Lorena Varela-Nallar, Ph.D.



Lorena 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 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 processes.

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. Guerra MV, Cáceres MI, Herrera-Soto A, Arredondo SB, Varas-Godoy M, van Zundert B, Varela-Nallar L. H3K9 methyltransferases Suv39h1 and Suv39h2 control the differentiation of neural progenitor cells in the adult hippocampus. Front Cell Dev Biol 9:778345. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.778345.
    1. Arredondo SB, Reyes DT, Herrera-Soto A, Mardones MD, Inestrosa NC*, Varela-Nallar L*. (2021) Andrographolide promotes hippocampal neurogenesis and spatial memory in the APPswe/PS1ΔE9 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Sci Rep. 11(1):22904. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-01977-x.
    1. Arredondo SB, Guerrero FG, Herrera-Soto A, Jensen-Flores J, Bustamante DB, Oñate-Ponce A, Henny P, Varas-Godoy M, Inestrosa NC, Varela-Nallar L. (2020) Wnt5a promotes differentiation and development of adult-born neurons in the hippocampus by noncanonical Wnt signaling. Stem Cells. 38(3):422-436. doi: 10.1002/stem.3121.
    1. Calderón-Garcidueñas L, Herrera-Soto A, Jury N, Maher BA, González-Maciel A, Reynoso-Robles R, Ruiz-Rudolph P, van Zundert B, Varela-Nallar L. (2020) Reduced repressive epigenetic marks, increased DNA damage and Alzheimer’s disease hallmarks in the brain of humans and mice exposed to particulate urban air pollution. Environ Res. 183:109226. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.109226.
    1. Mardones MD, Andaur GA, Varas-Godoy M, Henriquez JF, Salech F, Behrens MI, Couve A, Inestrosa NC, Varela-Nallar L. (2016) Frizzled-1 receptor regulates adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Mol Brain. 9(1):29. doi:10.1186/s13041-016-0209-3.