Muscle Wasting and Cachexia in Chronic Respiratory Diseases and Lung Cancer

Research group

Group Leader

Esther Barreiro Portela

Our research is based on the use of patients from clinical settings, animal models of disease, and in vitro primary cultures. We use all kinds of biochemical and cellular and molecular biology techniques (RT-PCR, immunoblotting, immunohistochemistry, 2-D electrophoresis, proteomics analysis, ELISA, activity assays, mitochondrial respiration, flow cytometry, etc.) in order to explore the target mechanisms of our research. The most relevant achievements of our research have been the following: demonstrating that oxidative and nitrosative stress, ubiquitin-proteasome system, NF-kB and FoxO signaling, alterations of epigenetic regulation, and loss of muscle-specific proteins are important players in COPD- and lung cancer-associated cachexia, whereas muscle inflammation does not play a role in this process. Moreover, in the last five years, we have started a new avenue of research focusing on the underlying biology that accounts for the greater susceptibility of patients with chronic respiratory diseases (e.g. COPD) to developing lung tumors. We have demonstrated that increased oxidative stress, inflammatory cytokines and disruption of epigenetic regulation are involved in the greater susceptibility of patients with COPD to developing lung cancer. Finally, we are currently undertaking a new line of research in muscle regeneration. Our first relevant achievement in this area has been the demonstration that there is a decline in the number of satellite cells (SC) following hindlimb immobilization in mice together with an upregulation of markers of SC activation, suggesting that fusion to existing myofibers takes place during unloading. Muscle recovery induces a significant rise in muscle precursor cells and regeneration events along with reduced SC-activation expression markers and a concomitant rise in terminal muscle differentiation expression.




Víctor Curull Serrano (Researcher)

Lara Pijuan Andújar (Researcher)

Alberto Rodríguez Fuster (Researcher)

Marisol Domínguez Álvarez (PhD Student)

Anna Salazar Desgracia (PhD Student)

Albert Sánchez Font (PhD Student)

Guillermo Barreiro Portela (Research Assistant)



Main Publications

• Mateu-Jiménez M, Curull V, Pijuan L, Sánchez-Font A, Rivera-Ramos H, Rodríguez-Fuster A, Aguilé R, Gea J, Barreiro E. Systemic and Tumor Th1 and Th2 Inflammatory Profile and Macrophages in Lung Cancer: Influence of Underlying Chronic Respiratory Disease. J Thorac Oncol 2017; 12(2): 235-248. IF 6.595. Q1.

• Chacon-Cabrera A, Gea J, Barreiro E. Short- and Long-Term Hindlimb Immobilization and Reloading: Profile of Epigenetic Events in Gastrocnemius. J Cell Physiol 2017; 232(6):1415-1427. IF 4.08. Q1.

• Chacón-Cabrera A, Mateu-Jiménez M, Langohr K, Fermoselle C, García-Arumí E, Andreu AL, Yélamos J, Barreiro E. Role of Parp Activity in Lung Cancer-induced Cachexia: Effects on Muscle Oxidative Stress, Proteolysis, Anabolic Markers and Phenotype. J Cell Physiol 2017; 232(12): 3744-3761. IF 4.08. Q1.

• Domínguez-Álvarez M, Gea J, Barreiro E. Inflammatory Events and Oxidant Production in the Diaphragm, Gastrocnemius, and Blood of Rats Exposed to Chronic Intermittent Hypoxia: Therapeutic Strategies. J Cell Physiol 2017;232(5):1165-1175. IF 4.08. Q1.

Ongoing Research Projects

• Implicaciones de la respuesta a proteínas desplegadas/mal desplegadas en la atrofia y disfunción muscular de pacientes con EPOC

- Sociedad Española de Neumología y Cirugía Torácica

- From 2016 to 2019

- Principal investigator: Barreiro Portela, Esther

• Implicaciones de la respuesta a proteínas desplegadas/mal plegadas en la atrofia y disfunción muscular de pacientes con EPOC

- Fundació Catalana de Pneumologia

- From 2016 to 2019

- Principal investigator: Barreiro Portela, Esther

• Epigenética, microambiente celular y molecular y estroma en la predisposición al cáncer de pulmón en la EPOC: influencia en la supervivencia y valor pronóstico

- Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria. ISCIII (PI14/00713)

- From 2015 to 2018

- Principal investigator: Barreiro Portela, Esther


Participation in Research Networks

• Centro de Investigación en Red de Enfermedades Respiratorias (CIBERES). Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria. Subprograma CIBER CB06/06/0043

- Collaborating investigator: Barreiro Portela, Esther

- Principal investigator: Gea Guiral, Joaquim


Group’s Recognitions

• Officially recognised as a consolidated research group by the Generalitat de Catalunya: Unitat de Recerca en Múscul i Aparell Respiratori (URMAR) (2017-2019)

- Agència de Gestió d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca (SGR 442)

- Principal investigator: Barreiro Portela, Esther



• Messaggi-Sartor M. Respiratory muscle dysfunction in respiratory and non-respiratory disease: clinical and therapeutical approach. Pompeu Fabra University

- Directors: Marco, Esther; Barreiro Portela, Esther

- Date of defense: 07/04/2017

• Mateu-Jiménez M. Mechanisms and pathways involved in lung tumor development in patients with chronic respiratory conditions. Pompeu Fabra University

- Directors: Barreiro Portela, Esther; Curull Serrano, Víctor

- Date of defense: 18/12/2017



• Travel Award for the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) 2017 Congress, the American Physiological Society (APS), June 1st 2017.




C/ Doctor Aiguader, 88

08003 Barcelona

(+34) 93 316 04 00