XVII Arquímedes Prize

The Spanish Ministry of Education annually runs a competition to recognize college students’ research by awarding a prize for their work at Spanish higher educational institution.

The competition has been run by since 2002 and it was the first time the Crit Lab participated. The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) takes part, along with a number of other public and private institutions involved in research. The event has a dual goal: promoting the combination of teaching and research in Spanish universities, and encouraging students to go into the research field.

In 17 editions, 297 prices have been given to 430 researchers. Among these researchers, 35% are women (almost 50% in biomedical sciences). Overall, the budget assigned to these prices has surpassed 1 million €.

Our student Cecilia López Martínez presented her data about cancer, was elected as a finalist and received one of the 14 secondary awards. The award consists on a monetary prize funded by Fundación ONCE and a short stay at a CSIC research centre. Her project has been tutored by Crit Lab’s IP, Guillermo M Albaiceta, and one of our postdoctoral researchers, Inés López Alonso.

Congratulations, Cecilia!! All the team are proud of your results!! Keep on working so hard!

CIBERES training session

On 15-16th November, CIBERES Training Session was held in Madrid. This conference aims to communicate and share the research activity and resources of the groups involved. CIBERES also intends to foster interrelations between its younger clinical and basic researchers, and to launch future cooperative projects with researchers from other CIBER. In this occasion, the CIBERES Training Session was organized with CIBERONC and the Crit Lab wouldn’t miss the opportunity to participate presenting our ongoing projects about cancer and senescence.

Congrats to the awardees!

During the conferences we could listen to interesting presentations from both CIBERONC and CIBERES’ groups, meet with other members of the consortium and discuss with experienced researchers about funding opportunities of European Research Council and European Commission. Moreover, our abstracts were selected to receive two of the four awards given to the best communications presented, consisting on funding support to attend an international congress. Thank you CIBERES!!

But it is not all about work! Part of the Crit Lab team enhanced the thinking outside the box in front of a tasty meal and some draft beers during a nice evening in Malasaña. See you soon, Madrid!

Planning our next research…



To commemorate the 25thanniversary of death of Severo Ochoa, the high-school I. E. S. Carmen y Severo from Luarca (Ochoa´s birthplace) has been organising several Scientific Outreach events. Severo Ochoa, a Spanish-American Scientist, was awarded in 1959 with the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for the discovery of an enzyme which enables the synthesis of RNA.

The Crit Lab took this opportunity to run a series of exciting hands-on activities to increase awareness and understanding about biomedical research. The targeted audience were primary school children and their grandparents, and high-school students from Luarca and surroundings.

Cell_3D_modelling-2 (2)Different fun and vibrant workshops were run during 1-hour sessions. Scientists from the Crit Lab and other colleagues from ISPA were leading the activities in the presence of the corresponding teacher at all times. Each activity began with a brief and dynamic talk which was followed by hands-on work. The main focus was the cell and its structure, giving special emphasis to the DNA and how it is packed to fit inside the nucleus.  The complexity of these activities increased in accordance with the age of the students, and they were as follows:

  • Cell colouring(6-7 years old). A template with the illustration of a cell highlighting the main components was distributed within children to give colour.
  • Cell modelling(7-8 years old). 10-centimetre Petri dishes were given to the students together with some play dough of different colours in order to build an animal cell.
  • DNA bracelets/keyrings(8-9 years old). Following the pattern of some DNA sequences, children learned about DNA structure and complementary base-pairing using beads and wire to make bracelets or keyrings.
  • Origami DNA (9-10 years old). Sticking to the rationale of the previous activity, students were asesk to build a DNA helix using the template designed by Dr. Alex Batemann and provided by yourgenome.org.
  • Visualization of cheek cells under microscopes(10-11 years old). Pupils used cotton swabs to get the cells from the inner side of their cheeks, and stained them with food dyes to observe the cells under the microscope.
  • DNA extraction from peas(11-12 years old). Using soap, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a little bit of alcohol, students extracted DNA from smashed peas.
  • Blood cells observation(12-13 years old). From just a tiny drop of blood, haematoxylin-eosin staining was used to observed and distinguish different cellular components of our blood.
  • Blood typing(14-15 years old). The determination of an AB0 and Rh blood group was carried out after introducing the concepts of antibody and antigen.
  • CSI-Luarca (15-17 years old). Simulation of Molecular Biology techniques such as DNA extraction, PCR and electrophoresis of nucleic acids were used to identify the suspect in a murder scene.


The workshops were very engaging and reached over 600 students from 6 to 17 years old (and a little bit older…). As Scientists, this experience has been extremely rewarding. The performed tasks were very different to our daily routine. The positive feedback acknowledges our effort in visiting the school and has given us motivation to participate more often in public engagement events!

We are very grateful to those who funded the event: ISPA, I. E. S. Severo Ochoa, and the Parent Association of the schools who attended the workshops (C. P. Padre Galo, C. José García Fernández, Colegio San Miguel de Trevías, Colegios Rurales Agrupados de Luarca, I. E. S Carmen y Severo Ochoa and I. E. S. Elisa y Luis Villamil (Vegadeo).


The long way to the nuclear envelope


Our work on the role of the mechanical properties of the nuclear envelopment in Ventilator-Induced Lung Injury (VILI) has been published in Science Translational Medicine. More than 5 years of work have been finally exposed to the scientific community. We are very proud of the article, and happy to publish in such a great journal.

However, this article is the result of two concatenated errors that, in this case, led to a exciting finding.

We made the first error during our research on autophagy, inflammation and VILI, circa 2012, published in AJP-Lung. In that project, we started to obtain nuclear extracts to characterize the translocation of transcription factors by western blot. And, as a loading control, we tested Lamin-A. To our surprise, Lamin-A was not a good loading control, and mechanical ventilation caused a huge increase in its abundance.

The suspicion that Lamin-A could play a role in VILI persisted in the lab discussions for some years. And finally we decide to explore this path. After all, we have Zmpste24-knockout mice available. These animals show a fascinating phenotype, with most of the symptoms of accelerated aging and in line with other laminopathies. Therefore, we expected this fragile animals to be more susceptible to VILI. This was our second error.

To our surprise, these animals were resistant to mechanical stretch. We had to repeat the experiments several times until we were sure that finding was not an artefact. So aging, a condition that increases susceptibility to VILI, was not involved. From then, we explored the role of Lamin-A in nuclear mechanics, following this amazing paper from Swift and coworkers. Then came the micropipette aspiration experiments, characterization of different mouse models and genotypes, human samples…

And, more important, the strong conviction that nuclear and cell mechanics are key players in the finding of a specific treatment of VILI (keeping inflammation intact!).

Brand new lab!


Finally, our lab has expanded. We have now 50m2 of additional space, to move all the noisy equipment. There is some place for noisy researchers also. This allowed us to release some space in the old room.

Thanks to CIBERES, FINBA and ISPA for their support, that makes us grow.