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. During his doctoral studies, Dr Polanco made significant contributions to unravelling the intricate mechanisms through which SOX genes are implicated in XX disorders of sex development. Subsequently, he honed his expertise during a postdoctoral fellowship at CSIRO, focusing on developing assays for the effective detection of unstable human induced pluripotent stem cells prone to tumorigenesis. 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. These re-released exosomes, delivered to interconnected neurons, showcased a potential increase in pathogenicity through this trans-synaptic mode of transport (Acta Neuropathologic 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.