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Two Spanish researchers to lead the Proteomics and Confocal Microscopy Units at CNIO after a decade abroad


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De izquierda a derecha, Isabel Peset, jefa de la Unidad de Microscopía Confocal, y Marta Isasa, jefa de la Unidad de Proteómica, ambas en el CNIO. / Laura M. Lombardía. CNIO.

The CNIO owes its high scientific productivity largely to its Units, which support research with the best technology. Two Spanish scientists who have spent years doing research in the USA and the UK have just joined the CNIO to head the Proteomics and Confocal Microscopy Units.

Marta Isasa, head of the CNIO Proteomics Unit, was previously group director at Odyssey Therapeutics, a biotech company in the Boston area (USA).

Isabel Peset, head of the CNIO Confocal Microscopy Unit, previously worked at Medicines Discovery Catapult, a state-owned drug discovery company in Manchester, UK.

Tumor cells have defective genes. Genes carry the instructions to make the biochemical building blocks of the organism, the molecules called proteins. There are tens of thousands of different proteins in a cell, and tens of millions in total (just inside one cell!). If proteins are defective (because of faults in the genes), cells will malfunction. “This is why to understand cancer we must study its proteins in the greatest detail,” explains Marta Isasa, head of the Proteomics Unit at the CNIO.

It is equally important to be able to spy on how proteins work inside the cell. A key technique for this is confocal microscopy, a type of advanced microscopy that allows high-resolution three-dimensional visualization of cells and their interior. “This microscopy is critical in the study of cancer, in order to understand how different cancer cells behave and how they respond to treatments,” says Isabel Peset, head of the CNIO’s Confocal Microscopy Unit.

Isasa and Peset have just joined the CNIO after a demanding selection process.

Marta Isasa (Barcelona, 1981) comes to the CNIO from Odyssey Therapeutics, a biotech company in the Boston area (USA) where she was associate director of the Proteomics and Chemical Biology group. Her research in the past decade has been devoted to proteomics. She has completed a four-year postdoctoral stay at the prestigious Harvard Medical School.

She came back to Spain because the CNIO “is a top level center in oncology research with state-of-the-art technology for proteomics studies”, she says, and also because of “the possibility of contributing day by day to the fight against cancer”.

Isabel Peset (Madrid, 1979) has worked until now at Medicines Discovery Catapult, a drug discovery company established by the UK government, in Manchester, UK, as Principal Scientist in Advanced Imaging. She has more than ten years of international experience in the field of microscopy and imaging, including postdoctoral stays at the University of Cambridge, UK.

She comes to the CNIO for “the opportunity to work in one of the best national and international cancer research centers, and to develop cutting-edge advanced microscopy methods to study the disease and its treatments”.

State-of-the-art technologies to study proteins

The CNIO Proteomics Unit “provides state-of-the-art technologies to study protein expression, modification and function,” says Isasa. “We will support the research community with high quality, value-added proteomics services, thus providing valuable guidance for potential experimental strategies.”

Seeing to understand (and to find new treatments)

Confocal microscopy, unlike conventional microscopy, generates high-contrast images, making it possible to visualize the sample in different planes and make 3D reconstructions. It uses lasers as an illumination source, and a localized aperture to focus the sample in a single plane and to eliminate light outside the focused plane.

The CNIO’s Confocal Microscopy Unit helps researchers to visualize and analyze the cellular processes involved in cancer disease. As Peset explains, “using staining techniques we can simultaneously see different markers and how they behave in cancer cells, to understand the disease and study the response to new treatments. In addition, we have image analysis programs to quantify the changes we observe in the images.”

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