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Alejo Rodríguez-Fraticelli, group leader of the new Quantitative Stem Cell Dynamics Lab (Photo: IRB Barcelona).
Alejo Rodríguez-Fraticelli, group leader of the new Quantitative Stem Cell Dynamics Lab (Photo: IRB Barcelona).

IRB Barcelona opens a new laboratory focused in the study of cell lineages and the regulation of cell identity

Alejo Rodríguez-Fraticelli joins the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) to head the Quantitative Stem Cell Dynamics laboratory, that will focus in the study of cell lineages seeks to clarify how different types of cells are generated, a research with important implications of this process for the development of an organism, as well as for cancer. With this new faculty member, the Institute, based in the Barcelona Science Park, will have 28 laboratories and 8 scientific platforms.

The cells of a living organism share the same DNA, the same instruction book, and yet each cell develops a unique identity. Stem cells are characterised by their pluripotency, meaning the ability to give rise to different cell types. Indeed, this capacity is essential during development, when a single cell brings about an entire organism, and it is pivotal in cancer because it is the cancer stem cells that maintain that potential to regenerate a tumour after it has been removed, or to colonise other organs, in a process known as metastasis.

With the aim to provide new therapeutic perspectives, cell lineage tracing allows the identities and fates of thousands of cells to be linked simultaneously, and also the prediction of those cells most likely to metastasize.

“Our field of study is devoted to cell lineages and the regulation of cell identity, but above all,  we will be a technology-driven laboratory, constantly focused on developing the next generation of genetic tools that allow us to answer more complex questions”, says Rodríguez-Fraticelli, group leader of the new Quantitative Stem Cell Dynamics laboratory at IRB Barcelona.

The career of Alejo Rodríguez-Fraticelli

Rodríguez-Fraticelli (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1985) studied Biology and then Biochemistry at the Autonomous University of Madrid and, from the very outset, he knew that he wanted to pursue a career in research. His first contact with the laboratory, on the recommendation of his immunology professor, scientist and science disseminator Jose Antonio Lopez Guerrero, was at the Severo Ochoa Center for Molecular Biology (CBMSO), in  Miguel Angel Alonso’s group.  There, he learned the bases of molecular biology and microscopy by studying epithelial cells and lymphocytes. He did his doctoral thesis on epithelial biology, using 3D cell cultures—organoids—under the supervision of Fernando Martín Belmonte, also at the CBMSO.

In 2015, Alejo Rodríguez-Fraticelli took up a postdoctoral position in Fernando Camargo’s laboratory at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital, where he specialised in single-cell technologies and the tracing of cell lineages in both development and cancer to understand the bases of cellular heterogeneity.  “When I was interviewed by Fernando, it was as if someone opened the door to a world of biology that I didn’t know about,”  says Rodríguez-Fraticelli, “he was clearly interested in the development and size of organs, but his mind went far beyond what I had ever thought and I knew straight away that I had to join that lab.”

He has published more than 20 scientific articles, among these two in Science and Nature this year and in which he appears as first author.

► For further information: IRB Barcelona website [+]