Imperial College London

Professor Irene Miguel-Aliaga

Faculty of MedicineInstitute of Clinical Sciences

Professor of Genetics and Physiology



+44 (0)20 3383 3907i.miguel-aliaga Website




232ICTEM buildingHammersmith Campus






Internal organs are constantly exchanging signals, and can undergo profound anatomical and functional changes in response to them, even in fully developed organisms. Such organ plasticity results from a need to integrate and respond to both environmental information and internal state, and is key to maintaining homeostasis and driving adaptive changes. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms by which organs sense change and respond to it: the molecules, cellular events and physiological adaptations involved. The intestine and its neurons are a fantastic system with which to tackle these questions. Our main model system is Drosophila melanogaster, but we are beginning to explore the evolutionary conservation of some of our findings in mice and humans through local and international collaborations.

Brief biography

II received a D.Phil. in Genetics from the University of Oxford, UK, where I developed invertebrate models of human disease with Prof. Dame Kay E. Davies. My postdoctoral work with Prof. Stefan Thor, first at Harvard, USA and then Linkoping University, Sweden, identified the first genetically defined enteric neurons in Drosophila. I was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship to undertake further postdoctoral work with Prof. Alex Gould at NIMR, London, where I uncovered similarities between the specification of gut-innervating insulin-producing neurons in flies and pancreatic beta cells in mammals. In 2008, I obtained an independent Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship to capitalize on the study of the enteric nervous system in Drosophila, first at the University of Cambridge and now in London. I was elected to the EMBO YIP programme in 2012 and am the recipient of an ERC Starting Grant.

Honours and Awards

(2015) Featured in the Physiological Society’s “Women Physiologists” book, and by the Journal of Cell Science as one of four “cell scientists to watch”. (2012–2014) Elected to EMBO Young Investigator Programme (EMBO YIP). (2008–2014) Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship. (2008) Royal Society University Research Fellowship (turned down in favour of RCDF). (2005–2007) EU Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship. (1998) University of Oxford Goodger Scholarship. (1997-1998) “La Caixa”-British Council award. (1997) Spanish Ministry of Education and Science prize: Best National Academic Record and UAB Prize for the best academic record. (1996) Spanish Ministry of Education and Science Studentship.

Current funding

(2013-2018) ERC starting grant. “BrainGutTalk”. (2012-2016) MRC core grant “Gut Signalling and Metabolism”. (2016-2019) BBSRC Project grant. “A new vessel in the fleet: exploring how enteric tracheal plasticity drives metabolic adaptation in Drosophila”. (2013- 2015) EMBO Long Term Postdoctoral fellowship for Bruno Hudry.

Public engagement

(07/2015) Reiff et al. featured by New Scientist, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Evening Standard, Metro, CBS News, Irish Independent, SBS and 9 News (amongst others). (03/2014) Contributed video to Imagine Science Films Festival ( (01/2014) Joint MRC / University of the Arts London workshop “Fabrics of Life” ( (2013-present) Microscopy demonstrations (Drosophila life cycle) to primary school children. (07/2012)   Contributed images to “The Cell: An Image Library” ( (03/2012) My lab contributed a video to the University of Cambridge “Under the microscope” series, accessible on YouTube ( (03/2011) BBC audio slideshow ( (03/2011) Cambridge Science Festival. Organizer of the event “Playing with the entrails of fruit flies”. (01/2011)       Cognigni et al. featured by New Scientist, Times Higher Education, CBS News, Le Point, Discover Magazine, Times of India (amongst others). (01/2010)           Contributed images to the University’s 800th anniversary light show.  One of them was also the exclusive image used for the posters and flyers advertising the event. (01/2010) Interviewed by ITV Anglia (800th anniversary feature). (2001/02)           Freelance writer (press releases) for the scientific journal Neuron.      



Hudry B, Khadayate S, Miguel-Aliaga I, 2016, The sexual identity of adult intestinal stem cells controls organ size and plasticity, Nature, Vol:530, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:344-+

Miguel-Aliaga I, 2015, Cell scientist to watch - Irene Miguel-Aliaga, Journal of Cell Science, Vol:128, ISSN:0021-9533, Pages:3519-3520

Reiff T, Jacobson J, Cognigni P, et al., 2015, Endocrine remodelling of the adult intestine sustains reproduction in Drosophila., Elife, Vol:4, ISSN:2050-084X

Soba P, Han C, Zheng Y, et al., 2015, The Ret receptor regulates sensory neuron dendrite growth and integrin mediated adhesion, Elife, Vol:4, ISSN:2050-084X

Linneweber GA, Jacobson J, Busch KE, et al., 2014, Neuronal Control of Metabolism through Nutrient-Dependent Modulation of Tracheal Branching, Cell, Vol:156, ISSN:0092-8674, Pages:69-83

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