James Sharpe is the head of the new EMBL-Barcelona. Last Friday, he gave a beautiful talk explaining the mechanical basis of limb bud elongation. James also had a chance to share the goals of the new institute located at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB).
What are the ideas that EMBL-Barcelona want to pursue?
There is a scientific vision that all labs will pursue: tissue-level questions. This means phenomena and processes that can only be observed at multicellular level, not at the level of individual cells or molecules. The questions that are going to be addressed at the EMBL-Barcelona are varied. My group is the only strictly developmental biology laboratory in the unit. Most of the other labs will not be doing embryology per se but answering questions at the multicellular level related to organoids, cancer, tumors, vasculogenesis, regeneration, immune system, tissue engineering and models of disease. Tissue-level questions turn to be a very broad topic, touching many aspects of adult physiology.
In terms of approaches, EMBL- Barcelona wants to focus on 3 technical approaches. First, mesoscopic imaging, imaging at the scale of tissues, in particular, OPT (optical projection tomography) and light sheet microscopy, which we have been developing for some time now. Secondly, computing technology will allow the modeling of multicellular systems – dynamic simulations of tissues and organs. Thirdly, in vitro tissue culture systems will be used to test hypotheses. Models such as organoids, embryoid bodies and tissue engineering will be mostly used, as well as some classical model systems. Without having the limitation of using a particular model species, in vitro 3D culture allows us to explore projects with human tissues, as well as allowing better imaging to get more quantitative data. In vitro systems also make the tissue more accessible for many types of manipulation – chemical, physical, opto-genetic – and thus obtain an effective knowledge of the dynamics of the processes.
What kind of interaction could happen between the EMBL-Barcelona and the GEM-DMC2 (CABD) María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence?
An important goal of an outstation of EMBL in a particular country is to interact with its scientific community. Fortunately, the Spanish science community already has strong relationship with EMBL. The idea of the outstation is to strengthen and increase the intensity of this interaction, in scientific collaborations, organization of events, workshops and more. GEM-DMC2 (CABD) María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence has several points of scientific interest in common with the EMBL-Barcelona, so collaborations make perfect sense. As soon as EMBL-Barcelona is up and running we hope to organize partnerships/collaborations between groups, meetings, retreats. But first, this new EMBL unit needs to build its own critical mass – recruitment of new group leaders and research teams!
Thanks James for your time! Exciting moment for science in Spain and in Europe!
From left to the right: Javier Lopez-Rios, Peter Askjaer, Fernando Casares, James Sharpe, Luciano Marcon and Ana Rojas
Check the EMBL-Barcelona: website: https://www.embl.es/
Take a look to James Sharpe lab’s webpage: https://www.embl.es/research/unit/sharpe/index.html
If you are curious about the ideas that lead to the EMBL-Barcelona, check this blog entry from Iain Mattaj: