Researcher biography

Dr Juan Carlos Polanco leads a Research team on "Exosomes and tau pathology" based in the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research (CJCADR) within the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland (UQ). Dr Polanco holds an MSc in Biochemistry from the National University of Colombia, and a PhD in Molecular Bioscience from the UQ. His PhD work was supervised by now Emeritus Prof. Peter Koopman, a leading developmental biologist. He stayed in the Koopman lab until 2010, where he made major contributions to how SOX genes are implicated in the XX disorders of sex development. In 2010, he started a postdoctoral fellowship at CSIRO, working on elucidating the complex biology of reprogrammed human induced pluripotent stem cells. In 2013, he joined the laboratory of Prof. Jürgen Götz in CJCADR. Here, Dr Polanco embarked on his pioneering work with exosomes. In his ground-breaking and highly cited 2016 paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, he demonstrated for the first time that exosomes encapsulate 'tau seeds' with the ability to induce tau aggregation in recipient cells. Furthermore, he also demonstrated that neurons could internalise proximal exosomal tau seeds and then re-release a fraction fused with endogenous secretory endosomes, re-released exosomes that were delivered to interconnected neurons, potentially achieving higher pathogenicity boosted by this trans-synaptic mode of transport (Acta Neuropathologica Communications 2018). Since 2019, Dr Polanco has successfully secured NHMRC grants and has been mentored by Prof. Götz to establish and lead an independent research team hosted in his lab.