María D.
Mayán Santos

María D. Mayán Santos

María D. Mayán Santos

Spain - A Coruña


María D. Mayán is a Senior Research Group Leader at INIBIC, since 2014.

Mayán leads a team of 21 members including researchers and medical doctors from the breast cancer unit of the hospital. During her career she has been involved in several technology transfer activities and she is collaborating with different pharma and biotech companies. Her ultimate aim is performing research that can be translated into products for the benefit of patients.

Her career has been developed in different institutions, the University of Santiago (DEA), CIB-Margarita Salas (PhD), Imperial College and MRC-LMS (Postdoc) and INIBIC (PI). During her career, she has moved into different research areas and made relevant scientific contributions in all stages. Since 2010, Mayán careers is based on contributing to fundamental questions to understand the role of connexins and cellular communication mediated by connexins in tissue regeneration and cancer. Her group is a translational research group
within INIBIC, which provides a strong clinical base for laboratory-based research. The results published by her team have been internationally recognized in the research community being regularly invited as keynote speaker and organizer of (inter)-national conferences. She has recently received the “Francisco Guitián Ojea” Award from the Galician Royal Academy of Sciences for her research in oncology.

Her group has discovery that chondrocytes in articular cartilage are connected by long cytoplasmic projections and cell-to-cell communication occurs via gap junctions formed by connexins. She has demonstrated that the overactivity of Cx43 since early stages of the disease is involved in inflammation and osteoarthritis (OA) progression, finding a new therapeutic target for the treatment of OA. These results have been recognized by the Spanish Society of Rheumatology with 2 awards in two different panels; Basic Science and Osteoarthritis and with one award in the main congress of the international gap junction community celebrated in Canada in 2019. Along this line, she has registered two international patents with innovative therapeutic strategies. Her group is now exploring the immunomodulatory activity of connexins in tumour progression and drug resistance by studying connexins signaling and the heterocellular interactions in tumour microenvironment, with the aim of increasing the efficacy of immunotherapy and targeted therapies, such as PARP inhibitors, which are
given as first-line treatments for patients with advanced tumours. Her group has recently found that modulation of Cx43 activity promotes the anti-tumour immunity and increases the efficacy of several targeted therapies (3 manuscripts under preparation & 3 PCT patents approbed).

Mayán has published more than 30 research articles in journals such as Nature, Nat Cell Biol, Ann Rheum Dis or Oncogene. She is inventor in 7 patents, one of them licensed to industry. She has successfully supervised several TFG/TFM and 5 PhD (international mention: currently working as postdoctoral (4) and 1 working in a biotech company) and she is supervising 5 more research thesis students, 5 postdoctoral fellows and 1 technician. She has also been successful in the funding collection for her research lines as she has obtained more than 2 million euros from competitive projects (mainly since 2019) and more than 1 million in competitive fellowship grants. She is currently PI in 3 European grants: FET-OPEN, HORIZON-WIDERA-2021 and Era-Net Cofund Action grant and in 2 competitive national grants. Her group is part of the emerging and most competitive research groups funded by Xunta de Galicia since 2017.
Mayan is member of the Scientific Advisory Board of EU grants and member of several evaluation committees of international (e.g. Open Competition Domain Science – XL advisory meeting from Dutch Research Council) and national funding agencies (e.g. AEI, ISCIII).

She has organized more than 16 international conferences/workshops that have been funded by different entities. She was the Host and Co-Chair of the last International Gap Junction Conference ( that was held in 2022, the first time in Spain. Since 2019, she is at the Governing Bodies of SEBBM and ANIH. She is also the coordinator of the “Women in Science” group and was the founder and first coordinator of the Scientific Group "Chemical Biology" at SEBBM. Mayán participates in ASEICA-Woman space. She is actively involved in scientific informative activities and in social media as well as in radio, TV and press and organizes and participates in several dissemination activities each year in collaboration with museums, scientific societies and patient organizations. She has regular meetings with politicians from different parties and has been involved in activities of political advice. She participates in several commission of trust and teaching acivities (contributing lecturer). Mayan is member of the Gender Equality Commission at FPNS-INIBIC.


-Instituto de Investigación Biomédica de A Coruña (INIBIC)
-PhD in Biology (CIB Margarita Salas) from Complutense University of Madrid, Spain
-Pharmacy Degree from Santiago de Compostela University, Spain

Areas of expertise

-Gap junctions


Polyphenols as senolytic agents to treat aging

In patients with osteoarthritis (OA), articular cartilage and synovial tissue exhibit an increased accumulation of senescent cells, which contributes to disrupted tissue regeneration and disease progression. This study aimed to assess the impact of oleuropein on cellular senescence, with implications for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine strategies. Oleuropein effectively enhances the differentiation potential of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) into chondrocytes and osteoblasts while reducing adipogenesis. This is achieved by regulating the promoter activity of the connexin43 (Cx43) channel protein. Furthermore, this small molecule reduces Twist-1 activity in osteoarthritic chondrocytes (OACs), resulting in chondrocyte redifferentiation, the restoration of cartilage extracellular matrix components (Col2A1 and proteoglycans) synthesis, and a decrease in inflammatory and catabolic factors mediated by NF-kB (such as IL-1ß, IL-6, COX-2, and MMP-3). Additionally, it reduces cellular senescence in OACs, synovial cells, and bone cells. Our findings suggest that olive-derived polyphenols, including oleuropein, hold promise as potential therapeutic agents for enhancing chondrogenesis in hMSCs, inducing chondrocyte re-differentiation in OACs, and eliminating senescent cells in joint tissues, in part through the regulation of Cx43 activity. This approach has the potential to halt or prevent the progression of OA and may have applications in the treatment of other age-related disorders.