Muscle Wasting and Cachexia in Chronic Respiratory Diseases and Lung Cancer

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)

Marisol Domínguez Álvarez (Researcher)

María Guitart de la Rosa (Researcher)

Lara Pijuan Andújar (Researcher)

Alberto Rodríguez Fuster (Researcher)

Albert Sánchez Font (Researcher)

Maria Pérez Peiró (PhD Student)


Main PublicationsOngoing Research ProjectsParticipation in Research NetworksClinical Trials Signed in 2019ThesesAwardsAppointmentsOutreach


Main Publications

• Tang J, Ramis-Cabrer D, Xuejie W, Barreiro E. Immunotherapy with Monoclonal Antibodies in Lung Cancer of Mice: Oxidative Stress and Other Biological Events. Cancers 2019; 11(9): E1301. IF 6.162. Q1.

• Barreiro E, Wang X, Tang J. COPD: preclinical models and emerging therapeutic targets. Expert Opin Ther Targets 2019; 23(10): 829-838. IF 4.621. Q1.

• Barreiro E, Salazar-Degracia A, Sancho A, Gea J. Endoplasmic reticulum stress and unfolded protein response profile in quadriceps of sarcopenic patients with respiratory diseases. J Cell Physiol 2019; 234(7): 11315-11329. IF 4.522. Q1.

• Busquets S, Pérez-Peiró M, Salazar-Degracia A, Argilés JM, Serpe R, Rojano-Toimil A, López-Soriano FJ, Barreiro E. Differential structural features in soleus and gastrocnemius of carnitine-treated cancer cachectic rats. J Cell Physiol 2020; 235(1): 526-537. IF 4.522. Q1.

• Salazar-Degracia A, Granado-Martínez P, Millán-Sánchez A, Tang J, Pons-Carreto A, Barreiro E. Reduced lung cancer burden by selective immunomodulators elicits improvements in muscle proteolysis and strength in cachectic mice. J Cell Physiol 2019; 234(10): 18041-18052. IF 4.522. Q1.

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Ongoing Research Projects

• Papel del estrés del retículo endoplásmico y PARP en el potencial regenerativo muscular en la sarcopenia asociada a la EPOC y la caquexia cancerosa: implicaciones terapéuticas

- Financing institution: Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria. ISCIII (PI18/00075)

- Period: from 2019 to 2021

- Principal investigator: Barreiro Portela, Esther

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Participation in Research Networks

• Centro de Investigación en Red de Enfermedades Respiratorias (CIBERES)

- Financing institution: Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria. Subprograma CIBER CB06/06/0043

- Period: from 2006 to 2020

- Collaborating investigator: Barreiro Portela, Esther

- Principal investigator: Gea Guiral, Joaquim


Clinical Trials Signed in 2019

• Heterogeneidad en la susceptibilidad a la infección en las bronquiectasias: Interacción huésped-microbioma y su valor predictivo en la práctica clínica. Proyecto BronchI-Omics

- Protocol: BronchI-Omics

- Sponsor: Fundació Institut d’Investigació en Ciències de la Salut Germans Trias i Pujol

- Principal investigator: Barreiro Portela, Esther



• Anna Salazar Degracia. Mechanisms of muscle wasting in cachexia models: therapeutic implications. Universitat Pompeu Fabra

- Director: Barreiro Portela, Esther

- Date of defense: 15/04/2019

• Daniel Ramis Cabré. From chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to lung cancer: an immunologic approach. Universitat Pompeu Fabra

- Director: Barreiro Portela, Esther

- Date of defense: 11/07/2019



• L Mañas-García, J Deschevrel, M Guitart, A Penedo, E Barreiro. Contribution of prolonged immobilization and lung cancer cachexia to muscle mass loss in mice: Implications to the clinics in hospitalized patients. 3a Jornada de Recerca Bàsica en Pneumologia, XXXVII Diada Pneumològica. Terrassa, Barcelona, April 2019. Award for the best communication.

• J Tang, D Ramis Cabrer, V Curull Serrano, M Mateu-Jimenéz, L Pijuan, A Rodríguez-Fuster, R Aguiló Espases, E Barreiro. Immune profile and survival in lung cancer patients: influence of underlying COPD. 11 Jornadas de Formación del CIBERES. Madrid, October 2019. Award for the best communication.



• Member of the Planning Committee for the ATS Assembly on ATS Respiratory Structure and Function (RSF), American Thoracic Society International Conference, USA. From May 2018.

• Member of the Steering Committee of the Asociación de Médicos Gallegos (ASOMEGA), Spain. From May 2018.

• Member of the Gender Policy Committee, Department of Experimental Sciences and Health, Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Barcelona. From June 2018.



Dissemination to Society and Initiatives of Citizen Participation

• Laura Mañas, María Guitart. Visit to the Laboratory of the Research Group of Muscle Wasting and Cachexia in Chronic Respiratory Diseases and Lung Cancer. Open Day of the Parc de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona (PRBB), 5 October 2019.









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08003 Barcelona

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