The adult heart contains resident mesenchymal stem cells capable of regenerating damaged cardiac tissue. Our group is interested in the clinical use of isolated stem-cell populations to treat heart disease and in the contribution of aberrant mesenchymal precursor migration to the cardiovascular complications associated with obesity.
The bulk of the experimental work in our lab is conducted with mesenchymal precursor lines isolated from the heart tissue of adult mice, pigs and human patients. These cells can differentiate into cardiomyocytes and have demonstrated ability to regenerate cardiac tissue in animal models of myocardial infarction and coronary artery disease.
Evidence from ob/ob mice (which become obese due to the inactivity of the leptin gene) indicates that obesity diverts mesenchymal precursor migration to adipose tissue, a phenomenon called adipotaxis. This misdirected migration contributes to the obesity-associated risk of heart disease, stroke, arterial hypertension, type II diabetes and some forms of cancer. Our work in this area has led to the development of protocols for screening anti-obesity compounds, and we are studying the migratory properties of these cells in order to improve cardiac stem cell therapy.
Beatriz Gálvez completed her PhD in 2003 at the Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid). Her thesis work examined the actions of matrix metaloproteinases in angiogenesis and leukocyte migration. For her postdoctoral training, she moved to the Stem Cells Research Center in Milan (2004-2008). Her work during this period on adult mesenchymal stem cells in cardiac and skeletal muscle led to patented methods for the isolation, expansion and use of purified stem cell lines.
On her return to Spain, Beatriz gained experience in the biotechnology sector through a post as project leader at Projech, working on the complications of obesity. She joined the CNIC in 2009.