Olga Ortega-Martinez


Department of Marine
Visiting address
Laboratorievägen 10
452 96 Tjärnö, Strömstad
Postal address
Laboratorievägen 10
452 96 Tjärnö, Strömstad

About Olga Ortega-Martinez

I am an EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization) Fellow at the Sven Loven Centre for Marine Sciences, Kristineberg. My expertise lies in molecular and developmental biology with a focus on stem cell behaviour and molecular bases of growth and regeneration. In our group at Kristineberg we have chosen both tunicates and echinoderms as model systems to study regeneration because they exhibit a remarkable plasticity as adults and are capable of extensive regeneration of large parts of their bodies after traumatic loss or damage.

Current research project Our overall aim is to achieve a better understanding of gene regulatory pathways common to both embryonic/larval development and adult regeneration in echinoderms, especially the brittlestar A. filiformis. A particular focus on early events in cell lineage regulation together with key events in skeletogenesis/biomineralisation. These are critical stages for both larval development and adult growth/regeneration but temporally and spatially separated. They are important for all aspects of fitness and survival as well as offering key insights into fundamental developmental pathways. Echinoderms are deuterostomes and so close to the common ancestor of chordates. Thus, a better understanding of their developmental pathways is highly relevant to chordate evolution. Previous work in our group on Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) and nervous system development has highlighted the important role that these growth factors appear to play in key aspects of adult growth and regenerative development. Since the BMP system also plays a fundamental role in embryonic and larval development it is if significant interest to identify possible common regulatory pathways.

It is also a perhaps unique feature of this regulatory system that it is likely to be highly sensitive to environmental stressors, especially sea water acidity. Ocean acidification (OA) is arguably one of the biggest challenges to face mankind over the next 50-100 years and predicted changes are likely to have significant impacts on our ecosystems. It is now timely that the huge advances made in genomics, cell and molecular biology that have undeniably had a major influence in Biomedicine are deployed to help understand and predict the global consequences of ocean acidification. We believe that a contribution to this ideal is possible within this project.

Thus the main aims of our project are:

to develop a deep understanding of key early developmental events shared in both larval and adult echinoderms, with a special emphasis on cell lineage and skeletogenesis. to employ this information to explore the affects of predicted near-future levels ocean acidification on development and regeneration.