Can regenerative medicine cure chronic diseases? How can we enhance the human body’s inner capacity to recover faster after diseases like cancer? Marcos uses his expertise to answer these questions and to define novel mechanisms regulating liver regeneration.
I think that your curiosity and different life events will take you along specific personal and professional paths. In my case, I decided to pursue a career in science due to a mix of random events. The first was a devastating accident that almost ended my life when I was 11 years old. During my rehabilitation, I understood that despite modern medical advances in the last 20 years, we still have a lot of room to identify efficient strategies to stimulate quick repair following an accident and to improve the quality of life for those suffering from either a disease or an unfortunate accident. The second was an inspiring discussion with an outstanding Spanish biologist now leading New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, when he visited my hometown Salamanca for a conference.
I studied Biology at the University of Salamanca, where I developed a special interest in cell biology, regenerative medicine and zebrafish research, thanks to the Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Professor Rosario Arevalo Arevalo and Dr Hector Gutierrez. They were working at the Neuroscience of Castilla y Leon (INCyL). My first week of lab work, coupled with the showcase about the Nobel prize-winning Spanish pathologist Santiago Ramon y Cajal (the discoverer of the synapsis and its structure, among many detailed illustrations of the nervous system) at the institute’s entrance, made me realize that I wanted to understand the cellular mechanisms that drive regeneration and development, and to be able to explain my research with the precision and sensitivity that Dr Ramon y Cajal did.
I always felt the necessity to pursue scientific projects which could help patients. I went to the University Hospital of Salamanca, knocked on the door of Vice Director, Dr Pilar Reyes Ramirez, and asked with hope for the chance to complete another summer internship that year. The clinical experience I gained during that summer placement was essential for me to understand how to design basic research for translational research and the importance of managing interpersonal interactions within a professional team.
My PhD research was exciting and very informative. Using zebrafish, which are an important animal model used in biological research, I had the chance to discover a novel subpopulation of a type of cell in the heart known as cardiomyocytes that are involved in heart regeneration. I lived and worked in three different countries (Spain, Switzerland, and Germany) while working at the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research, University of Bern and EMBL Heidelberg. The opportunity to lead my own scientific project at a very early age, including being responsible for the project design and sharing my research by giving international talks, was essential for my growth as a scientist and much more as a person. Plus, the brain training you get when living in a country where a conversation can be held in three different languages simultaneously cannot be underestimated.
Now here I am, since 2021, at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, thanks to the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) of my group leader Dr Andrew Cox. Thanks to the combined expertise of the lab and my scientific background, we are developing novel techniques to study liver cancer and regeneration using zebrafish as an animal model. Yes, I think the zebrafish has been my longest friend in my research journey, and I will never be able to pay them back for all the opportunities they have given me during my career.
I could not have imagined a better career path than undertaking exciting and important research, surrounded by my remarkable peers at a magnificent research institute.
Figure legend: Zebrafish liver during regeneration. Our research focuses on understanding novel mechanisms by which we can stimulate liver regeneration in acute and chronic scenarios. Here, we can observe a zebrafish liver during the early stages of regeneration upon insult.
Dr Marcos Sande-Melon is a postdoctoral researcher in the Cox Lab at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the University of Melbourne. He is an expert in regenerative medicine and cardiac development, with web and dry lab experience. He is the recipient of the Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Swiss National Foundation to develop his research during his postdoctoral stage.
Marcos can be contacted via:
Email: [email protected]
Google scholar: Marcos Sande-Melon