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Junior group leader Oriol Gallego has been awarded a HFSP Program Grant

Junior group leader Oriol Gallego has been awarded a HFSP Program Grant

An international team of researchers will investigate the process of exocytosis, which is in charge of transporting biomolecules to the cell periphery and the extracellular space.

01.04.2020

Imatge inicial

Oriol Gallego, junior group leader of the Live-cell structural biology group at UPF, has been awarded the prestigious Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Program Grant.

HFSP Research Grants support innovative basic research into fundamental biological problems with emphasis placed on novel approaches that involve scientific exchanges across national and disciplinary boundaries. The program funds cutting-edge, risky projects and supports international teams of scientists which display remarkable depth in approach and innovative thinking. 

The researchers will explore the global mechanism controlling exocytosis directly within the cell with advanced imaging techniques.

The joint project Time-resolving the mechanism of exocytosis in situ involves research from Gallego, Daniel Castaño-Díez, from the University of Basel in Switzerland; and Alex de Marco, from the Monash University in Australia. Together, these researchers are investigating the process of exocytosis, which is in charge of transporting biomolecules to the cell periphery and the extracellular space.

Exocytosis is a trafficking pathway that is essential to regulate the composition of the cell surface, the growth of the cell, its mobility and multitude of other processes fundamental for the human biology. Despite it has been long studied, the complexity and dynamism of the mechanism of exocytosis could not be reconstituted in vitro. This and other technical constraints limited the characterization of the cellular machinery in charge of performing this function.

Oriol Gallego and his team at the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS) will explore the global mechanism controlling exocytosis directly within the cell with advanced imaging techniques. The team includes experts in biology, mathematics and engineering of instrumentation for microscopy. Their interdisciplinary backgrounds will allow the team to develop an enhanced setup capable of imaging the cellular machinery beyond current technical constraints. Together they will embark on a comprehensive approach to solve the long-standing question of how the cell is capable to coordinate the massive and dynamic protein machinery in charge of driving exocytosis.

Gallego states that “Ideally, experimental observations aiming to resolve biological mechanisms should achieve resolutions at atomic scale and they should be performed in conditions close to the physiological environment. Nowadays, with the technology available, this is a chimera that jeopardizes the progress of our knowledge.” He emphasizes that “this is a game-changer that will allow us to determine the structure of the molecular machines that control exocytosis in the cell with unprecedented detail. We hope that the knowledge derived will benefit various research fields, including biomedicine and neurobiology, where exocytosis plays an important role.” Moreover, “the technology developed will be easily transferable to study other questions in cell biology and biomedicine,” he concludes.

They will embark on a comprehensive approach to solve the long-standing question of how the cell is capable to coordinate the massive and dynamic protein machinery in charge of driving exocytosis.

The organization's statement reads that the 28 winning teams of the 2020 competition for the Research Grants went through a rigorous year-long selection process in a global competition that started with 702 submitted letters of intent involving scientists with their laboratories in more than 50 different countries. This year, 8 Young Investigator Grants and 20 Program Grants were selected for funding and each team member receives on average $110,000 - $125,000 per year.

The lists of all 2020 HFSP awards.

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