The Early Career Award Winners this year will be celebrated in a session this afternoon (Friday 6th May) from 14.00-15.00 Room 0.4. The newsletters this year have featured all four of our winners, and our third interview is this year’s EASO Early Career Award Winner in Basic Science Andrea Gonzales Izquierdo.
Andrea holds a PhD in Endocrinology from the University of Santiago de Compostela. At present, she is a postdoctoral researcher in the Epigenomics in Endocrinology and Nutrition group, Epigenomics of Obesity Unit, Health Research Institute of Santiago de Compostela (IDIS), University Hospital Complex of Santiago de Compostela (CHUS), Spain. led by Dra. Ana Belén Crujeiras. She is also a member attached to the Center for Biomedical Research in the Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition Network (CIBERobn-ISCIII).
To date, her career has focused on the epigenomics of obesity and its associated diseases, specifically in the action of epigenetic regulation within the relationship between obesity and liver carcinogenesis, together with analysis of the potential impact of weight loss interventions on the appearance of tumour promotion associated with excess adiposity. Andrea has co-authored more than 16 articles and 4 book chapters, and has collaborated in 7 ongoing research projects.
Congratulations, Andrea on your award. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I have a degree in Biology, with a specialization in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, and a Master’s degree in Biomedical Research. I earned a PhD in Endocrinology (Cum Laude) from the International Doctoral School of the University of Santiago de Compostela.
We would love to learn more about your country and the area you live in:
Spain is a country with great geographical and cultural wealth, which, together with Portugal, makes up the European Iberian Peninsula. Galicia, an autonomous community in northwestern Spain, is a wonderful and beautiful region, with an extensive area of vegetation and a coastline bathed by the Atlantic. It has an exceptional cultural, architectural, landscape and gastronomic heritage, with important influences from the Romans and the Celts. The city where I work, Santiago de Compostela, is the central axis of this great territory where hundreds of pilgrims arrive each year after completing a journey along the very special Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James.
Lovely! I read that the original pilgrims along the Camino would undertake the journey of almost 800 kilometres on foot to Santiago de Compostela – which was believed to be the final resting place of the apostle St James – as a way of earning a place in heaven.
Tell us, Andrea, how did you develop an interest in the field of obesity?
Throughout my academic training, my interests in the field of biomedicine have consolidated. I found subjects such as metabolic regulation or biochemistry fascinating from the start. Over the years, I have been exposed to additional research in the field of obesity, and my interest in the field has only grown. Obesity is an exciting topic for basic scientists since it is a highly prevalent disease, with a very complex pathogenesis and which is also a very relevant risk factor for many other diseases, so identifying a key to addressing obesity will be a great landmark for the health of millions of people around the world.
How did you become interested in your current research area?
Currently, my career focuses on the epigenomics of obesity and its associated diseases, especially in the relationship between obesity and cancer. The area of epigenomics, which has seen significant growth in recent years, has led to important scientific discoveries. On a personal level, epigenetics seems to me to be a very interesting subject capable of explaining all those aspects that are outside of genetics and that respond to direct action of various external factors found in the environment.
Please help us to learn more about your award-winning research.
My doctoral thesis focused on the study of the molecular mechanisms that underlie the association between obesity and its comorbidities, specifically on the action of epigenetic regulation in the link between obesity and liver carcinogenesis, together with an analysis of the potential effect reversal of interventions for weight loss on the onset of tumor promotion associated with excess adiposity characteristic of obesity.
The findings within my doctoral thesis determined that excess adiposity is capable of triggering a procarcinogenic response in the liver before the manifestation of a tumor mass, associated with oxidative stress and inflammation induced by dysfunctional adipose tissue. This effect is regulated by epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. Both the expression of the pro-carcinogenic genes studied and the methylation markers are reversed after a nutritional intervention for weight loss. Therefore, it is clear that a reduction in the degree of adiposity should be indicated to prevent progression to hepatocellular carcinoma related to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) caused by obesity.
What are your future career plans?
My immediate plans are focused on continuing my current line of research on how adiposity promotes progression to hepatocellular carcinoma related to NAFLD caused by obesity. Specifically, in conducting these novel studies through the application of new generation technologies such as sequencing using RNA-seq and analysis of DNA methylation using arrays.
Thank you, Andrea, aside from your professional interests, what are your hobbies?
I enjoy my free time with my family and friends. I love the sea and everything that has to do with water sports. I am a great fan of cooking, both preparing recipes at home and going to restaurants and bars to taste new dishes. I also love music, especially rock and indie. I really enjoy going to concerts and music festivals and I try to go whenever I can.