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Maria Laura Allende, Ph.D.

Photo of Maria Allende
Scientific Focus Areas: Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Professional Experience

  • Staff Scientist, NIDDK, NIH, 2005–present
  • Research Fellow, NIDDK, NIH, 1999–2005
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Dentistry, University of Louisville, 1996–1999
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Chemical Sciences, National University of Cordoba, Argentina, 1995–1996
  • Ph.D. Fellow, School of Chemical Sciences, National University of Cordoba, Argentina, 1991–1995
  • Instructor, School of Chemical Sciences, National University of Cordoba, Argentina, 1990-1996
  • Ph.D., School of Chemical Sciences, National University of Cordoba, Argentina, 1995
  • Chemist, School of Chemical Sciences, National University of Cordoba, Argentina, 1985-1989

Research Goal

I am interested in understanding the role of sphingolipids in physiology and during disease processes.

Current Research

The goal of my research is the study of the function of sphingolipids, a class of lipids that are essential constituents of the cell membranes, and signaling molecules. They are abundant in the nervous system, adipose tissue and in the liver. They are involved in processes such as proliferation, nerve conduction, skin permeability and lymphocyte migration. Overall, I am involved in projects aimed at understanding the role of sphingolipids during development and in the process of disease using mouse models and cell lines in vitro. We are studying the functions of sphingolipids by inducing genetic modifications on the genes involved in sphingolipid synthesis and degradation -either by deleting a gene, adding it to the genome, or altering its regulatory elements- and further analyzing the resulting phenotypes. This knowledge can be extrapolated to human physiology.

Applying our Research

Our research on basic areas of the biology of sphingolipids could potentially be clinically relevant in many areas of human disease, including autoimmunity and inflammatory processes, obesity, and obesity-related complications such as type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative disorders.

Need for Further Study

Our research focus on the discovery of novel areas of the physiology regulated by sphingolipids, with the ultimate goal of developing potential therapies to treat disorders in which these lipids are involved.

Select Publications

Cerebral organoids derived from Sandhoff disease-induced pluripotent stem cells exhibit impaired neurodifferentiation.
Allende ML, Cook EK, Larman BC, Nugent A, Brady JM, Golebiowski D, Sena-Esteves M, Tifft CJ, Proia RL.
J Lipid Res (2018 Mar) 59:550-563. Abstract/Full Text
De Novo Sphingolipid Biosynthesis Is Required for Adipocyte Survival and Metabolic Homeostasis.
Alexaki A, Clarke BA, Gavrilova O, Ma Y, Zhu H, Ma X, Xu L, Tuymetova G, Larman BC, Allende ML, Dunn TM, Proia RL.
J Biol Chem (2017 Mar 3) 292:3929-3939. Abstract/Full Text
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Research in Plain Language

My research focus on the use of in vivo and in vitro models to study the function of sphingolipids during development and disease. We use a genetic approach, by inducing modifications on the genes involved in sphingolipid synthesis and degradation.