Particular emphasis was placed on "the originality of his work, the relevance of his numerous contributions to the field of developmental neurobiology, and his focused work on a big problem over many years. In particular, his pioneering work on the implantation of pluripotent stem cells in functional brain circuits opened up numerous possibilities for cell therapy in the nervous system. His research has also contributed to revealing basic aspects of development that allow us to better understand how a structure with the complexity of the human cerebral cortex has appeared".
The contributions of Pierre Vanderhaeghen (Brussels, 1967), a physician by training, represent a new approach to the mechanisms of neural development and provide important new opportunities for brain repair and modeling of human brain diseases.
"Almost 15 years ago we started doing transplants of nerve cells generated from stem cells, basically as a tool to study brain and nerve cell development. And if you had asked me at that time whether this would lead to interesting prospects for brain repair, I would have been very cautious, and I still am, and also quite skeptical about the prospect of neural repair with stem cell therapy. But I must say that the observation we made that by transplanting a young nerve cell into an adult brain, this cell seems to be able to integrate in a very fruitful, physiological and functional way is very surprising and opens up very interesting possibilities for brain repair. Whether this will be used to treat patients in the future is still the big question and I think it will depend on each disease," he says.
HIS MOST RECENT ACHIEVEMENT
His most recent achievement, published last year in the journal Science, was the discovery that mitochondria, the "powerhouses" of cells, directly regulate neurogenesis. "This is quite remarkable, because mitochondria are very ancient structures that are present in all cells of living organisms, whether animal or plant. However, they may have played a role in the evolution of the human brain," emphasizes Vanderhaeghen.
The influence of the research carried out by Vanderhaeghen is supported by the large number of awards he has received. He is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the Royal Belgian Academy of Medicine; he has received important awards, such as the FRANCQUI, Belgium's most prestigious award; the Fondation de Spoelberch International Prize for neurological diseases, the GENERET Prize for orphan diseases, two European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Projects, and an AXA Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience and Longevity.
These awards are now joined by the Remedios Caro Almela Prize in its 10th edition, which has recognized since its creation the work of nine other experts in this field of developmental neurobiology: Oscar Marín (2019), Alain Chedotal (2017), Silvia Arber (2015), Magdalena Götz (2013), Christine Holt (2011), Steve Wilson (2009), Rüdiger Klein (2008), François Guillemot (2007) and Barry Dickson (2006).
"I am very honored to join this prestigious list of developmental neurobiologists. I also feel very grateful to the members of my laboratory, both those who are currently working in it and those who did so in the past, because obviously without them none of the research for which I am fortunate to receive this award would have been possible," says Pierre Vanderhaeghen.
The jury for this edition was composed of the following professors: Christine E. Holt, Cambridge University, (RCA Award 2011); Magdalena Götz, Ludwing-Maximilians University and Helmholtz Center Munich, Germany, (RCA Award 2013); Silvia Arber, FMI and Biocentrum Basel, Switzerland, (RCA Award 2015); Richard Morris, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom (RCA since 2013); Ángel Barco, Director of the Instituto de Neurociencias UMH-CSIC, and Domingo Orozco, Vice-Rector for Research at the Miguel Hernández University of Elche and President of the Committee.
The "Remedios Caro Almela" Award for Research in Developmental Neurobiology is biennial and is endowed with 20,000 euros. During the award ceremony, which will take place at the end of the year, the winner will give at the Instituto de Neurociencias UMH-CSIC the tenth "Remedios Caro Almela" conference to present his scientific achievements.
The Remedios Caro Almela Award is aimed at recognizing the work of a European researcher who has carried out a particularly outstanding scientific work in this field and who is currently carrying out cutting-edge research in the development of the nervous system.
The Remedios Caro Almela Chair of Developmental Neurobiology was created in 2000 as a result of the philanthropic initiative of Fernando Martínez Ramos and family in honor of his prematurely deceased wife. The Chair, which was created within the framework of the Instituto de Neurociencias, a joint center of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) and the Miguel Hernández University of Elche, aims to promote research on the nervous system at the molecular, cellular and organic levels, both in normal and pathological conditions, with a particular focus on the study of the development of the nervous system.