“In love with the genetic code” – Meet Our Scientists: Lluís Ribas

We have a passion for understanding life. Not just the origin of life but the way that life evolved and the way that life works. The genetic code regulates how genes are used to make proteins, and this is the basis for life. So through the analysis of the genetic code we want to understand how life appeared, how life evolved and also understand all the pathological effects that problems in the system of protein synthesis generate. In the last five years we have made two relevant discoveries about the way that the code and protein synthesis is integrated within the whole complexity of the cell. The first discovery has to do with the protein that we have called SLIMP. This protein is important for making sure that the process of making proteins is in tune with the process of energy production in cells. The processing of genetic information in the cell requires the transfer of this information from the nucleus in the centre of the cell to the outside of the cell, the cytosol, where proteins are made. How these two compartments of the cell and the information is coordinated is the centre of the research that we are doing in our second project. A key element in the coordination of this transfer of information between the nucleus and the cytosol is an enzyme called ADAT. We think that the role of ADAT is important to ensure that the process of making proteins in the cytosol is made without errors and at the rate that the circumstances of the cell require at any specific time. Many human diseases are caused by defects in the generation of proteins. We hope that through the analysis of the function of ADAT we will be able to better understand and perhaps find solutions to some of these diseases. I brought a night vision device. This is essentially a photon detector connected to an infrared illuminator that is used to watch objects at night. And I use it because wildlife watching is one of my hobbies. And I also think that it is a good simile of what we do in the lab. We try to find out what it is in the dark with whatever means we can find to discover new stuff.

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