Research Program. Precision Nutrition and Aging

Director: Dr. Manuel Serrano Marugán

Objectives:  the recently created Precision Nutrition and Aging Program at IMDEA Food is focused on the molecular and physiological effects that nutrition exerts on the process of aging. Since aging is a complex, multi-organ degenerative process strongly influenced by the genetic background and the environment, our research covers a wide range of biological topics: from the discovery and development of new bioactive products active against aging-related pathologies, to the dissection of different molecular pathways involved in degenerative pathologies, or the study of nutritional interventions with anti-aging properties, such as fasting or calorie restriction.

Headed by Dr. Manuel Serrano, one of the most prestigious Spanish scientist in the fields of aging and cancer, the Precision Nutrition and Aging Department is intensely expanding at the moment. Recently, it has incorporated another of the worldwide best-known aging scientist, Dr. Rafael de Cabo, from the National Institute of Aging, a reference in the study of calorie restriction as a nutritional intervention to lengthen lifespan. Along with these two very important figures, the group of Dr. Pablo J. Fernandez-Marcos, focused on nutritional interventions (bioactive products, fasting) to fight obesity, diabetes and aging, form the program. 

Dr. Manuel Serrano Marugán

Director of the Tumour Suppression Group and Director of the Molecular Oncology Program, Spanish National Cancer
Research Center Associate researcher, IMDEA Food Director of the Precision Nutrition and Aging Program

Manuel Serrano is a researcher at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), in Madrid, and Director of the Molecular Oncology Program of the CNIO.

After completing his studies and PhD in Madrid, M.S. joined the laboratory of David Beach, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, USA, as postdoctoral fellow from 1992 to 1996. During this time, Manuel Serrano made one of his most important contributions with the discovery of the tumour suppressor p16. Manuel Serrano established his research group, first at the National Center of Biotechnology, Madrid, and since 2003 at the CNIO.

The main contributions of the Serrano’s laboratory during these years are related to the concept of oncogene-induced senescence and the anti-aging activity of tumor suppressors. More recently, Serrano’s group has reported on the relevance of tumor suppressors in metabolic Syndrome, the existence of senescence during embryonic development, and the feasibility of embryonic reprogramming within alive adult organisms (the latter was considered “Achievement of the Year 2013” in the stem cells field by Nature Medicine). The unifying theme of Manuel Serrano’s research is to understand and manipulate cellular stress responses in relation to cancer and regeneration.

Nutritional Interventions Group

Group leader: Dr. Rafael de Cabo

Objectives: the Nutritional Interventions Group applies the knowledge gained in model organisms to translate nutritional interventions to improve or delay the decline of function that occurs with aging. We utilize whole body physiological and tissue-specific molecular approaches to investigate effects of nutritional interventions on basic mechanisms of aging and age-related diseases.

Dr. Rafael de Cabo

Chief of the Translational Gerontology Branch, National Institute on Aging (NIH) (USA) Associate researcher, IMDEA Food Group leader of the Nutritional Interventions Group

Rafael de Cabo, PhD is currently the chief of the Translational Gerontology Branch at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland. A nativeof Cordoba, Spain, he received his B.S. from the University of Cordoba, and his Ph.D. in 2000 from the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University. Upon completion of his graduate education, he trained as a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2004, he was appointed as a tenure track investigator in the Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology. His group applies both physiological and tissue-specific molecular approaches to investigate effects of nutritional interventions on basic mechanisms of aging and age-related diseases. Research within his unit strives to identify protective mechanisms invoked by caloric restriction and to evaluate the consequences of dietary interventions on lifespan, pathology, and behavioral function. Dr. de Cabo’s research balances the exploration of in vivo rodent, as well as in vitro, paradigms of caloric restriction.

Hepatic Regenerative Medicine Group

Group leader: Dr. Manuel Alejandro Fernandez Rojo

Objectives: The research conducted in the Hepatic Regenerative Medicine Group aims to provide non-invasive interventions to improve the treatment of chronic liver diseases and liver cancer by formulating novel diet-modifications. This includes nutritional approaches that promotes or represses therapeutic and deleterious proliferation of liver cells in cases of living-donor liver transplantation or after surgical removal of liver tumors, respectively. Our goal will be achieved using molecular, metabolism and cell biology examination on in vitro and in vivo experimental models of human liver diseases.

Dr. Manuel Alejandro Fernández Rojo

Group leader of the Hepatic Regenerative Medicine Group

Dr. Manuel Alejandro Fernández Rojo, native from Valladolid, Spain, received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Barcelona in 1999 and his PhD, from the same university, in 2005 by studying the role of Caveolin-1 on lipid metabolism and storage during liver regeneration within Dr. Albert Pol and Prof. Carlos Enrich’s group from the IDIBAPS Institute/School of Medicine (University of Barcelona). As a result of the outstanding quality of his research, the University of Barcelona awarded Dr. Fernández-Rojo with the Margalef Award. Moreover, the Science and Education Minister from the Spanish Government granted him the competitive Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue his research in liver physiology.

Hence, during the last 12 years, Dr. Fernández-Rojo continued his research in liver cell biology and metabolism in some of the most outstanding Australian research institutes. This includes eight years as postdoctoral fellow in Rob Parton’s group (The Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland), one year at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute studying obesity and liver cancer and three years at the Hepatic Fibrosis Group from the QIMR Berghofer MRI understanding the role of hepatic stellate cells and liver progenitor cells on hepatic inflammation and chronic liver diseases.

In present, Dr. Manuel Alejandro Fernández Rojo is a “TALENTO Program” Fellow and in collaboration with Spanish, European and Australian eminent researchers, targets metabolic, cell biology and gene therapy-based strategies to improve the treatment of human chronic liver disorders.

Tlf. + 34 91 727 81 00 Ext: 208

Metabolic Syndrome Group

Group leader: Dr. Pablo José Fernández Marcos

Objectives: metabolic syndrome (MS) is a group of pathologies caused by a prolonged imbalance between energy intake and expenditure, and is strongly related to the degenerative process of aging. The main MS-associated pathologies are obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, which makes MS one of  he main health challenges of developed countries. This research group is focused on the study and development of nutritional interventions to fight MS and aging. More precisely, we are focused on two main research lines: characterization and development of new bioactive products with evidences of metabolic activity, for which no molecular mechanism is yet known; and the study of the beneficial effects and applications of fasting as a powerful nutritional intervention.

For the first line, we will analyze a battery of pure compounds and extracts from different natural sources, and will measure their effects on essential metabolic processes in obesity and diabetes development, such as insulin signaling, mitochondrial activity, the pentose phosphate pathway or brown fat thermogenesis. Once safety and effectivity of these bioactive products are checked on mice, we can start designing nutritional assays on human volunteers, taking advantage ofthe nutrigenomic platform at IMDEA Food.  For the second research line, we are currently studying the ability of fasting to enhance anti-cancer chemotherapy treatment, in two ways: first, fasting protects from chemotherapy toxicity; second, fasting potentiates anti-tumor immune responses.



Patricia Agudo García
Sindy Stefany Paz Martínez
Daniel de la Nava Martín