Diana Garcià Garcià, winner of the 2019 French Rising Talent Award

Diana García García is a PhD student at Paris-Saclay Neuroscience Institute (Univ. Paris-Sud/CNRS [National Center for Scientific Research]). She is one of the 35 recipients of the 2019 For Women in Science French Rising Talent Awards, whose winners were announced on 8 October 2019, at a ceremony organized by the L’Oréal Foundation.

The L’Oréal Foundation brought together 35 young female researchers on 8 October 2019 at the Natural History Museum in Paris, who were awarded the 2019 For Women in Science French Rising Talent Awards, which were set up 12 years ago in partnership with UNESCO and the Academy of Sciences.

This year in France, 20 PhD students and 15 post-doctoral researchers were selected from more than 800 applications by a jury made up of distinguished Members of the Academy of Sciences. They received a grant of € 15,000 for PhD students and € 20,000 for post-doctoral researchers respectively that will give them the resources to continue and build on their research.

Diana García García is the winner in the Biology and Medicine category

Retinal degeneration:  the hope of stem cells

Diana García García, who was born and raised in Madrid, was immersed in the research community from an early age as her mother worked in academia. During her first internship during her biochemistry degree in Spain, she discovered and became fascinated by neuron research. She decided to follow her dream of becoming a researcher like Marie Curie and being open to international experience, she started to work on Müller cells, which are retinal cells with neural stem cell properties, at the Paris-Saclay Neuroscience Institute, in the Stem Cells and Neurogenesis in the Retina (SCaNR) team, affiliated to the Therapeutic Studies and Research Center for Ophthalmology (CERTO) in France. She then decided to make it her dissertation subject.

Diana García García’s research in biology, which is applied to healthcare and retinal degenerative diseases, focuses on diseases characterized by the death of photoreceptors (light-sensitive cells), like retinitis pigmentosa, which affects nearly 30,000 people in France, or AMD, age-related macular degeneration, which affects around 1.5 million French people, and that are significant causes of visual impairment or blindness. The young PhD student is determined to discover the mechanisms involved in retinal regeneration to find therapeutic targets to cure retinal degenerative diseases that have no effective treatment to date. Her experimental work aims to reactivate the Müller cells, so that they reprogram into stem cells and regenerate mammalian retinas, like they do in fish and amphibians. She has already demonstrated the involvement of the Hippo signaling pathway, and in particular the YAP (Yes-associated protein) factor, in the Müller cells’ release from dormancy, the first step in behaving as a stem cell. Now, her dissertation will continue to explore links between regeneration and inflammation, two processes that are proving to be increasingly closely linked. What is the key outcome? The ability to recreate perfectly functional retinal cells and restore patients’ sight. Therefore, long-term work awaits Diana García García and her team to understand and very precisely control retinal cell regeneration.