Photo of Francisco Molina-Holgado
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Personal profile

Biography

Following a PhD studying neuroimmune interactions in glial cells (PhD supervisor: Prof. Carmen Guaza), I gained funding from a Wellcome Trust International Travelling Research Fellowship at Prof. Nancy Rothwell's laboratory (University of Manchester) to further develop studies of mechanisms of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in neurodegeneration. As a Wellcome Trust fellow I developed studies on neuron-glia interactions on neuroinflammation, showing that one of the earliest protective neuroimmune responses to inflammation was the mobilization and production of prostaglandin E2 and to a lesser extent IL-6 release. These studies were further developed and expanded with funding obtained from MRC and BBSRC grants.

Over the last 10 years I have worked extensively identifying and understanding the mechanisms and mediators of the neuro-protective actions of endocannabinoids in the brain. I was the first person to identify neuro-protective cytokines as downstream effectors in CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor pathways. Since joining Wolfson-CARD (KCL) in August 2004, I have made a number of important findings in the field of neural stem cell biology. Funded by a Wellcome Trust Value in People (VIP) Award, I have identified the connection between FGF receptor/endocannabinoid signalling and a neuroimmune network in neurones and neural stem cells. In addition I have described for the first time the presence of functional CB2 cannabinoid receptors on neural stem cells. Moreover, our team was the first to describe CB1 cannabinoid receptors in ependymocytes. Most recently, I have shown that neural stem cell self-renewal is controlled by a bi-directional cross-talk between the endocannabinoid system and the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) signalling pathway.

Through these studies, I have helped develop the hypothesis that neuroimmune networks, via endocannabinoid system signalling, have important effects that influence neural stem cell renewal and fate and this concept is beginning to be widely recognised internationally.

Qualifications

1991 B.Sc. in Biology, Facultad de Biología, Universidad Complutense Madrid (UCM), Spain.
1992 M.Res. in Neurobiology, Facultad de Biología, UCM, Madrid, (Spain).
1997 PhD in Biological Sciences (Neuroscience): Immune-inflammatory mechanisms in the CNS: Role of astroglial cells. Facultad de Biología, UCM, Madrid, (Spain).
The Doctoral Thesis was sponsored by the Instituto Cajal, (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.
2004 Certificate in First Line Management, University of Cambridge (UK).
2006/08 Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP)/Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) King's Learning Institute (UK).

Research interests

The main interest of my laboratory is endocannabinoid (eCB) signalling in neurogenesis, and in particular the role that eCB signalling plays in modulating neuroimmune interactions that lead the proliferation, migration and differentiation of neural progenitors.

I am a molecular and cellular neuroscientist working in the field of neural stem cell biology and brain repair. My research career to date has focussed on the dynamic relationship between the immune system and the central nervous system in the regulation of brain repair.

Translational Research
I also have an interest in drug discovery and translational aspects of neuroscience. In a recent project funded by the British Technology Group (BTG), in collaboration with Dr Williams (University of Bath) and Prof. Hider (King's College London, KCL), I have developed a range of live cell-based screening assays using detailed automated quantitative image/morphometric and kinetic growth curves approaches (IN Cell Analyzer 1000 and IncuCyteTM) to screen novel orally active iron (III) chelating agents for their potency and efficacy in preventing iron and oxidative stress-induced neuronal death in primary cultured neurones, mixed glial cultures, mixed neuronal-glial cultures and neural stem cells. This work has contributed to a recent patent application for this class of compounds (WO2006103463).

Research projects

Neurogenesis, Neural Stem Cell Biology, Neuroprotection/Neurodegeneration, Epigenetics, Brain Cannabinoid System, Neuroimmunology

Professional affiliations

- Fellow of The Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

- Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) Liaison officer

- British Pharmacological Society (Elected member Meetings Committee)

- British Neuroscience Association

- Federation of European Neuroscience Societies

- International Brain Research Organization (IBRO)

- International Cannabinoid Research Society

- Spanish Society for Cannabinoid Research

- Spanish Glial Network

- East of England Stem Cell Network

- European Cannabinoid Research Alliance

-Spanish Researchers in UK (SRUK-CERU)

Consultancy work

GW Pharmaceuticals

Head of Research and Consultancy (Opal Education Ltd UK, Research & Consultancy in Neuroscience)

Experience working with industrial partners both at practical and consultant level. Specifically I have provided expert consultancy on neurodegeneration and neuroprotection to Astra-Zeneca and to the British Technology Group (BTG).

I have also acted as a consultant to BTG on other projects relating to the neuroprotective properties of novel chemical entities (iron chelators) and new CB2 cannabinoid receptor agonists.

Links

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