Inspiring peopleRamiro Alberio

Understanding the building blocks of embryo development
Associate Professor in Developmental Epigenetics
Dr Ramiro Alberio
How would you explain your research?
The research in our laboratory is focussed on the molecular mechanisms that determine cell fate in early stage mammalian embryos. The adult organism is made of about 200 different cell types, such as hepatocytes in the liver and enterocytes in the gut. Our studies provide information on what turns the embryo precursor cells into the different cell types. 
What inspired you to pursue this area of research?
I have always been fascinated by diversity in the animal kingdom, and as a small boy I remember trying to find out about the 'make-up' of different animals. This probably motivated me the most to become a Veterinarian, as that gave me opportunity to study anatomy and physiology in great detail. By the time I graduated I had made up my mind that I wanted to know more about the beginnings of life and decided to specialise in assisted reproduction. I find it remarkable that it is more than 40 years since the birth of the first IVF baby (1978) and we still know very little about embryo growth and development. I started my PhD at a very exciting time; only five months into my project Dolly the sheep, now the most famous sheep in history, was presented to the world. This led to a sudden change of direction in my research (for the good), and triggered a frantic period of research aimed at understanding the mechanisms for reverting cellular identity. I am glad to say that after more than 20 years since this landmark moment in biology (1997) we have made incredible progress in our understanding of cell biology, bringing the prospects of using cells for regenerative purposes significantly closer.
How will your research affect the average person?
Our research into how cells decide to become muscle, blood or liver has two important dimensions. Firstly, it will improve our understanding of the natural world and how things evolved in different organisms over millions of years of natural selection. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it may offer new therapeutic solutions. We hope to be able to perfect laboratory methodologies to modify or generate cells that could be used to replace defective cells, tissues or organs in patients.
What’s the biggest challenge in your field?
We are not short of challenges in the field of regenerative medicine, but I think developing safe and effective approaches for cell, tissue and organ generation will be critical to ensure we deliver solutions to patients in need of new organs. 
We hope to be able to perfect laboratory methodologies to modify or generate cells that could be used to replace defective cells, tissues or organs in patients.
What’s the greatest moment of your career so far?
My move to Nottingham was probably the greatest career decision I made. I was in Germany doing my PhD and could have moved to the US or other places to continue onto post-doctoral research. In Nottingham, I met inspirational colleagues that helped me shape my research plans and career goals and continue to provide great mentorship and friendship. 
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
It depends what the start point is. But as a general rule, I would say if you want to be a scientist, be prepared to be challenged and accept criticism from your peers. More importantly, be prepared to keep learning for the rest of your life and discover new things every day. There is no better feeling to be the first in the world to know something, especially when the discoveries are from your own experiments!  
What research other than your own really excites you?
Artificial intelligence and nanotechnology are incredible areas of science that have a great potential to change the way we live our lives. I am sure we will see transformational developments in these areas in the very near future. 
Are you working with any partners or collaborating?
Of course, academic collaboration is one of the greatest things about being a scientist. I enjoy sharing the challenges of finding out answers and solutions to problems with other passionate colleagues. I am privileged to collaborate with some great scientists from across the globe.  
How does being based at the University of Nottingham allow you to fulfil your research aspirations?
I have been very fortunate to meet excellent colleagues here who have provided me with support, mentorship and friendship. I feel it is very important to work within an institution where the environment and culture promotes shared values, ambition, commitment and complete academic freedom. The University of Nottingham certainly ticks all these boxes.  

Global Research Theme
Health and Wellbeing

Research Priority Area
Regenerative Medicines and Stem Cells

View Ramiro's full profile

Ramiro obtained his undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine from the University of La Plata, Argentina in 1996 and this was followed by a PhD (Suma Cum Laude) from the University of Munich, Germany in 2001.

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