Mitochondrial Research Collaboration between Columbia and Chile's Universidad de Aysén

July 31, 2019

A bi-lateral research and academic relationship has been established between Martin Picard, Herbert Irving Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), and Carla Basualto, MD, researcher and academic at Universidad de Aysén, a relatively new public university in Chile’s extreme south.

The two academics first met at a skeletal muscle conference in Europe in 2016, after which “I became interested in the work that Dr. Picard was conducting in the field of mitochondrial physiology and its relation with mental health and chronic diseases,” notes Basualto. The following year, she was able to visit and work at Picard’s Mitochondrial Signaling Laboratory at Columbia University, studying mitochondria at a structural level by utilizing fluorescence and electronic microscopy tools. The lab team co-authored the paper “Acute psychological stress increases serum circulating cell-free mitochondrial DNA” as a result of that work.

With a research project financed by Universidad de Aysén, Basualto returned to the lab in January through March of 2019, working on special techniques regarding blood handling and processing for later electron microscopy studies.

“Besides the specific knowledge that the collaboration with Picard’s laboratory has provided me, I wish to highlight the scientific and human features of the entire team, where everybody has always been really kind, welcoming me and helping with the laboratory tasks,” says Basualto. “The entire team is devoted to thinking and doing rigorous research, qualities that render a place where science can be done with the highest standards.”

Universidad de Aysén is a state-run, autonomous institution of higher learning which looks to contribute to local, regional and national development - with particular emphasis on the geographically isolated area of Patagonia-Aysén - through comprehensive professional training, research and development, innovation and establishing links with the environment. It was launched in 2015 under the administration of then-President Michelle Bachelet.

“As a new and public institution, Universidad de Aysén is interested in maintaining and increasing international relationships. The collaboration that Dr. Picard and I have developed has already borne fruit and should be maintained through publications, reciprocal visits and scientific collaborative work,” according to Basualto.