Carlos Farinha, group leader of the Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at Ciências ULisboa, obtained funding from the Italian Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation (ICFRF) to understand the connections between the cell cytoskeleton and the cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate’s (cAMP) (a messenger molecule) communication pathway to find new opportunities to improve the current therapies.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease caused by mutations in the gene that produces the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein. In people with CF, mutations in the CFTR gene can disrupt the normal production or functioning of this protein. The starting point for Carlos Farinha’s project is based on the fact that, when performing its function at the cell surface, CFTR’s stability is regulated by an important cell messenger called cAMP, which, in turn, involves a strong connection with the cytoskeleton. Having this in mind, the researcher and his team wanted to explore and characterize the crosstalk between signaling pathways and the cytoskeleton with the ultimate goal of find new opportunities to improve current cystic fibrosis (CF) therapies.

Within this project – entitled Understanding the connections between cell structure (cytoskeleton) and the cyclic AMP cell communication pathway to study the stability of CFTR on the membrane -, Carlos Farinha’s Lab – project’s leader, with extensive experience in CFTR intracellular trafficking its relation with signaling pathways – joined Dr. Valeria Tomati (part of Dr. Nicoletta Pedemonte’s Lab) from the Giannina Gaslini Institute (Genoa, Italy), who will give valuable inputs to answer the project’s scientific question due to their expertise in CFTR functional assessment. These researchers will also be of paramount importance in the validation of the most relevant targets and mechanisms identified as these they have access to nasal cells from individuals with CF. Furthermore, the involvement of Prof. Manuela Zaccolo (University of Oxford) will be an added value when it comes the knowledge and experience in cAMP signaling, which make her of one the most well-know world expert in this particular issue.

The project will be indeed an opportunity to open new “doors” within Carlos Farinha’s Lab scientific field, as he himself explains: “We expect to identify ways to stabilize the CFTR at the plasma membrane – that may open avenues for novel classes of modulators, still unexplored, such as stabilizers, but if possibly to also increase total CFTR levels, thus increasing the range of action for current modulators”.

Carlos Farinha is the first non-Italian researcher as a principal investigator of a grant funded by ICFRF and he is very honored for that. In his own words: “I appreciate very much the fact that ICFRF acknowledges that science is global, and it should have no frontiers. So, although focusing mainly in italian researchers (as expected) (…), [it] also supports foreign research groups that have italian collaborators.” In addition, the scientist finds this project as also an excellent opportunity to strengthen the interactions already established with Dr. Valeria Tomati.

Find out more about the project here

Get to know ICFRF here

Carlos Farinha