Sónia Simão won an honorable mention at “Prémio Janssen Inovação 2016”

Sónia Simão, CBMR researcher, won an honorable mention at “Prémio Janssen Inovação 2016” with the project “Aliskiren as a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy”. The project, developed with Daniela F. Santos and Gabriela A. Silva, aims to investigate the RAS (The renin-angiotensin system) in diabetic conditions and test the effectiveness of Aliskiren, as a drug with potential to be used in the design of new approaches for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

More about the project: Unhealthy lifestyles and an aging population significantly contribute to the high incidence of diabetes worldwide. This metabolic disease culminates in threatening complications such as diabetic retinopathy (DR). This visual disorder is the main cause of acquired blindness among working age adults. An effective therapy for DR has not been established so far; current therapies halt but do not revert the disease and encompass some adverse side effects. Therefore, further research is needed to better understand the disease and define new therapeutic targets.
The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) has been identified in the eye and might contribute to ocular damage. The present study was designed to investigate the RAS in diabetic conditions. For this we will focus on the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a retinal cell type responsible for maintaining the integrity of the retina and known to be deeply compromised in DR.
The direct renin inhibitors are a new generation of RAS inhibitors and aliskiren is the only in this class approved for medical use. Based on its action, the present study tested the efficacy of this drug in decreasing downstream events derived from RAS activation such as oxidative stress and angiogenesis.
We observed that RPE cells express the main components of the RAS and this system was significantly deregulated by hyperglycemia. Exposure of RPE cells to aliskiren inhibited the activity of renin and consequently decreased the levels of angiotensin II. Aliskiren also reduced the translocation of the (pro)renin receptor to the cellular membrane of RPE cells preventing the activation of ERK1/2. Furthermore, RAS activation induced oxidative stress and angiogenesis in RPE cells, which were effectively prevented by aliskiren.
In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that aliskiren successfully inhibit the RAS in RPE cells. We described in detail the mode of action of aliskiren in the RPE cells and found this drug to have antioxidant and anti-angiogenic properties. These new features of aliskiren suggest that this drug has potential to be used in the design of new approaches for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.


Ana Teresa Maia investigate genetic alteration “made in Portugal”

Ana Teresa Maia, CBMR researcher, is participating in a pioneering study about a genetic alteration that seems to be born in Portugal, approximately two thousand years ago. This genetic alteration, responsible for the increased risk of hereditary cancer (especially breast cancer), is a mutation that researchers believe that could have been carried (by sailors, traders and emigrants) from Portugal to other parts of the world.

Note that, as Ana Teresa Maia states: “this mutation of the genes have been already identified in French and Australian families with Portuguese ancestors”.

So, the main goal of researchers seems to be understand how malignant is that mutation and how was developed in Portugal. In order to achieve that, researchers and doctors will work together, with the help of two associations – the Portuguese Association for Cancer Research and the Portuguese Association to support people with alterations in genes related to hereditary cancer.

The project, that ensures to bring unreleased revelations to the cancer field, have a solid foundation on CBMR research and specially on the research of Ana Teresa Maia on gene expression.

See more here: News – Jornal de Notícias 


CBMR researcher share knowledge in microscopy around the country

Cláudia Florindo, CBMR researcher, will be one of the teachers of  the “II Quantitative Fluorescence Microscopy Course”, that will be held from 28th November to 2nd December, at Microscopy Imaging Center of Coimbra.

This one-week intensive microscopy course aims to give to the participants a theoretical understanding of state-of-the-art equipment used in quantitative fluorescence microscopy, as well as an hands-on experience with: wide-field microscopy, laser scanning and spinning disk confocal microscopy, deconvolution methods, multi-photon microscopy, and digital image processing and analysis.

The goal of the course is to provide attendees with the knowledge and expertise to implement cutting-edge microscopic methods within their own laboratories.

See more information here.


Ramiro Magno represent CBMR at the 11th Meeting of the Spanish Society for Developmental Biology

Ramiro Magno, CBMR researcher, will be participating in the 11th Meeting of the Spanish Society for Developmental Biology, in Girona, from 19th to 22th october, with the poster “STAGER, staging tool for the analysis of expression results”.

