Usue Etxaniz Irigoien awarded Fishman Fund Fellowship

| Written by Susan Gammon
fishman fund

Congratulations to SBP postdoc Usue Etxaniz Irigoien, Ph.D.—the recipient of the 2018 Fishman Fund Fellowship. This prestigious award is a “super stipend” given to exceptional young researchers in recognition of their research accomplishments and in support of their future research plans. Etxaniz Irigoien will use the financial support to continue her research on muscle biology—explorations that may lead to treatments for disorders such as muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

“I’m honored to receive this special fellowship,” says Etxaniz Irigoien. “I came to SBP to pursue my interest in muscle development and regeneration, and have been so fortunate to work with world-renowned, collaborative scientists with similar interests. This award makes the whole experience even better, and secures my ability to continue making discoveries that may one day improve human health.”

Etxaniz Irigoien, a postdoc in the laboratory of Pier Lorenzo Puri, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Development, Aging and Regeneration Program at SBP, studies a type of muscle cell called fibro-adipogenic progenitors, or FAPs. These are the cells that act as intramuscular sensors and effectors, which means that FAPs can detect “alert” signals and generate different responses by orchestrating other cells’ activity upon different muscle perturbations. In healthy conditions, when muscle suffers an injury, FAPs cue muscle stem cells to repair the damaged muscle fibers. However, in disease (i.e., muscular dystrophies or neuromuscular disorders such as ALS), FAPs’ activity results in fibrosis, fat deposits and other detrimental events that contribute to disease progression.

“If we can begin to uncover how FAPs support muscle regeneration, or contribute to muscle degeneration in different environments, i.e., healthy versus disease tissue, we can look for potential therapeutics that will move the process toward the healthy state,” says Etxaniz Irigoien. “This is so important because today there are no effective therapeutics for dystrophies or ALS, and it’s time we make progress to help these patients.”

Etxaniz Irigoien has come a long way from her hometown of Getaria, a small fishing village located in the Basque Country of Northern Spain. She says, “I had a biology teacher who inspired my interest in science, and I have always known I wanted a career in research. My family, most of whom still live in Getaria, are very supportive and excited about my career and this award. In fact, some of them will be traveling to San Diego for the Fishman Fund ceremony in September. I’m very excited for them to visit SBP and meet some of my colleagues.”

Getaria, located in the Basque Country of Northern Spain
Getaria, located in the Basque Country of Northern Spain
Usue as young girl in Getaria
Usue as young girl in Getaria

The Fishman Fund Fellowship
The Fishman Fund Fellowship was established in honor of Dr. William and Mrs. Lillian Fishman, co-founders of SBP. Applicants must have a doctoral degree, no more than five years of training at any institution, and at least one full year of postdoctoral study at SBP. Fellowship support is for two years in length and covers salary, benefits and a professional-development allowance.

SBP is thankful for the generous Fishman Fund donors who make career development awards possible. If you would like to donate to the Fishman Fund to support young scientists click here.

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