Our research focuses on understanding the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins and its influence on human health, at different stages of the life cycle. By taking advantage of genetically modified mouse models, our laboratory is specifically interested in the metabolism of vitamin A and its main dietary carotenoid precursor b-carotene.
Vitamin A is essential to maintain reproduction, development, vision, and immune function. Furthermore, retinoids (vitamin A and its derivatives) are known to modulate cell growth, differentiation and apoptosis. Alterations of vitamin A metabolism have been associated with human diseases as diverse as retinal dystrophies, cancer, type 2 diabetes and the Matthew Wood Syndrome. Moreover, dietary deficiency of vitamin A (VAD) is a serious widespread problem affecting more that 750 million people worldwide. Even a mild VAD status may increase maternal mortality or affect organogenesis in the fetus, inducing clinically silent anomalies that can have a severe impact on health later in life. On the other hand, consumption of large doses of dietary supplements and vitamins, including b-carotene, has become a very common practice in recent years, generating the necessity to investigate the effects of high doses of vitamins and carotenoids intake at different stages of the lifecycle.
We primarily focus on the study of the molecular, biochemical and physiological mechanisms that regulate the metabolism of vitamin A and b-carotene during mammalian embryogenesis, in both maternal and developing tissues. Current research projects in the lab aim to 1. Identify the molecular and physiological mechanisms of maternal-fetal transfer of vitamin A and b-carotene and 2. Investigate the function of the b-carotene cleavage enzymes, b-carotene 15,15’ oxygenase (BCO1) and b-carotene 9’,10’ oxygenase (BCO2), during mammalian embryogenesis.