Welcome to Lorena Arranz from University of Tromsø (UiT)

Due to the renovation of the animal facility at UiT, Lorena Arranz, Group Leader at UiT, will be based temporarily at NCMM. She will also be joined by some members of her group.

Photo of Lorena Arranz

Lorena Arranz, from University of Tromsø (UiT).

Dr. Arranz's Group, The Stem Cell Ageing and Cancer Group, performs research within the pathophysiology of stem cells. Dr. Arranz is also one of NCMM’s Young Associate Investigators.

Here, Dr Arranz discusses her research and what her group is currently working on: 

What is your field of research?

We work on the pathophysiology of stem cells. The increase in life expectancy is generating ageing societies with a remarkable increase in age-related diseases, including cancer. Stem cells provide the source for replenishing mature cells in the organism throughout its life, whilst maintaining the stem cell pool itself. These fascinating abilities ensure tissue regeneration but must be fine-tuned and regulated as their imbalance may underlie in both ageing and cancer. How stem cells decide depends not only on cell-autonomous regulators, but also on extracellular signals received from their surrounding microenvironment.

Taking the haematopoietic system as a primary model, my group aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of stem cell malignant transformation and the complex intercellular communication with its surrounding microenvironment.

Illustration from Lorena Arranz
Figure 1. Suggested model of leukaemogenesis. RAS and FLT3 mutations are good examples of genetic lesions that are frequent in human acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) but are only able to induce chronic disorders, namely myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) in mice. These are appropriate tools to test the potential niche-induced leukaemogenesis as well as the therapeutic value of the bone marrow niche.

To study these processes, we use a variety of state-of-the-art techniques in the field, including novel mouse genetic tools, stem cells, omics and advanced imaging. My group has a broad international network and is working to strengthen translational research. Our goal is to identify novel therapeutic targets of potential clinical interest for patients.

What are you working on at the moment?

We are currently working on Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) transformation, and ways to target this process that could serve as potential therapies in the future. AML is a highly aggressive type of cancer, where abnormal white blood cells grow fast and accumulate inside the bone cavity. It is the most frequent acute leukaemia diagnosed in adults. Its incidence increases with age, and the prognosis for the older patient remains bleak. Overcoming these problems will require better understanding of AML.

The presence of several DNA mutations in haematopoietic stem cells is suggested as a requirement for AML development. The fact that some of these lesions, when present as sole alterations, are only able to induce chronic blood disorders in mouse models but not the transition to AML, supports this hypothesis. However, besides additional genetic lesions, alterations in the microenvironment that tightly controls the normal function of haematopoietic stem cells may participate as well, and this has received little consideration to date. Our primary aim is to investigate the role of this potential intercellular miscommunication in AML pathogenesis and its importance to human AML. 

For these studies, we are using human patient material, with data validated in vivo using genetically engineered mouse models expressing AML driver genes. Signaling intermediates are controlled in vivo using drugs and additional genetic engineering, allowing their potential value to be tested in novel therapeutic strategies. Thus, the present research will give insights into the basic processes that regulate haematopoiesis, and will allow the application of this knowledge to provide a novel platform for more efficient therapies against AML. 

Tell us a bit more about your group 

I joined the Department of Medical Biology at the University of Tromsø (UiT) as Group Leader and NCMM Young Associate Investigator in November 2014, and was appointed as member of the Department of Haematology at the University Hospital of North Norway (UNN) in January 2015.

Currently, my group is formed of three postdocs, Aurora Bernal, Natalya Seredkina and Franco Grimolizzi, one PhD student, Alicia Villatoro, one MSc student, Joanna Konieczny, two chief engineers, Liv Tone Eliassen and Floriana Lai, and one research assistant, Almudena Tello.  Franco, Alicia and Floriana are based at NCMM for 100% of their time, with Aurora regularly travelling to NCMM to perform mouse experiments. The rest of the group continues their research at UiT full-time.

I am also supported by a joint meeting grant of the Northern Norway Regional Health Authority, the University Hospital of Northern Norway (UNN) and UiT The Arctic University of Norway (UiT), Young Research Talent grants from the Research Council of Norway, and grants from the Norwegian Cancer Society, the Northern Norway Regional Health Authority, and the Aakre-Stiftelsen Foundation.

Find out more about our group at UiT here: www.uit.no/research/sac

I would like to thank the NCMM for space, resources, help and warm welcome that we have received. In spite of the challenges of running two groups 1700 Km apart, we are currently up and running in both NCMM Oslo and UiT Tromsø, and optimistic about our future. Thank you!

Published Sep. 28, 2017 5:02 PM - Last modified Sep. 28, 2017 5:02 PM