Who am I?
My name is Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado. In addition to being an MBL Fellow, I am an Investigator of both the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. I received my elementary and high school education in Caracas, Venezuela from the Colegio Emil Friedman and later received my Bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and my Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
What do I do?
I am a molecular biologist who has been interested in the temporal transformation of cells and tissues for as long as I can remember. I have varied interests in developmental, stem cell and regenerative biology. I have worked with Drosophila, mice and their embryonic stem cells, frogs and salamanders to understand how cells can differentiate and change their functions during embryonic and post-embryonic development. For the past 15 years or so, I have focused my efforts on understanding the regenerative capacities of the flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea. With an abundance of pluri- if not totipotent stem cells and remarkable developmental and regenerative plasticity, these organisms have begun to shed some light on our understanding of animal stem cells and regeneration.
Why do I come to the MBL?
I came to the MBL for the first time in 1995 as a student of the Embryology course, directed at the time by the late Eric Davidson. I came back in 1996 to do both research and reading in an effort to identify organisms that may be amenable to molecular and cellular experimentation in regeneration. My times at the MBL in ’95 and ’96 were transformative and launched my interest in the study of planarian regeneration in particular and animal stem cells and regeneration in general. I returned in 2004 to lecture in the Embryology course and was asked to lecture and run a lab module in successive years; in 2012, I was asked to co-direct the course with Dr. Richard Behringer.
What do I plan to do/work on at the MBL?
For the past 5 years, I have been exploring the pelagic invertebrate and planktonic fauna that inhabits the waters surrounding the MBL. This experience has taught me how little, we as scientists, spend looking. Understudied life forms are abundant and likely possess biological attributes we can barely imagine. In the coming years, I plan to continue my interactions with the MBL in an effort to identify and develop new model organisms manifesting biological properties and attributes not readily found in current models of biomedical research. The ambition is to identify a cohort of organisms that may serve as new, 21st century model systems to study poorly understood animal phenomena like regeneration and developmental plasticity.
See Alejandro’s website: The Sánchez Laboratory