Un enfoque sobre el laboratorio de la Dra. Anna La Torre en UC Davis

“Me convertí en científica porque soy una persona muy curiosa, y siempre quise saber cómo funcionan las cosas, cómo trabajan las células.”

Dr. Anna La Torre is an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy at the School of Medicine, University of California, Davis.

Dr. La Torre’s laboratory focuses on reproducing retinal ganglion cells from stem cells to improve axonal growth and cell survival and, ultimately, using these cells as donor cells in cell replacement treatments.

Dr. La Torre is one of the principal investigators of the vision restoration initiative Catalyst for a Cure (CFC), along with her colleagues Dr. Xin Duan (University of California, San Francisco); Dr. Yang Hu (Stanford University) and Dr. Derek Welsbie (University of California, San Diego).

“The goal of the Catalyst for a Cure team is to pool our knowledge to find ways to restore vision to patients who have lost it to glaucoma,” said Dr. La Torre. “Restoring vision is a really challenging goal. “We’re trying to find a way to protect the nerve cells that are still there by trying to reconnect the axons of the retinal ganglion cells.” This approach, called neuroprotection, is a therapeutic strategy to prevent neurons affected by glaucoma from dying.

In collaboration with the other  CFC researchers,  Dr. La Torre’s laboratory is also working to develop and experiment with technologies to transplant retinal ganglion cells for cell replacement treatments. Although much research is still needed before this approach can be translated from the laboratory to clinical practice, “the ultimate goal is that we can collect the cells we grow in the laboratory, transplant them into a patient’s eye and find a way to reconnect the right way the lost connections of the brain,” said Dr. La Torre.

Anna La Torre grew up in Campdevanol, a small town near the Pyrenees in Catalonia (Spain). She enrolled at the University of Barcelona to study biology and began her scientific career driven by curiosity. Specifically, how organisms develop themselves from a single cell.

“I became a scientist because I am a very curious person, and I always wanted to know how things work, how cells work,” Anna told us. “But also, during my postdoc, I decided that I really wanted to make a difference for human health and do research that was meaningful and improved people’s lives.”