New achievements in Argentine science

Two studies conducted by CONICET researchers at Fundación Instituto Leloir were published in the same edition of one the most prestigious scientific journals in the world.

Left: Schinder's research team . Right: Casal's research team. Photo: CONICET Photography.

For the first time, two original articles on Argentine studies have been published simultaneously in Science, one of the most prestigious journals devoted to scientific publications since 1880. The studies were undertaken by researchers of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) who work at the laboratories of the Fundación Instituto Leloir (FIL).

One of the studies, led by Alejandro Schinder, CONICET principal researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones Bioquímicas de Buenos Aires (IIBBA, CONICET, Fundación Instituto Leloir), and head of the Neuronal Plasticity Laboratory, revealed the mechanism by which new neurons generated by the brain “are turned on” with hippocampus circuits that are involved in the learning process. The integration is mediated by a particular type of association neurons, the “GABAergic interneurons”, and it is facilitated by a stimulating environment.

In the future, this development can be used in medicine. “As there are mechanisms that incorporate neurons into the neural networks of the brain, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases are phenomena in which neurons die and disconnect. In this context, scientists would design strategies so as to help circuits neurons, or at least, to reduce the speed in which they disconnect”, Schinder indicates.

The second study was led by Jorge Casal -CONICET senior researcher, deputy director of the Agricultural Plant Physiology and Ecology Research Institute (IFEVA, CONICET-UBA), and head of Molecular Plant Physiology Laboratory of Fundación Instituto Leloir. Through this study, the researchers managed to identify for the first time that a well-known photoreceptor (phytocrome B) also works as a temperature sensor, enhancing the accuracy of the environmental condition’s information the plant receives and influencing its development and growth.

This find would impact on agricultural productivity. “Through the intervention of the molecular mechanisms that regulate temperature sensor, it would be possible to design tools to adjust certain crops to unusual temperatures for them”, Casal affirms.

Science journal has been published since 1880 and it is the news media of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This journal and its British counterpart “Nature” cover all fields of science. For instance, this journal published the first proposal on the dinosaurs extinction sixty-five millions of years ago caused by asteroid impact (1980); the announcement of the successful PCR technique for “molecular photocopying” (1985); and the isolation of graphene, a material one hundred times stronger than steel (2004). In 2007, this journal and Nature received the Prince of Asturias for boosting and disseminating “great scientific discoveries of Humanity, bringing science and life together.”

Within the current context, in which the members of the Argentine Congress debate a bill proposed by the Executive power about the budget cut allocated to the National System of Science and Technology, Schinder – who is also the president of the Fundación Instituto Leloir- expresses his concern: “In order to allow scientists to continue making discoveries that contribute to enhance the quality of life, to develop critical thinking for decision making, and to strengthen our added-value production capacity, the State must maintain a long term scientific project with substantial investment, regardless of the current situations of successive governments.”

In the last two decades, a number of 72 original studies on life sciences signed by Argentine researchers have been published in Science.