Florian, Maria Carolina
Group Leader - Stem Cell Aging at Institut d'Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge (IDIBELL).
Life & Medical Sciences
My research in the past years strongly challenged the concept that aging is an irreversible process. Since 2016, in my team we investigate the role of epigenetics and of the stem cell microenvironment in driving aging of somatic stem cells. Our scope is to define possibilities to target aging and functionally rejuvenate stem cells and tissues and possibly extend lifespan. To pursue our pioneering research goals, we combine several cutting-edge technologies and by bridging knowledge from different fields, my team has shown that young hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) establish epigenetic polarity (epi-polarity) based on H4K16ac distribution in the nucleus, while aged HSCs are mainly apolar. This underlies chromatin architecture changes that can be targeted by specific small molecule inhibitors to restore epi-polarity and rejuvenate function of aged HSCs. More recently, we showed that bone marrow sinusoids are the unique niche which preserves HSC regenerative capacity on aging. By deep learning approaches, we demonstrated that the localization within the bone marrow has predictive value to the function of stem cells, being able to discriminate young or old stem cells based on the distance to a set of specific niche cells. Moreover, we demonstrated that in aged mice chemotherapy exerts its negative side-effect primarily by disrupting the sinusoidal niche, which is not able to regenerate leading to myelosuppression and reduced survival. This finding set the ground for my ERC Consolidator grant and for my LaCaixa Health research Grant (both awarded in 2020) and are currently under further investigation in my lab for their possible translation application to improve tissue attrition with age, prevent aging-associated diseases and extend lifespan.