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In this project my interest moves towards understanding a new way of embryo-maternal communication mediated by exosomes. Exosomes are small membrane-vesicles secreted from a variety of cell types, among them the endometrium and the oviduct, which can shed microRNA and proteins to target cells and can influence or perform processes in the recipient cells. Therefore, we address the question of whether exosome release by the oviduct is affected by female hormonal status or is under the influence of the embryo. The characterization and isolation of oviductal-derived exosomes under hormonal/embryo stimulation will extend our understanding of the early embryo-maternal communication with potential impacts on infertility.
My fascination with the first week of the embryo development led me to pursue my PhD studies, optimizing the in vitro pig embryo production in Dr. Martinez lab (Universidad de Murcia). After my PhD studies, I realized that a key process to improve the in vitro embryo environment is to understand the molecular mechanisms responsible for the gamete/embryo-maternal interactions. Two postdoctoral stays at Dr. Fazeli lab (University of Sheffield, UK) (MEC/Fulbright and Marie Curie/IEF) gave me experience in molecular biology technologies and allowed me to demonstrate the first molecular evidence of a sex-specific sperm recognition system; and that early developing embryos mediate their own environment in the maternal tract, modulating their maternal immune system. Since 2014, I have focused my research on a new way of cell-to-cell communication mediated by small vesicles called exosomes. Exosomes act as signalling vehicles transferring information (mRNA, proteins...) among cells. Assuming that exosomes could play a key role as modulators of the embryo-oviduct dialog, I joined Dr. Mermillod team (INRA, Nouzilly, France) to develop this research line thanks to a AgreenSkills fellowship. My studies have reveal that: exosomes contain proteins with important roles during fertilization andembryo development. Currently, I am involved in a EU project entitle: IMAGE (Innovative Management of Genetic Resources), with the objective of optimizing the embryo cryopreservation procedure in pigs at INRA, Nouzilly. Our main interest is to develop new protocols to improve the quality of vitrified embryos and thus, the outcome of the embryo transfer.
Alminana C, Corbin E, Tsikis G, et al., 2017. Oviduct extracellular vesicles protein content and their role during oviduct-embryo cross-talk. Reproduction, 154, 253-268. Doi: 10.1530/REP-17-0054.
Caballero I, Boyd J, Alminana C, Sanchez-Lopez JA, et al., 2017. Understanding the dynamics of Toll-like Receptor 5 response to flagellin and its regulation by estradiol. Scientific Reports, 7( 3), 40981. Doi: 10.1038/srep40981.
Batista RI, Moro LN, Corbin E, Alminana C, SouzaFabjan JM, de Figueiredo Freitas VJ, Mermillod P, 2016. Combination of oviduct fluid and heparin to improve monospermic zygotes production during porcine in vitro fertilization. Theriogenology. 15;86(2):495-502.
Alminana C, Corbin E, Harichaux G, et al., 2015. Interception of exosomal messages between the oviduct and the embryo: What are they tweeting about? Reproduction, Fertility and Development 28(2) 168-168.
Alminana C., 2015. Snooping on a private conversation between the oviduct and gametes/embryos. Anim. Reprod., v.12, n.3, p.366-374.
Alminana C. Caballero I, Heath PR, et al., 2014. The battle of the sexes starts in the oviduct: modulation of oviductal transcriptome by X and Y-bearing spermatozoa. BMC Genomics. 21;15:293. Selected
Phd with distiction: Premio Extraordinario de Doctorado by University of Murcia, Spain. 2008.
First prize i-patent for the transfer of research results in the Region of Murcia, Spain. 2006.