The meeting aims to be an excellent opportunity to discover the latest experimental approaches and future directions in Developmental and Cell Biology as well as to discuss new data and ideas. The program includes world leaders in different fields and a prominent place is also reserved for posters and oral contributions that will be selected from the abstracts for all sessions. The 3-day meeting will include three Pre-meeting workshops on: Genome editing, Single cell Omics and Cell dynamics, and over 10 sessions, with broad discussion on the following topics:

  • Modelling Cell Behaviour and morphogenesis
  • Evo-Devo & Genomics
  • Biological Oscillators
  • Signalling in Development & disease
  • Cell Biology
  • Neural Development

Inês Araújo will represent CBMR on ORBEA

Inês Araújo, CBMR researcher and head of the Animal Facility Unit, will represent the centre on “Simpósio Nacional Órgãos Responsáveis pelo bem-estar dos animais usados em investigação científica” – ORBEA, that will be held on  18th october on University of Oporto. The event, the first of this kind held in Portugal, aims to bring together all the bodies responsible for animal welfare, from various research institutions, and work on the standardization of practices and principles throughout the country.


CBMR will be represented by Leonor Faleiro in Biosecurity Course

Leonor Faleiro, CBMR researcher, will participate on the course “Biossegurança em laboratórios de nível 2 e 3”. The course will be held at Ricardo Jorge Institute and aims to promote training based on a comprehensive and innovative approach in order to contribute to the implementation of rules and good working practices in BSL-2 and BSL-3 Labs.
The course will offer to the participants the opportunity to build a solid foundation on theoretical and practical skills on the field of Bio-security.


Antena 2 highlights Rui Martinho research

Antena 2, an important national radio, interviewed Rui Martinho, CBMR researcher, on the behalf of his last published article about female fertility and an innovative experience with fruit fly.

Check here.


Sónia Simão publish 4 articles in the field of diabetes

Sónia Simão, CBMR researcher, published recently 4 articles focused on the study of the cellular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. Using in vitro and in vivo models, that mimic the diabetic retinopathy, Sonia Simão and her team try to clarify what intracellular pathways are really changed.

Article 1 – Angiogenesis
Aliskiren decreases oxidative stress and angiogenic markers in retinal pigment epithelium cells.

Article 2 – European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Aliskiren inhibits the renin-angiotensin system in retinal pigment epithelium cells.

Article 3 – Molecular Vision
GLUT1 activity contributes to the impairment of PEDF secretion by the RPE.

Article 4 – New Frontiers in Ophthalmology
Oxidative stress modulates the expression of VEGF isoforms in the diabetic retina





A molecular alarm clock awakens resting ovules

At the start of reproductive life an ovary contains, on average, several thousands of immature ovules in a resting state that can last for several decades. But how does each resting ovule know that it is time to prepare for ovulation? In a study published in the latest issue of Nature Communications*, researchers at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC; Portugal), at University of Algarve (Portugal), and at University at Albany (USA) discovered in the fruit fly a molecular “alarm clock” that tells resting ovules when is the right time to wake up. Defects in this alarm clock result in female fertility problems.
During their resting period, ovules turn off their genes to enter an almost hibernation-like state. When they wake up, they need to turn their genes back on so they can grow and become ready for ovulation. The research team led by Rui Martinho, from the Center for Biomedical Research at University of Algarve and from Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, and Prashanth Rangan, from University at Albany, discovered that the timing of turning the genes back on is programmed directly into the chromosomes of the ovule. To uncover this mechanism, the research team conducted a series of genetic experiments in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). Paulo Navarro-Costa, first co-author of this study and researcher at the IGC explains: “Similarly to humans, fruit fly ovules also have a resting period during meiosis – the specialized cell division required for the formation of healthy reproductive cells. Therefore, this organism could help us understanding exactly how the ovule is able to turn back on its genes at the right time, a biological mystery until now.”
The results of the research team revealed the ovules keep track of time during meiosis using a process similar to a molecular “alarm clock”. Rui Martinho clarifies the mechanism: “When ovules begin to form, a protein called dKDM5 modifies the chromosomes in a way that they can only activate their genes at the right time. If this alarm clock is incorrectly set, for example due to defects in the dKDM5 protein, females become infertile because their ovules fail to complete meiosis.”
An unexpected property of this new molecular alarm clock is that it is set at early stages of ovule formation, long before the cell needs to be awakened. “These results illustrate just how important for female fertility is the early life of the ovule. For instance, in the case of humans, the early stages of ovule formation occur before women are born, while they are still in their mother’s womb. This prenatal development period is therefore critical for the future formation of healthy reproductive cells”, says Paulo Navarro-Costa.
This study was conducted at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência and at University at Albany, and was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portugal), and the National Institutes of Health (USA).
*Paulo Navarro-Costa, Alicia McCarthy, Pedro Prudêncio, Christina Greer, Leonardo G. Guilgur, Jörg D. Becker, Julie Secombe, Prashanth Rangan and Rui G. Martinho. (2016) “Early programming of the oocyte epigenome temporally controls late prophase I transcription and chromatin remodeling“, Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS12331