Dr. Valentina Parra Biography

PhD. in Biochemistry from the University of Chile with more than 10 years of experience in research and teaching in the fields of Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Cellular Biology and Physiology. I have developed additional research experience working in three international laboratories: University of Liverpool (England), University of Utah and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas (both in USA). During the different steps of my scientific training (undergraduate, postgraduate, and postdoctoral position), I have had the possibility of study the relationship between the mitochondrial morphology and function in different cell types; which has allowed me to obtain different awards throughout my career: L’Óreal-Unesco for Women in Science Award in 2011, Oriana Josseau Foundation Award and the nomination to the Young Talent in Life Sciences Award from GE Healthcare and the Brazilian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SBBQ) in the year 2012. All these recognitions were specifically granted during my doctoral training; time when I was fortunate to have the mentorship of Drs. Sergio Lavandero at the University of Chile and Dr. Antonio Zorzano of the IRB, Barcelona, Spain. Additionally, also during my postdoctoral position in Dallas, I got the recognition of the American Heart Association, who funded much of my stay in USA. Finally, during the last year of my postdoctoral fellowship, I got a Jump Start Award from the NIH-NHLBI Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium (NIH, EEUU), which allowed me to obtain the data and results for my first independent line of research in Chile.

Currently, after returning of a successful postdoctoral position in Professor Beverly Rothermel’s laboratory at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA, I was incorporated as Assistant Profesosr in The Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmaceuticals Sciences, University of Chile. Here, I am developing my own line of research that relates to mitochondrial metabolism and morphology in the processes of human pluripotent cell differentiation. This project is funded by a FONDECYT Initiation Grant – 2015 entitled: “Effect of mitochondrial dynamics and function on the differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) to cardiomyocytes from normal and Down’s Syndrome subjects”.

Research lines

Metabolism and Control of Stem Cell Differentiation
The recent advances in the pluripotent stem cell biology now make it possible to generate human cardiomyocytes in vitro from both healthy individuals and from patients with cardiac abnormalities. This offers unprecedented opportunities to study cardiac disease development in a very controlled setting and establish novel platforms for drug discovery. However, to date, there are almost no studies evaluating the role of mitochondrial function and dynamics in the metabolism of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and how these processes affect cardiomyocyte commitment.

Our laboratory is currently studying the implications of mitochondrial dynamics and function in a model of iPSC of patients with Down syndrome and how this affects the differentiation of these cells into cardiovascular lineages.

Funding

  • FONDECYT Intiation Grant 11150282 (2015-2018). Role: PI
  • FONDECYT Regular Grant 1161156 (2016-2020). Role: Co-Pi
  • Advanced Center for Chronic Diseases. FONDAP Grant 15130011 (2013-2019). Role: Scientific Collaborator.

Selected references

  1. Parra V, Eisner V, Chiong M, Moraga F, Criollo A, Garcia A, Härtel S, Jaimovich E, Zorzano A, Hidalgo C, Lavandero S. Changes in mitochondrial dynamics during ceramide-induced cardiomyocyte early apoptosis. Cardiovasc Res. 77:387-397, 2008.
  2. Parra V, Verdejo HE, Iglewski M, del Campo A, Troncoso R, Jones D, Zhu Y, Kuzmicic J, Pennanen C, Lopez-Crisosto C, Jaña F, Ferreira J, Noguera E, Chiong M, Bernlohr DA, Klip A, Hill JA, Rothermel BA, Abel ED, Zorzano A, Lavandero S. Insulin stimulates mitochondrial fusion and function in cardiomyocytes via the Akt-mTOR-NFkB-Opa-1 signaling pathway. Diabetes. 63:75-88, 2014.
  3. Parra V, Rothermel BA. Calcineurin signaling in the heart: The importance of time and place. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 103:121-136, 2017.