History and Evolution
Origin and development of the research group at the Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, National University of La Plata (from 1956 to 1981).
This research group, which further developed into INIBIOLP, started in 1956 when the Department of Biochemistry was reorganized. At that time, Dr. Rodolfo R. Brenner was the Head. He applied to that position after Dr. Bernardo Houssay´s suggestion encouraging him to start and develop investigation in the field of basic Biochemistry. At that time Dr. Ricardo R. Rodríguez was the Director of the Institute of Physiology, including the Chairs of Biochemistry and Physiology with Biophysics. Dr. Brenner and Dr.Rodríguez were the first full time professors. Other pioneers worked hard with them: Drs Néstor Bottino, Raúl O. Pefuffo, Osvaldo Mercuri and María Elena De Tomás. Later they became associate professors, and Dr. Mercuri was appointed as Head Professor in 1988.
In those early years there were big changes in teaching as well as in investigation. New laboratories and animal facilities were built, full-time teaching staff. Scientific investigation involved training and development, firstly at the Institute and then in excellent laboratories abroad. Training included lectures in congresses, conferences of native and international investigators who had been or later were awarded with the Nobel Prize. The rapid evolution was supported by Deans of the School of Medicine and Presidents of the University.
CONICET was founded in 1958, this fact led to improve the organization of research in different universities. Later in 1961, the Career of Scientific Investigator was opened on the basis of proper analysis of skills and hard work of its members. Indeed, this attracted young investigators, some of them were biochemists, Gladys Chiappe, Mario Nervi, Angel Catalá, Ricardo Pollero, Sixta Ayala, Juan Carlos Castuma, Alicia Leikin, Sara Actis Dato, Ethel Romero, and some physicians, Irma N. Tacconi and María J. Tacconi.
At the end of the 60´s, there was a solid pioneer group working in biochemical investigation at the UNLP.
Investigation was focused on the Biochemistry and Lipid metabolism. Those first studies dealt with the fatty acid composition in several terrestrial and aquatic, vertebrate and invertebrate animal tissues as well as in other organisms including vegetables. Then, important contributions were done in the field of essential polyethilenic fatty acids in animal nutrition and in the biosynthesis of unsaturated fatty acids. The existence of fatty acid families was demonstrated, and it was possible to understand that the regulatory mechanisms played key roles in the synthesis control. The importance of the essential fatty acids was studied in both testicular maturation and adrenal glands. Then, the metabolism of tumor cells was investigated, and in 1969 new studies on cell culture and protists were started. Pioneer works that demonstrated insulin role and other hormones in the unsaturated fatty acid biosynthesis and cellular composition are worth mentioning. In 1965 enzymological studies were published as a result of the availability of centrifuges, ultracentrifuges and other equipments which had been financially supported by national and international institutions. With regard to this fact, CONICET, the National Institute of Health and the Commitee of Scientific Research of the Province of Buenos Aires must be acknowledged. These contributions were and still are essential for scientific research.
In 1971, these groups of research moved to the new labs located in the principal building of the School of Medicine. Young graduate students joined the groups, and studies on the lipid metabolism and composition of marine and freshwater fish, shellfish and diatoms as well, were started. Studies on lipids in insects particularly of Triatoma infestans were started in order to investigate Chagas disease vector; four proteins in hemolymph, composition, metabolism and function of cuticle, were determined. At the end of the 70´s, studies on the protein-protein interaction in biological membranes and their effect on the cellular function were started.
Creation and evolution of INIBIOLP (since 1982 to date)
At the Institute of Physiology which included the Chair of Physiology with Biophysics and that of Biochemistry, the number of investigators and lines of work were increased. Those groups at the Chair of Biochemistry largely increased the scientific activity in the field of lipids. The advantage of an agreement between UNLP and CONICET attracted these groups. In consequence, Dr. Rodolfo R. Brenner founded the Institute of Biochemical Research of La Plata (INIBIOLP) on 12th March 1982. He was the first Director and the main collaborators who were the members of the first Advisory Boar, were Drs. Osvaldo Mercuri, Raúl O. Peluffo, María E. De Tomás, Irma N.T. de Gómez Dumm, Aníbal Nervi and María J. Tacconi de Alaniz. The main objectives of the INIBIOLP according with the agreement were: A) To carry out investigation in the field of Biochemistry, focusing it on lipids; B) To train young investigators and technicians; C) To promote studies on targeted areas. At that time, the Institute had nine investigators, eight of them belonged to the Career of Investigator (CONICET) and only one to CIC of the Province of Buenos Aires, eight scholarship students and one student abroad. Eleven papers were published in international and national journals in 1982.
