Juan Manuel Falcón
jfalcon
Juan Manuel Falcón
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
Ikerbasque Research Professor
Phone: 4219 / 944 061 319
Address: Bizkaia Science and Technology Park,
building 801A, Derio (Bizkaia)

Biochemist and cellular biologist with wide experience in performing high-content omics-based analyses. During his Ph.D at the Biomedical Research Institute "Alberto Sols" in Madrid, Dr. Falcon carried out an extensive biochemical analysis of the Ycf1 carrier of S. cerevisiae, as model for the study of CFTR protein that is responsible of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) human disease. As postdoctoral fellow in the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid participated in the generation of the knockout mouse for the POMT1 gene codifying the O-mannosyltransferase protein 1, an essential enzyme in development, and with implications in muscular dystrophies. As postdoctoral researcher in the Human Genetics Department of University of California, Los Angeles (USA) he focused on the biochemical and functional characterization of proteins associated with the Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome (HPS) which is caused by defects in the formation of specialized organelles named lysosome-related organelles (e.g. melanosomes, platelet dense granules) using mouse and flies as model organisms. In 2006, he moved to CIC bioGUNE and started his research in the study on EXOSOMES –extracellular vesicles of endocytic origin- as a source for biomarker discovery and a tool for therapeutic applications, and METABOLOMICS as a platform for unraveling markers and metabolic pathways altered in diseases. Thanks to a number of national and international collaborations Dr. Falcon´s group has characterized exosomes secreted by many in vivo and in vitro experimental models of several diseases, as well as from different body fluids. In addition, identification of MOLECULAR CHAPERONES that increase in vivo stability of proteins implicated in METABOLIC RARE DISEASES-caused by protein miss-folding (e.g. Cystic fibrosis, Porphyries) is a collaborative project in which Dr. Falcon´s group is actively achieving. Currently, his main research line is focused on identification of minimally invasive markers for hepatic, infectious and neurological disorders by applying high-content technologies (e.g. metabolomics) on different biological sources including body fluids and exosomes.


The discovery of cell-secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs) including EXOSOMES has provided a new cellular component with the ability to influence different biological and pathological processes. In the last years these vesicles has attracted the interest in clinical, pharmaceutical and manufacturing areas. All cellular systems in culture or forming part of a tissue in the body secrete EVs containing proteins, nucleic acids, lipids and metabolites into the environment. They have been shown to act as important mediators of intercellular communication and regulators of cellular niches, and their altered characteristics in many diseases suggest them to be helpful for the diagnostic purposes. Our group has been working in exosomes since 2006 and acquired wide experience in isolate and characterize these vesicles from different biofluids and cell lines, in normal and pathological conditions. Our current scientific interests are:


1) To elucidate the functional role of exosomes in metabolism.


The goal is to identify genes, proteins and metabolites that form part of the exosomes in normal and pathological conditions. The improvement in the knowledge of the cargo of these vesicles will provide also clues about the functional role and implications of them in biology. Technological advances in the past 20 years have permitted large-scale measurements of biochemical and cellular constituents for study as a unified whole, creating all the ‘-omics’ technologies including proteomics, genomics and more recently metabolomics.  The group has already showed the presence in hepatic exosomes of an elevated number of metabolic enzymes involved in endogenous and xenobiotics compounds, and we are currently studying the implications of these vesicles in the metabolism of those compounds.


2) To develop diagnosis and therapeutics tools based on exosomes.


Exosomes constitutes a platform to identify low-invasive disease biomarkers. The group is currently comparing the composition of exosomes in different scenarios in order to generate a repertoire of differentially expressed molecules that could be candidate biomarker of disease. In addition, behind the idea to obtain a "magic bullet" – a desired activity encapsulated in a vehicle with a known specific target- the group is trying to define the cellular preferences displayed by exosomes. In this aspect the group is focused in identifying the molecular determinants that define the cellular specificity, and also the molecular machinery involved in the biogenesis of exosomes. A better knowledge of the biology and the mechanisms of action of exosomes will help to manipulate these vesicles with therapeutics purposes.