Q: What attracted you to the field of autophagy?
We were motivated to enter this field mainly, because of our discovery of a protein that is expressed as an acute response to disease, inducing autophagosome formation. We named this protein Vacuole Membrane Protein 1 (VMP1) because, in addition to vesicle formation, it is also part of the vesicle membrane as well.
Q: What do you consider to be the most exciting recent discovery in autophagy?
What fascinated me about autophagy is the ability to act as a specific cellular response to disease. Furthermore, this mechanism that is present in almost all human diseases and the role it takes, under different conditions is a crucial subject for studying. It is important to highlight that in the same cases autophagy is a protection mechanism and in other circumstances, for instance, when protecting tumor stem cells, acts perpetuating disease progression. Depending on which is the role of autophagy in each pathological situation, changes in the molecular mechanism and the type of processes involved were studied. These changes could lead to different types of autophagy, such as selective or non-selective, including if, it is canonical and degrative or non-degradative autophagy.
Q: ¿What is the career achievement you are most proud of?
I am most proud of shaping up a dynamic work team for my Lab, which is multi-cultural, and composed of members of different academic levels, from students to Principal Investigators.
My laboratory members acquired expertise in managing a variety of technologies. Although our country has a lot of financial difficulties, we are committed to achieving expertise in managing new technology, and high standards of quality and accuracy in our results. As a group leader, I’m proud of having contributed to creating an academic but also a friendly and happy environment in which excellent teamwork is possible.
Q: What advice would you give to young women in science?
Women tend to take care of multiple tasks at the same time: family, science, their careers, teaching, friends, housekeeping, etc. My advice to young women in science is to stay focused, giving quality time and being totally involved in every task they make. As the amount of time dedicated to science is generally less for women, they should be organized, precise, and attached to the scope of their research and seek accuracy and validation of their results.
About Maria Ines
Maria Ines Vaccaro, PhD is Doctor in biochemistry by the University of Buenos Aires and Senior Researcher certified by the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research. Currently Dr. Vaccaro is director of the Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine and Full Professor of Pathophysiology at the University of Buenos Aires. She received her degree in biochemistry by the University of Buenos Aires, School of Pharmacy and Biochemistry; completed her magister in medical education at the Centre for Medical Education and Clinical Research University Institute; and got the title of Fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association by the AGA Institute.
Dr. Vaccaro’s research interests are focused on molecular mechanisms involved in autophagy, selective autophagy and membrane trafficking in pancreas cell pathophysiology. She has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals. She is International Council Member of the Autophagy, Inflammation, and Metabolism Center of Biomedical Research Excellence of NIH, USA, the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), the American Pancreatic Association and the International Association of Pancreatology, among others.
Maria Ines lives in Buenos Aires with her husband. They have one daughter (medical doctor), one son (electronic engineer), and an adorable little grandson. Maria loves music and enjoys listening to Beethoven’s symphonies and Puccini’s operas.