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Nerea Zabaleta from Navarra is awarded the award to the young researcher of the European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy.

The researcher of CIMA of the University of Navarra obtained the award for her work in a rare liver disease.

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Nerea Zabaleta. PHOTO: Manuel Castells
18/05/18 11:56 María Pilar Huarte

Nerea Zabaleta Lasarte (Leitza, 1991) has received the award Young Investigator Award from the European Society for Gene and Cell Therapy ( researcher ), during the national congress held in Palma de Mallorca. The work, which summarizes his doctoral thesis performed at the research center Applied Medicine (CIMA) of the University of Navarra, was selected among more than twenty international oral presentations.

The research proposes an innovative therapy for primary hyperoxaluria, a rare liver disease. It is caused by a mutation in a gene, resulting in the accumulation of a metabolite (oxalate) in the kidney. "It is a dramatic disease that is diagnosed in children and adolescents. Patients have severe kidney damage and the only curative treatment is liver transplantation, which in most cases is also associated with a kidney transplant," explains Dr. Nerea Zabaleta.

The research developed at CIMA uses a cutting-edge therapeutic alternative based on CRISPR/Cas9 technology. "Using gene therapy and gene editing techniques, we have shown that this proposal slows down the disease in experimental models. If the preclinical results are confirmed, our treatment would make it possible to treat patients before they lose kidney function and avoid the need for transplantation," says the researcher at CIMA.

From Leitza to Boston

Nerea Zabaleta Lasarte from Leitzarra studied Biochemistry at the University of Navarra. "From the beginning I loved the world of research. In third year I did a summer internship at the laboratory of Dr. Gloria González Aseguinolaza, director of the Gene Therapy Program at CIMA, and later the work end of Degree, the end of Master's Degree and the doctoral thesis at the same group".

During her predoctoral stage, she has made two training stays in Paris and New York, respectively. "Now I am finishing some programs of study and looking for grants to do a postdoctoral stay in Boston (USA)", concludes Nerea Zabaleta.