2020 BIST Ignite Project: SENESGOLD

Intracellular gold catalysis for targeted elimination of senescent cells

The SENESGOLD project received a 2020 BIST Ignite Grant in June 2021.

Project overview

Senescent cells are damaged cells that have stopped their replication mechanism and are supposed to be eliminated by our immune system. However, this does not always happen, leading to a pathological accumulation of senescent cells. This is linked to age-related diseases, as well as to the side effects of very aggressive treatments like chemotherapy. Eliminating these senescent cells is a therapeutic objective to treat these diseases, and is the goal of the SENESGOLD project, co-led by Marc Montesinos and José Alberto López, postdoctoral researchers at ICIQ and IRB Barcelona, respectively.

The project combines two very novel research areas: research in the biology of senescent cells, and the catalysis of drugs within the cells themselves. The challenge of this project is to carry out this catalysis inside the specific cells we want,” explains José Alberto López. To do this, the project uses the beta-galactosidase enzyme, which is most active in senescent cells, as a marker. This enzyme will activate small molecules containing gold atoms inside the cells, “which in several recent studies has been shown to activate bonds with organic compounds that other metallic compounds cannot“, says Marc Montesinos, with the aim of developing a catalytic drug production system (prodrug) that has the capacity to eliminate senescent cells “in vivo”.

Project members

Marc Montesinos-Magraner

ICIQ Postdoctoral Researcher
Project Leader

Jose Alberto Lopez

IRB Barcelona Postdoctoral Researcher
Project Leader

Antonio M. Echavarren

ICIQ Group Leader

Manuel Serrano

IRB Barcelona Group Leader & ICREA Professor

Allegra Franchino

ICIQ Postdoctoral Researcher & PROBIST Fellow

Àlex Martí

ICIQ PhD Student

Valentina Ramponi

IRB Barcelona PhD Student

BIST centres

Institutional Members of the Board of Trustees