Pura Muñoz-Cánoves and Laura García-Prat win the Vanguardia de la Ciencia Award

Pura Muñoz-Cánoves i Laura García-Prat - Xavier Cervera/La VanguardiaLa Vanguardia de la Ciencia Award has been given this year to UPF researchers Pura Muñoz-Cánoves and Laura García-Prat for their studies on cell ageing. This prize, based on the vote of the readers of La Vanguardia, is awarded to what the readers consider is the most important research carried out in Spain in 2016.

Muñoz-Cánoves and García-Prat have discovered why the tissues of the human body deteriorate over the years and how to rejuvenate them. According to the results presented in Nature, tissues lose their capacity to regenerate when autophagy, a cell waste recycling mechanism, fails. Their experiments demonstrate that restoring autophagy with drugs can slow tissue ageing. "Although experiments have been based on muscle tissues, autophagy is essential for all organs", says Muñoz-Cánoves, who heads UPF's Cell Biology Group. These results support the hypothesis that the discovery of these two researchers offers a strategy to curb ageing in the human body as a whole.

Biomedicine focuses attention

La Vanguardia de la Ciencia Award is based on a weighted vote between the opinions of the readers, which are valued at 50%, and those of the scientific advisory committee of the prize, the other 50%. This year, readers and scientific committee have agreed to highlight biomedical research as the most important. Muñoz-Canoves and García-Prat were the winners with 29.8% of the votes. The podium is completed with an experimental therapy against autoimmune diseases developed by Pere Santamaria, from the IDIBAPS institute of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, with 16.9% of votes, and a new strategy against metastasis performed by Salvador Aznar-Benitah and Gloria Pascual, from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona, with 16.2% of votes.

Research on ageing, which has received majority support from readers, is the continuation of a line of work for which Muñoz-Cánoves already won La Vanguardia de la Ciencia Award two years ago. The UPF researcher thus becomes the first person to repeat as winner of the award. "Receiving this award is a satisfaction for us because it gives value not only to our work but to the entire Cell Biology laboratory", comments Muñoz-Cánoves. "It's about recognizing the work and daily effort of the whole team and it will hopefully make people aware of the importance of the work of researchers in general", concludes Garcia-Prat.

Jointly organized by La Vanguardia and Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera, La Vanguardia de la Ciencia Award is convened each year to give visibility to research of excellence carried out in Spain. The authors of the three most voted pieces of research are invited to present their results to a general audience at the award ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, 20 April at La Pedrera building, headquarters of the Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation.

Image by Xavier Cervera / La Vanguardia
: Pura Muñoz-Cánoves (sitting) and Laura García-Prat (on the computer screen)