Lorena Varela-Nallar, Ph.D.


lorenaLorena Varela-Nallar graduated as a Biochemist from Universidad de Santiago de Chile in 2000 received her PhD in Biological Sciences at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile in 2005. She has a Post-Doctoral training in the Center for Aging and Regeneration at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, P. Universidad Catolica where she start working on the regulation of neural development and synaptogenesis in hippocampal neurons by signaling cascades. In 2012, Dr. Varela-Nallar became a Professor at Universidad Andres Bello (UNAB) and was incorporated as a Principal Investigator at the Center for Biomedical Research (CIB) where she started an independent laboratory to study regulatory mechanisms of neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus.

Research Description

In the adult brain, a continuous generation of new neurons occurs mainly in two specific neurogenic regions, the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles and the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the hippocampal dentate gyrus. In the SGZ, neural progenitor cells give rise to granule cells that integrate in the hippocampal circuitry and are relevant for the plasticity of the hippocampal network. Increasing evidence indicate that adult hippocampal neurogenesis contributes to learning and memory.

The laboratory of Dr. Varela-Nallar is focused on the regulation of neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus. More specifically, the intrinsic regulation of this process by the Wnt signaling cascades is studied, with a particular emphasis on the role of Wnt receptors during the development of adult-born dentate granule cells. Also, the laboratory is focused on stimulating adult neurogenesis by different pharmacological and physiological stimuli, which may have therapeutic value in physiological and pathological conditions in which this process is affected, such as in aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Key Publications

  1. Mardones, M.D., Andaur, G.A., Varas-Godoy, M., Henriquez, J.F., Salech, F., Behrens, M.I., Couve, A., Inestrosa, N.C., Varela-Nallar, L. (2016) Frizzled-1 receptor regulates adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Mol Brain. 9:29.
  1. Tapia-Rojas, C., Aranguiz, F., Varela-Nallar, L., Inestrosa, N.C. (2015) Voluntary Running Attenuates Memory Loss, Decreases Neuropathological Changes and Induces Neurogenesis in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Brain Pathol. 26:62-74.
  1. Varela-Nallar, L., Rojas-Abalos, M., Abbott, A.C., Moya, E.A., Iturriaga, R., Inestrosa, N.C. (2014) Chronic hypoxia induces the activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway and stimulates hippocampal neurogenesis in wild-type and APPswe-PS1ΔE9 transgenic mice in vivo. Front. Cell. Neurosci. 8:17.
  1. Abbott, A.C., Calderon Toledo, C., Aranguiz, F.C., Inestrosa, N.C., Varela-Nallar, L. (2013) Tetrahydrohyperforin increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in wild-type and APPswe/PS1ΔE9 mice. J. Alzheimers Dis. 34:873-85.
  1. Varela-Nallar, L., Alfaro, I.E., Serrano, F.G., Parodi, J., Inestrosa, N.C. (2010) Wingless-type family member 5A (Wnt-5a) stimulates synaptic differentiation and function of glutamatergic synapses. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 107:21164-9.