From the UMA College of Science Laboratory to Houston

A young researcher in the field of cell biology at the University of Malaga, Miriam Pettinetti, is officially one of the five best doctoral students nationwide by the Spanish Society of Neuroscience (SENC). SENC honors these students every two years and invites them to present their research work at the conference organized by the association, which was held last September.

The UMA researcher is currently in the second year of her doctoral thesis, entitled “Visceral adipose tissue modulates tau pathogenesis in transgenic mice through the cdk5/p25 pathway” (“Visceral adipose tissue modulates tau pathogenesis, in a murine model of Alzheimer’s disease, through cdk5/p25 ‘), under the supervision of university professors David Baglito Vargas, Raquel Sanchez Varo and Antonia Gutierrez, belonging to the research and development group “NeuroAD”. This is an innovative project that studies the influence of adipose tissue on the development of Alzheimer’s disease, with the ultimate goal of discovering potential therapeutic targets for the development of new treatments.

Miriam Pettinetti holds a degree in Biology from the University of Malaga and a Master’s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology also from the University of Malaga. “In my master’s degree I met my thesis director and thanks to him I had the opportunity to join my doctoral studies,” he says. Currently, the young woman is preparing to go for three months to conduct research in Houston, USA, thanks to a scholarship from the IMFAHE Foundation. “I started participating in the mentoring program at IMFAHE, where they matched me with an international mentor,” Pettinetti explains.

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“We’re used to working with fewer resources,” says the NeuroAD R&D research group, of which Pettinetti is a part.


The time you spend working with an international mentor gives you the opportunity to “learn from them throughout the school year.” He adds: “All the experiences he went through influenced me a lot because he really got me to where I am now.”

There are many scholarships and idea creation competitions. Miriam Pettinetti was among the five finalists for her doctoral thesis with her research group “NeuroAD”. “Now I am going to Houston, Texas, USA. I will be there for three months, April, May and June, until the first day of July 2024. I will be where Dr. Rodrigo Morales, an expert in amyloidosis, one of the diseases involved in Alzheimer’s disease, works. “And what I will continue to focus on throughout my stay to complete my studies,” Pettinetti says.

Adipose tissue

“My research focuses on studying adipose tissue, i.e. body fat, in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. We work with different models and what we do is study how this fatty tissue communicates with the brain in pathological conditions. “We think this may be one of the factors associated with poor adipose tissue health and is a risk factor,” the researcher explains.

They use different cellular and molecular techniques to examine adipose tissue in diabetic animals and analyze how this diabetic tissue affects the brain of these animals with Alzheimer’s disease. “It is known from previous studies that people with diabetes or obesity are up to twice as likely to develop the disease because there are a series of metabolic pathways that are activated in these people with diabetes and obesity that in the long term have an impact on the brain. We want to see if the connection between the two metabolic diseases, namely diabetes and obesity, is adipose tissue,” Pettinetti develops.

The NeuroAD R&D team, to which Miriam Pettinetti belongs.


Investigation professional

The professional researcher’s personality is serious as a social marker, but Miriam Pettinetti stresses that they work as a team, and that because there are so many women, she feels “very supported.” “We get to the lab, we distribute tasks, and even though everyone has their own research, there is a lot of camaraderie and we help each other a lot. I feel proud to be part of this large group, which includes no less than seven female pre-doctoral students, and whose chair, Professor Antonia Gutierrez, and department director, are women. “I am fortunate to work with so many amazing women who do amazing work.”

This is a clear example of how it is increasingly common to see women in the research sector. Pettinetti insists she “never felt discriminated against on her team.” Furthermore, NeuroAD studies Alzheimer’s disease from different perspectives. “There’s someone who focuses on proliferation, someone who works with cells, someone who studies depression… everyone looks at a different point of view. “Alzheimer’s is a big problem and we all complement each other,” the student says.

Miriam Pettinetti admits that she is preparing for her work in the United States “with a lot of patience”, as “I have always been very at home, and this will be my first research stay abroad and the truth is that I am a little overwhelmed, very excited, because of the welcome they have given me throughout this year.” , support, guidance sessions to travel abroad, and everything I would need, helped me a lot; but with great weight and a great desire to continue progressing in my research.

Pettinetti with his team, who highlighted that they are “not serious” and even tell each other “when there are offers for clothes”.


The researcher compares the type of work that is carried out in Spain and the United States, saying: “Here we are accustomed to working with few resources. Things arrive to us a week after we order them. There are more advantages in this sense. “They have a much broader point of view, and this helps us to later be able to apply those techniques that we have learned abroad so that the science reaches everyone,” Pettinetti says. He points to the transfer of knowledge and insists that it is “very important.”

The few resources in Spain place a great burden on researchers. “They do a lot with very little,” confirms Myriam Pettinetti. In addition, he emphasizes that “they have to reuse things many times,” and that they always try to “make everything as economical as possible.” The student claims that “her work is better valued economically elsewhere. The salaries in the United States are more reasonable and they have stable positions, not here. “Many people come from abroad with a scholarship and are not entitled to ask for a six-year or three-year term. We have a reception “Bad for our scientists, there are so many wonderful people who don’t have the resources to further their careers.”

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