as separation anxiety or avoidant personality.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2023.08.010    

youtubeVídeo: https://youtu.be/rA5iJJneS8Q?si=kkGZIN5zBUUul-0z

A multicenter investigation, developed by Berta Sánchez-Laorden's laboratory together with the Navarrabiomed and IRB Barcelona biomedical research centers, determined that the drug ranolazine, used to treat heart conditions, manages to delay the appearance of tumors resistant to melanoma treatment, blocking the metabolism of fatty acids. This work, published in the journal Nature Metabolism, revealed, for the first time functionally in mice, that fatty acid metabolism plays an important role in the development of resistance to melanoma treatment.

DOI: 10.1038/s42255-023-00861-4

A study published in the journal Sciences Advances described how information from the sense of touch is transmitted between brain hemispheres. Researchers from the laboratory led by Ramón Reig carried out a study in mice that confirmed, in a pioneering way, that a double representation occurs between hemispheres, which allows the perception of continuity without interruptions between both sides of the body.

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adi3728

youtubeVídeo: https://youtu.be/x9GaJa4JvZg?si=nSgYi0Koo-8Qcse6

A study led by the Santiago Canals laboratory found a way to stop the progression of white matter deterioration in the brain of patients with Alcohol Use Disorder. This work, in which researcher Silvia De Santis also participated, was published in the journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences and demonstrated that alteration of the white matter is a central characteristic of the pathology. Furthermore, it opens a new therapeutic avenue to prevent relapse.

DOI: 10.1111/pcn.13624

youtubeVídeo: https://youtu.be/6xIJSaN346o?si=hhlsCSsrG4vuf8pO

The research group led by José Carlos Pastor-Pareja published a study in the journal PLoS Biology that showed that fibroblast growth factor signaling plays a determining role in the process of adipocyte formation in the vinegar fly (Drosophila melanogaster) during the adult stage.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002050

The journal Pharmacological Research published a study led by the Jorge Manzanares laboratory that demonstrated that cannabidiol repairs brain damage and behavioral alterations in mice with fetal alcohol spectrum. The results of this work indicated that the administration of cannabidiol during the postnatal period improves the processes of neuron creation and increases cell survival by increasing plasticity in the hippocampus.

DOI: 10.1016/j.phrs.2023.106655

NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) glutamate receptors are molecular structures made up of different subunits (GluN1A, GluN2A, GluN3A) of great importance for the functioning of the brain because they regulate processes of neuronal plasticity, memory, and learning. The laboratory led by Isabel Pérez Otaño published a study in the journal Cell Reports that revealed that the GluN3A subunit tunes the trafficking and synaptic content of these receptors during postnatal development in rodents, controlling the timing of maturation of NMDA signaling and the refinement of the neural network.

DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.112477

The International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction published another study led by Jorge Manzanares that revealed that child abuse modulates emotional processing when faced with alcohol-related stimuli during adolescence. The results of this work, which was carried out on more than 600 teenagers with different patterns of alcohol consumption and family history of alcoholism, indicated that the startle response could be considered a biomarker to establish personalized preventive strategies during adolescence and avoid future problems derived from alcohol consumption.

DOI: 10.1007/s11469-023-01097-9

Another investigation led by Berta Sánchez-Laorden demonstrated the immunosuppressive function of Snail1, a key gene in embryonic development, in the tumor microenvironment of melanoma. Experiments carried out in rodents during this study, published in the journal Oncogene, confirmed that blocking Snail1 in fibroblasts slows the ability of melanoma to grow and metastasize.

DOI: 10.1038/s41388-023-02793-5

The research group led by Salvador Martínez published a study in the journal Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences that revealed that the transmission of COVID-19 to the fetus could affect brain development and memory. The researchers focused on locating the expression of the ACE2 enzyme, the entry point for SARS-CoV-2 into the body, during fetal development and determined that this protein is expressed while the cerebral cortex develops, an area that allows the generation of memories and ways of learning.

DOI: 10.1007/s00018-023-04787-8

Source: Institute for Neurosciences CSIC-UMH (in.comunicacion@umh.es)