Meet the TReN members!
Francisco J. Rivera, Group Leader

Francisco is a Molecular Biotechnology Engineer. During his postgraduate research studies, Francisco focused on adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and oligodendrocyte differentiation, leading to the obtention of a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology and Neurosciences in 2006 (Universidad de Chile, Chile). Thereafter, Francisco did his postdoctoral training at University of Regensburg (Germany), Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg (Austria), and University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), aiming to identify unknown mechanistic cues that control oligodendrocyte differentiation and to develop an MSCs-based therapy for myelin regeneration (remyelination). 

In 2016, Francisco was appointed as an Associate Professor at Universidad Austral de Chile. Later, in 2022, he moved and established his lab at the University of Helsinki and became a Professor in Integrative Neurobiology (2024). Using in vitro / in vivo approaches, Francisco aims to determine the contribution of the vascular niche to remyelination and to develop regenerative therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS). 

Maria Elena Silva, University Researcher

Elena is a Chemist and Pharmaceutical technologist from the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy, with a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry awarded at the University of Regensburg, Germany. Elena was appointed in 2023 as University Researcher at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is interested in drug discovery and in studying new molecules obtained from extreme climate plants for myelin regeneration, neuroprotection, and ageing. Particularly, during the last few years, she has been working with lichens from the Antarctic continent, Hops from Chilean Patagonia and plants from the driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert. 

Carolina Reyes, Doctoral Researcher

Carolina is a Biochemist from Universidad Austral de Chile. She started her doctoral studies at that institution (Doctoral Programme in Medical Sciences) and is currently pursuing a double doctoral degree with the University of Helsinki (Doctoral Programme in Drug Research), under a cotutelle agreement.   

Carolina has been studying how different cell types contribute to the remyelination process – both its success and failure. During her undergrad, she worked with Mast Cells and studied the presence of these cells in remyelinating lesions. For her PhD project, she is studying whether and how perivascular cells, in particular Fibroblasts, participate in myelin repair.

Carlos Valenzuela, Doctoral Researcher

Biochemist graduated from Universidad Austral de Chile. He is currently a PhD student under a cotutelle agreement between the doctoral programme of Brain & Mind at the University of Helsinki and the doctoral programme of Medical Sciences at the Universidad Austral de Chile. He joined Professor Rivera’s laboratory group in 2019 aiming to understand how inflammation controls perivascular cells function during myelin repair.

Claudio Papotto, Visiting Doctoral Researcher

He graduated with honours in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology at the University of Milan in 2019, supervised by Prof. Dallanoce, with a thesis titled "Photoswitchable ligands for the optical control of alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors: synthesis and photochromic characterization". Since then, he shifted his focus on the field of Multiple Sclerosis, obtaining a research fellowship in 2020 under the guidance of Prof. Abbracchio, in the context of a Project of National Interest titled "Drug repurposing as a novel strategy to discover pro-regenerative therapies for neurological diseases: the challenge of progressive multiple sclerosis". Since October 2021, he has been a PhD student in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Milan, focusing on the investigation and development of novel disease-modifying approaches to Multiple Sclerosis.

Claudio joined our research group in February 2024 as a visiting PhD student, and he is investigating the role of platelets in remyelination during MS.

Master Students

Lotta Nurmela

Pyry-Pekka Puustinen


Amber Philp, Doctoral Researcher, 2018 - 2021. Dissertation: The Role of Platelets in Remyelination of the Central Nervous System. Currently, she is a Postdoctoral Fellow at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), United States of America.

Carolina Reyes Leal, Diploma / Master Student, 2018 - 2021. Dissertation: Mastocitos del Sistema Nervioso Central y Esclerosis Múltiple: ¿Rol en la Remielinización? Currently, she is Doctoral Researcher at TReN, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Carlos Valenzuela Krugmann, Diploma / Master Student, 2018 - 2021. Dissertation: Estudio del Efecto de  Montelukast Sobre la Función Motora y Cognitiva en el Modelo Animal YAC128 de la Enfermedad de Huntington. Currently, he is Doctoral Researcher at TReN, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Cristóbal Espinoza Cruells, Diploma / Master Student, 2018 - 2022. Dissertation: Efecto del envejecimiento en pericitos durante la regeneración de mielina: Respuesta a la desmielinización y contribución a la oligodendrogénesis. Currently, he is Research Assistant at Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile.

Matías Hernández Andrade, Diploma / Master Student, 2018 - 2024. Dissertation: Rol de receptor dominio discodina 1 (DDR1) durante la oligodendrogénesis inducida por pericitos en células troncales neurales.