Since its creation INIBIOLP has been growing steadily. Other investigators trained at the Institute joined it (Drs. Horacio Garda, Carlos Marra, Margarita García, Marcelo Tavella, Patricia Juárez, Omar Rimoldi, Horacio Heras, Betina Córsico, María del Rosario González-Baró, Ana Ves Losada, Alejandra Tricerri, Mónica Cunningham, Fernando García). Other investigators, (Rodolfo Goya and Laura Bakás) already trained, joined the Institute later, boosting new lines of work.
Thus important contributions were made concerning the impact of aging on the thymus pituitary axis in experimental animals, the construction of adenoviral vectors of specific genes in gene therapy application, the regulation of lipid metabolism in cell cultures and laboratory animals due to the effect of nutritional, hormonal and environmental factors, clinical application of lipid markers to inflammatory-degenerative diseases in humans, the impact of oxidative and nitrative stress, the importance of lipids and fatty acids in human nutrition, the mechanism of HDL lipoprotein-mediated reverse cholesterol, the relationship of human A-I apolipoprotein with amiloideogenesis, structure and function of lipoproteins in crustacean, aracnids and gastropods, the defense system of mollusc embryo, the study of biomarkers of environmental contamination, biochemistry and metabolism of entomopathogenic insects and fungi, the structure-function relationship in proteins that bind fatty acids and other lipid ligands, the interaction of bacterial toxins with membranes, the action of statins and monoterpenes on the lipid metabolism and cellular proliferation, lipid metabolism of nucleus in animal cells, synthesis regulation of cellular glycerolipids. New lines of investigation were incorporated by young postdoctoral investigators coming from abroad. The application of molecular biology techniques since 1998 as well as several methods dealing with cellular biology and biophysics enlarged the studies.
Dr. María Josefa Tacconi de Alaniz (2003-2010) and Dr. Horacio Alberto Garda (since 2010) followed Dr. R. Brenner as directors of the Institute, always maintaining the goal of the institution. The policy of CONICET in the last few years has led to an important growth of the staff at the INIBIOLP, allowing young fellows and investigators to join it.
At present, INIBIOLP has 32 investigators (27 CONICET, 3 CIC-Province of Buenos Aires and 2UNLP), 31 scholarship students and 21 people with research supporting functions. These people are currently working on 30 projects funded by national (CONICET, ANPCyT, CIC-Province Bs.As. and others) and international organizations (NIH, Welcome Trust, International Foundation for Science and others). Around 40 works are published per year in international journals.
It must be noted that this Institute has always been closely related with teaching at the university. Most investigators and scholarship students belong to the teaching staff at the university. Then, INIBIOLP has 6 head professors, 9 associate professors and a great number of assistant teachers working at the School of Medicine, Faculty of Exact Sciences, and Faculty of Natural Sciences.
Regarding postgraduate training, 21 doctoral theses were carried out at the Department of Biochemistry before INIBIOLP foundation. Among them, 21 were carried out in the last few years (since 2005), and 28 are currently under study; this fact indicates a marked growth in this period of time.
A new agreement between UNLP and CONICET dealing with the organization and management of executive units of double dependence as INIBIOLP, was signed in 2006. Since then, there is an advisory board which members are six investigators elected by the INIBIOLP staff, one representing the scholarship students, and another one representing the research supporting staff (a voice but no vote). Since 2007, INIBIOLP and another 22 executive units belong to the Center of Science and Technology (CCT)-CONICET-La Plata.