Foto del docente

Francesca Massenzio

Junior assistant professor (fixed-term)

Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology

Academic discipline: BIO/09 Physiology


Keywords: neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, glia, neurons, drug screening, ALS, AGC1-deficiency

  • Role of microglia in the spread of inflammation in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (Granted by The ALS Association, in collaboration with Dr. Giampaolo Zuccheri, FaBiT)

Neuroinflammation is a crucial hallmark of ALS in which microglia play a key role through the phenotypic modulation it undergoes following the onset of the disease and the release of neuroprotective and/or neurotoxic factors. The aim of the project is to identify factors secreted by microglia through exosomes, characterize their role in the spread of inflammation in ALS and identify potential therapeutic targets.

  • Tumor-associated macrophages as potential therapeutic target for glioblastoma (Granted by Fondazione Umberto Veronesi, in collaboration with Prof.Mario Buffelli, Università di Verona)

Glioblastoma is one of the most common and aggressive brain tumors affecting the Central Nervous System. The tumor microenvironment that surrounds the tumor cells is characterized by a heterogeneous cellular composition and microglial cells are up to 30% of the total cell population. In that environment, microglia acquire a pro-tumoral phenotype and do not recognize the tumor cells as intruder promoting their growth and migration. We are working on the crosstalk between microglia and glioblastoma cells, over time, in vivo. The final aim is to promote the microglia phenotypic shift toward an anti-tumor one able to reduce the proliferation of glioblastoma cells.

  •  Interaction between glia and neurons in the AGC-1 deficiency (Granted by the Telethon Foundation, in collaboration with Dr.Massimo CNR-Bari, Prof.ssa Laura Mercolini and Dr. Federico Giorgi, FaBiT)

AGC-1 pathology is a rare neurological demyelination pathology responsible of neuronal death. Thanks to a multidisciplinary approach and using both in vitro and in vivo models, we are working on the molecular, epigenetic and biochemical mechanisms that regulate the interaction between glial cells (with special attention to oligodendrocyte) and neurons in pathological conditions.

  • Screening of small synthetic molecules with neuroprotective and immunomodulatory effect on microglia in collaboration with Prof.ssa Maria Laura Bolognesi (FaBiT)

In collaboration with Prof.ssa Maria Laura Bolognesi, we are performing the screening of small synthetic molecules able to protect neurons against toxic stimuli. At the same time, we also want to characterize molecules able to reduce the microglia activation promoting the phenotype shift toward the anti-inflammatory one.

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