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Carmen Espejo Ruiz

I am a senior researcher at the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute since 2014. I develop my research activity in the Clinical Neuroimmunology group – Center d'Esclerosi Múltiple de Catalunya and my main scientific interest is the study of the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis with the aim to develop new therapeutic strategies.

Institutions of which they are part

Senior researcher
Clinical Neuroimmunology
Vall Hebron Institut de Recerca
I obtained my degree in Biology from the University of Barcelona in 1998. I did my doctoral thesis at the Clinical Neuroimmunology Unit of the Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron, in which I studied the role of metallothioneins in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis, obtaining my PhD in Biology from the University of Barcelona in 2005. In 2008, I got a Miguel Servet contract that allowed me to establish myself as principal investigator of the Clinical Neuroimmunology group – Multiple Sclerosis Centre of Catalonia. Currently, I am a senior researcher at the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute and develop my scientific activity in the Clinical Neuroimmunology group - Center d'Esclerosi Múltiple de Catalunya.
My main scientific interest is the study of the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis with the aim of developing new therapeutic strategies. I am currently focused on the role of immunosenescence in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis and the therapeutic potential of different senolytic drugs. I am also studying how the modification of the gut microbiota, through the administration of probiotics, could constitute a therapeutic tool in multiple sclerosis. Finally, I am carrying out a project that aims to induce immune tolerance, through the use of nanomedicine, with the aim of slowing down the autoimmune response in multiple sclerosis. I have more than 25 years of experience in animal models of multiple sclerosis and in the study of the immune response.
At the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute, I am a member (since 2003) and the president (since 2006) of the Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee. I am also part of the Biosafety Committee (since 2015) and the Research Integrity Committee (since 2020).
I have participated, as main or collaborating author, in 70 publications indexed in peer review journals. I have supervised eight doctoral theses and eight master's final projects. In addition, I participated as a teacher in various training activities, including the Master of Advanced Immunology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the University of Barcelona.

Research lines

MRI measures of neurodegeneration in Multiple Sclerosis - Clinical implications

123 Lead scientist: Jaume Sastre-Garriga / Deborah Pareto Brain volumetry is about to take a central role in the management of patients with MS. Recent evidence suggests that the neurodegenerative process can be reliably estimated in vivo with the help of MRI and appropriate software tools, and that such measurements are clinically relevant both for prognosis as well as in monitoring of treatment response. In the Clinical Neuroimmunology Group, brain volumetry estimates have been already obtained using well-tested methodologies in selected cohorts and its clinical relevance has been confirmed. New, more sophisticated software tools to obtain in-depth measuring of brain and spinal cord areas are now being tested for clinical relevance. This has been achieved through collaboration with the MRI Unit at the Institut de Diagnòstic per la Imatge.

IP: Manuel Comabella Lopez, Carmen Espejo Ruiz, Jordi Barquinero Mañez, Nicolás Miguel Fissolo

