MiniBio: The Electron Microscopy Unit at the Faculty of Sciences in Universidad de la Republica is led by Dr. Gabriela Casanova (see interview in Latin American Microscopists series). In this special issue we include turbo mini-bios highlighting the work and career of unit members and main collaborators, including Dr. Magela Rodao, Gaby Martinez, Ana Laura Reyes and Dr. Anabel Fernandez Constenla (Head of the Comparative Neurobiology Unit at Instituto de Ciencias Biological Clemente Estable).
Dr. Gabriela Martinez is a research assistant at the Electron Microscopy Unit at the Faculty of Sciences of Universidad de la Republica in Montevideo. Gaby did her PhD at the Neurobiology Lab of the Instituto de Investigacion Medica Mercedes y Martin Ferreyra, in Cordoba, Argentina. During her PhD, she specialized in optical microscopy techniques allowing super-resolution imaging, including STED and Expansion Microscopy. She used these tools to characterize the effect of early axonal degeneration in the periodic 190nm structures of actin/spectrin in sensory neurons. She returned to Uruguay in 2020, when she joined the Department of Experimental Neuropharmacology at the Instituto de Investigaciones Biologicas Clemente Estable. Her work at this time aimed at elucidating the effect of changes in extracellular matrix rigidity on the axonal cytoskeleton, by using epifluorescence and confocal microscopy. Since 2021, she joined the Electron Microscopy Unit, where she helps researchers of multiple fields address their scientific questions through the use of microscopy.
Ana Laura Reyes Abalos
Ana Laura Reyes is a research intern at the Electron Microscopy Unit at the Faculty of Sciences of Universidad de la Republica in Montevideo. She is currently working towards her PhD in Biological Sciences, under the program PEDECIBA-Biology. Her main focus is primary genetic damage (single and double DNA breaks) in the nervous system, using an in vitro model of astrocytes exposed to ethanol and psychosocial stress. This model combines alcohol consumption during adolescence (in a non-alcoholic setting), combined with psychological stress caused by the social environment. Ana Laura did a BSc and MSc degree in Biological Sciences, specializing in Genetics and Evolution. She is also a technician at the flow cytometry and cellular classification unit.
Magela Rodao Pérez
Magela Rodao is a member of the Electron Microscopy Unit at the Faculty of Sciences of Universidad de la Republica in Montevideo. Her research aims to understand the mechanisms behind the establishment and differentiation of neurons during embryonic development. Using zebrafish as model organisms, her work has so far focused on the analysis of the formation of the neural retina, and specifically the differentiation of photoreceptors. These cells are unique in that their cilia possess all the machinery necessary for phototransduction. That is, they are in charge of receiving light stimuli, and transforming it into electrical impulses that reach the brain. Learning more about the mechanisms governing the formation of these cells, their establishment and maintenance in the neural retina brings us closer to understanding the reasons behind pathologies that affect these cells and even other neurons.
Magela recently finished her Masters thesis, where she specialized in the use of scanning and transmission electron microscopy to characterise primary cilia during the early development of the neural retina. Much of her work is based on data she has obtained combining electron microscopy with in vivo laser scanning microscopy. Magela is currently starting her PhD, during which she aims to study the apical structure of the neural retina, and investigate target molecules that could be involved in the establishment of different neuronal sub-types.
Anabel Fernandez Constenla
Dr. Ana Fernandez is Head of the Comparative Neurobiology Unit at the Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable, and is a main collaborator of the Electron Microscopy Unit at the same Institute. The main aim of Dr. Fernandez’s group is dedicated to investigate the brain of adult Austrolebias fish, in which they identified and characterized neurogenic regions of the brain. Currently, their work focuses on the analysis of sensory systems (olfactory and visual) in terms of neurogenic activity and their adaptive response to environmental changes. Together with Prof. Gabriela Casanova and Dr. Silvia Olivera, they have validated a rat model for the in vivo study of a degenerative disease of childhood. Their work also explores the cellular and ultrastructural effect of neuroprotective substances in the context of this neurodegenerative damage. In terms of outreach and community building, Dr. Fernandez and her team are part of a multidisciplinary project targeting primary schools, where they developed an app that simulates a microscope. Various members of multiple faculties including Science, Engineering, Medicine, and the Instituto Clemente Estable participated in this project. In 2020, together with other leaders, Dr. Fernandez contributed to the formation of the Basic Comparative Neurobiology Unit, which aims at studying and understanding the nervous system at various biological scales.