The 12th Esteve Foundation Research Prize has been awarded to Emma Puighermanal, the first author on an article from the research group ofRafael Maldonado (Neuropharmacology Laboratory, Pompeu Fabra University) published in Nature Neuroscience in September 2009.The title of the paper was Cannabinoid modulation of hippocampal long-term memory is mediated by mTOR signaling and it was considered by the international jury that awarded the prize, to the best paper in pharmacology published by a Spanish autor in 2008 and 2009.

The study is the subject of her doctoral thesis, which is under the direction ofAndrés Ozaita and Rafael Maldonado. It describes the mechanisms involved in loss of memory, one of the most damaging effects of the consumption of cannabis. The research demonstrates that the intercellular signaling pathway called mTOR is involved in the amnesiac affects of cannabinoids, and that this pathway is found in the hipocampal zone of the brain, the region that deals with control of cognitive functions.

The results of this study, furthermore, identify the specific target on which the cannabinoids act and also the mechanism of action that induces their amnesiac affects. These findings provide a point of departure for the development of new therapeutic strategies that could prevent some of the most negative side effects of marijuana consumption.

This edition of the award received the most submissions in the history of the Esteve Foundation Research Prize, with a total of 84 articles submitted. The jury for the prize, consisting of Sergio Erill (Barcelona), Patrick du Souich (Montréal) and John Wood (London), also wanted to givehonorable mentions to the following three articles:

González-Maeso J et al. Identification of a serotonina/glutamate receptor complex implicated in psychosis. Nature. 2008 Mar 6;452(7183):93-7

María Salazar et al. Cannabinoid action induces autophagy-mediated cell death through stimulation of ER stress in human glioma cells. J Clin Invest. 2009;119(5):1359–1372

Sofia Pettersson et al. Discovery of novel non-cyclam polynitrogenated CXCR4 coreceptor inhibitors. ChemMedChem. 2008 Oct;3(10):1549-57.

The Esteve Foundation Research Prize is worth EUR 18,000 and is awarded every two years to the best pharmacological research of any type (design, synthesis, pharmaceutical development, clinical or laboratory evaluation, use, etc.) published in any scientific journal by a Spanish author during the last two years. The awards ceremony will take place in the near future.