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Research in to the basic, epidemiological, preventive, clinical and translational aspects of leukemia and other hematologic malignancies

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Recent publications

Castaño J, Menendez P, Bruzos-Cidon C, Straccia M, Sousa A, Zabaleta L, Vazquez N, Zubiarrain A, Sonntag KC, Ugedo L, Carvajal-Vergara X, Canals JM, Torrecilla M, Sanchez-Pernaute R, Giorgetti A

Fast and Efficient Neural Conversion of Human Hematopoietic Cells.

Stem Cell Reports 9 Dec 2014, 3 (6) 1118-1131. Epub 13 Nov 2014
Neurons obtained directly from human somatic cells hold great promise for disease modeling and drug screening. Available protocols rely on overexpression of transcription factors using integrative vectors and are often slow, complex, and inefficient. We report a fast and efficient approach for generating induced neural cells (iNCs) directly from human hematopoietic cells using Sendai virus. Upon SOX2 and c-MYC expression, CD133-positive cord blood cells rapidly adopt a neuroepithelial morphology and exhibit high expansion capacity. Under defined neurogenic culture conditions, they express mature neuronal markers and fire spontaneous action potentials that can be modulated with neurotransmitters. SOX2 and c-MYC are also sufficient to convert peripheral blood mononuclear cells into iNCs. However, the conversion process is less efficient and resulting iNCs have limited expansion capacity and electrophysiological activity upon differentiation. Our study demonstrates rapid and efficient generation of iNCs from hematopoietic cells while underscoring the impact of target cells on conversion efficiency.
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Freije A, Molinuevo R, Ceballos L, Cagigas M, Alonso-Lecue P, Rodriguez R, Menendez P, Aberdam D, De Diego E, Gandarillas A

Inactivation of p53 in Human Keratinocytes Leads to Squamous Differentiation and Shedding via Replication Stress and Mitotic Slippage.

Cell Rep 20 Nov 2014, 9 (4) 1349-60. Epub 6 Nov 2014
Tumor suppressor p53 is a major cellular guardian of genome integrity, and its inactivation is the most frequent genetic alteration in cancer, rising up to 80% in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). By adapting the small hairpin RNA (shRNA) technology, we inactivated endogenous p53 in primary epithelial cells from the epidermis of human skin. We show that either loss of endogenous p53 or overexpression of a temperature-sensitive dominant-negative conformation triggers a self-protective differentiation response, resulting in cell stratification and expulsion. These effects follow DNA damage and exit from mitosis without cell division. p53 preserves the proliferative potential of the stem cell compartment and limits the power of proto-oncogene MYC to drive cell cycle stress and differentiation. The results provide insight into the role of p53 in self-renewal homeostasis and help explain why p53 mutations do not initiate skin cancer but increase the likelihood that cancer cells will appear.
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Guiu J, Bergen DJ, De Pater E, Islam AB, Ayllón V, Gama-Norton L, Ruiz-Herguido C, González J, López-Bigas N, Menendez P, Dzierzak E, Espinosa L, Bigas A

Identification of Cdca7 as a novel Notch transcriptional target involved in hematopoietic stem cell emergence.

J. Exp. Med. 17 Nov 2014, 211 (12) 2411-23. Epub 10 Nov 2014
Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) specification occurs in the embryonic aorta and requires Notch activation; however, most of the Notch-regulated elements controlling de novo HSC generation are still unknown. Here, we identify putative direct Notch targets in the aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM) embryonic tissue by chromatin precipitation using antibodies against the Notch partner RBPj. By ChIP-on-chip analysis of the precipitated DNA, we identified 701 promoter regions that were candidates to be regulated by Notch in the AGM. One of the most enriched regions corresponded to the Cdca7 gene, which was subsequently confirmed to recruit the RBPj factor but also Notch1 in AGM cells. We found that during embryonic hematopoietic development, expression of Cdca7 is restricted to the hematopoietic clusters of the aorta, and it is strongly up-regulated in the hemogenic population during human embryonic stem cell hematopoietic differentiation in a Notch-dependent manner. Down-regulation of Cdca7 mRNA in cultured AGM cells significantly induces hematopoietic differentiation and loss of the progenitor population. Finally, using loss-of-function experiments in zebrafish, we demonstrate that CDCA7 contributes to HSC emergence in vivo during embryonic development. Thus, our study identifies Cdca7 as an evolutionary conserved Notch target involved in HSC emergence.
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Rodriguez R, Rosu-Myles M, Aráuzo-Bravo M, Horrillo A, Pan Q, Gonzalez-Rey E, Delgado M, Menendez P

Human Bone Marrow Stromal Cells Lose Immunosuppressive and Anti-inflammatory Properties upon Oncogenic Transformation.

Stem Cell Reports 14 Oct 2014, 3 (4) 606-19. Epub 11 Sep 2014
Because of their immunomodulatory properties, human bone marrow stromal cells (hBMSCs) represent promising stem cells for treatment of immune disorders. hBMSCs expansion precedes their clinical use, so the possibility that hBMSCs undergo spontaneous transformation upon long-term culture should be addressed. Whether hBMSCs retain immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties upon oncogenic transformation remains unknown. Using sequentially mutated hBMSCs and spontaneously transformed hBMSCs, we report that, upon oncogenic transformation, hBMSCs lose immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties in vitro and in vivo. Transcriptome profiling and functional assays reveal immune effectors underlying the loss of immunomodulation in transformed hBMSCs. They display a proinflammatory transcriptomic signature, with deregulation of immune and inflammatory modulators and regulators of the prostaglandin synthesis. Transformed hBMSCs lose their capacity to secrete the immunosuppressive prostacyclins prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and PGI2 but produce proinflammatory thromboxanes. Together, the immunoregulatory profile adopted by hBMSCs largely depends on intrinsic genetic-molecular determinants triggered by genomic instability/oncogenic transformation.
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Toscano MG, Navarro-Montero O, Ayllon V, Ramos-Mejia V, Guerrero-Carreno X, Bueno C, Romero T, Lamolda M, Cobo M, Martin F, Menendez P, Real PJ

SCL/TAL1-mediated transcriptional network enhances megakaryocytic specification of human embryonic stem cells.

Mol. Ther. 8 Oct 2014, . Epub 8 Oct 2014
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are a unique in vitro model for studying human developmental biology and represent a potential source for cell replacement strategies. Platelets can be generated from cord blood progenitors and hESCs; however, the molecular mechanisms and determinants controlling the in vitro megakaryocytic specification of hESCs remain elusive. We have recently shown that SCL overexpression accelerates the emergence of hemato-endothelial progenitors from hESCs and promotes their subsequent differentiation into blood cells with higher clonogenic potential. Given that SCL participates in megakaryocytic commitment, we hypothesized that it may potentiate megakaryopoiesis from hESCs. We show that ectopic SCL expression enhances the emergence of megakaryocytic precursors, mature megakaryocytes and platelets in vitro. SCL-overexpressing megakaryocytes and platelets respond to different activating stimuli similarly to their control counterparts. Gene expression profiling of megakaryocytic precursors shows that SCL-overexpression renders a megakaryopoietic molecular signature. Connectivity Map analysis reveals that trichostatin A (TSA) and suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), both histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, functionally mimic SCL-induced effects. Finally, we confirm that both TSA and SAHA treatment promote the emergence of CD34+ progenitors, whereas valproic acid, another HDAC inhibitor, potentiates megakaryocyte and platelet production. We demonstrate that SCL and HDAC inhibitors are megakaryopoiesis regulators in hESCs.Molecular Therapy (2014); doi:10.1038/mt.2014.196.
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