Research for therapeutic targets and/or therapeutic approaches

123 5.1 Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) antagonism as a target to enhance neuroregeneration in multiple sclerosis Lead scientist: Carmen Espejo Because MS therapies are mainly conducted to modulate the immune response, in the last years new research lines have been established in order to better understand the mechanisms that regulate and/or mediate the neurodegenerative and neuroregenerative processes. Although neuroregeneration occurs in the adult central nervous system (CNS), several negative signals impede the restore of the damaged CNS. Some of these signals could be mediated by BMPs, since these proteins have a key role in the developing CNS and in the adult CNS neurogenesis. BMPs also have a prominent role in the development of the thymus as well as in the differentiation of T-cells. We aim to characterize the expression of BMPs, receptors and antagonists in MS lesions, quantify them in the CSF of MS patients and evaluate its prognostic value. We also aim to test the therapeutic potential of the administration of BMP4 and an antagonist of BMPs, noggin, in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an experimental model of MS. 5.2. Role of semaphorins 3A and 7A in neuroregeneration and immune regulation in EAE model Lead scientist: Carmen Espejo As BMPs, Semaphorins could also be involved in neurodegeneration in MS, as negative signals impeding the restoration of the damaged CNS. This project aims to study the role of semaphorin 3A (sema3A) and sema7A, two axonal guidance molecules also involved in the regulation of immune responses, in EAE pathogenesis as well as their therapeutic implications. 5.3 Microbiota as a therapeutic target in multiple sclerosis: preclinical trial of two probiotics and butyrate in two experimental models of multiple sclerosis Lead scientist: Carmen Espejo A series of recent studies reveal that gut microbiome can influence immune responses distant from mucosal surfaces. Immunological dysregulation is the cause of numerous human disorders such as autoimmune diseases. Aberrant central nervous system (CNS) autoimmunity arises as a consequence of the lost of the normal immune tolerance to CNS self-antigens. Commensal microbiota affects the autoreactivity of peripheral immune cells to the CNS. The main objective of this project is to test whether the administration of two probiotics and butyrate has a beneficial effect in MS experimental model. 5.4. Tolerance induction in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis using gene therapy Lead scientists: Jordi Barquinero / Carmen Espejo Previous collaboration works with the group of Gene and Cell Therapy of our institution resulted in the development of a therapeutic strategy in which bone marrow cells were genetically modified to express a self-antigen with the aim to induce antigen-specific tolerance. We could see a therapeutic effect even in the absence of myeloablation, thus suggesting that a concrete population of cells generated in the cell culture, but not cells with a repopulating capacity, were responsible for the therapeutic effect seen in these mice. We have identified a candidate population, called myeloid derived suppressor cells that might be mediating the antigen-specific effect. 5.5. Genomic signature-based small molecule screening of neural stem cells to identify novel compounds to enhance oligodendrogenesis Lead scientist: Carme Costa Genomic signatures will be defined in the different stages of differentiation from neural stem cells to mature oligodendrocyte. The signatures will be used to identify new drugs that could induce oligodendrogenesis. In vitro validation will be performed to confirm that the addition of these compounds to cells under different stages of lineage commitment produces the desired gene expression signature. The selected compounds will be finally tested in vivo, in an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis mouse model. 5.6. Neurodegeneration and neuroregeneration in multiple sclerosis: search of biomarkers and potential new therapies Lead scientist: Nicolás Fissolo MS is a disease with two components: an inflammatory component that prevails in the initial stages (relapsing-remitting), and a neurodegenerative component that is more prominent in the advanced stages of the disease (progressive). Currently, therapeutic strategies in MS are highly effective to reduce or even suppress the inflammatory component of the disease; however, current treatments have proven to be totally ineffective in those patients in whom the neurodegenerative component predominates. Despite numerous studies in this field, the mechanisms of neurodegeneration that take place during the course of the disease are not well understood. We aim to identify biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets in the neurodegeneracion and neuroregeneration events taking place during the course of the EAE, the animal model of MS. 5.7 Targeting astrocytes to prevent neurodegeneration in patients with multiple sclerosis Lead scientist: Manuel Comabella The main objective of this proposal is a pharmacological modulation of astrocyte function in order to influence and modify neurodegeneration in MS patients.

IP: Nicolás Miguel Fissolo , Carmen Espejo Ruiz, Herena Eixarch Ahufinger

Projects

Rejuvenation of the immune system as a therapeutic approach for progressive multiple sclerosis.

IP: Carmen Espejo Ruiz
Collaborators: Herena Eixarch Ahufinger, Breogan Rodriguez Acevedo, Mireia Castillo Juarez
Funding agency: Instituto de Salud Carlos III
Funding: 159720
Reference: PI21/01682
Duration: 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2024

ADQUISICIÓN DE UN MICROSCOPIO CONFOCAL ESPECTRAL DE RASTREO DE ALTA RESOLUCIÓN DESTINADO A LA PLATAFORMA DE MICROSCOPÍA DE LA UNIDAD DE ALTA TECNOLOGÍA (UAT)

IP: Inmaculada Fuentes Camps
Collaborators: Maria Vicario Perez, Miquel Vila Bover, Anna Meseguer Navarro, José García Arumí, Joan Gavaldà Santapau, Joan Xavier Comella Carnicé, Miguel Segura Ginard, Maria Martell Pérez-Alcalde, Victor Franco Puntes, Anna Santamaria Margalef, Carmen Espejo Ruiz, María José Buzón Gómez, Javier Inserte Igual, Anna Rosell Novel, Eduardo Fidel Tizzano , Trond Aasen
Funding agency: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación-MICINN
Funding: 502000
Reference: EQC2019-006247-P
Duration: 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2020

Ministerio de Ciencia

Inmunosenescencia en la esclerosis múltiple. La inmunidad innata como posible diana terapéutica en la esclerosis múltiple.

IP: Carmen Espejo Ruiz
Collaborators: Herena Eixarch Ahufinger, Mireia Castillo Juarez
Funding agency: Instituto de Salud Carlos III
Funding: 135520
Reference: PI18/01146
Duration: 01/01/2019 - 30/06/2023

La microbiota como diana terapéutica en la esclerosis múltiple: ensayo preclínico de dos probióticos y del butirato en dos modelos experimentales de esclerosis múltiple.

IP: Carmen Espejo Ruiz
Collaborators: Herena Eixarch Ahufinger, Mireia Castillo Juarez
Funding agency: Instituto de Salud Carlos III
Funding: 122815
Reference: PI15/00840
Duration: 01/01/2016 - 30/11/2020

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