Our mission is to integrate state-of-the-art technologies, animal models and drug discovery to promote a Center of Excellence for Myelin Repair.
The overall goal is to move towards personalized regenerative medicine and design of new therapeutic strategies to repair the damage and restore function.
Our ability to move, think, perceive, is dependent on a timely transmission of information among specialized cells called neurons. This information is sent via a series of electrical impulses that travel along specialized structures called "axons", whose ability to conduct signal is dependent on the presence of "myelin".
Myelin is a fatty substance composed of lipids and proteins that is an integral component of a cell called "oligodendrocyte".
Oligodendrocytes are the myelin-forming cells of the CNS and are essential for brain function.
Oligodendrocytes originate from neural stem cells that undergo several changes before reaching the stage of late maturation.
The laboratory is working in major research areas:
EPIGENETIC REGULATION of gene expression (how the environment affects the ability of DNA to express genes)
MYELIN FORMATION in development and in disease
MECHANISMS OF NEURODEGENERATION and disease progression in MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS (towards the discovery of new treatments)
PERSONALIZED MEDICINE (define the effect of genes, diet, exercise, stress and social interaction in therapy responsiveness and disease manifestation
These areas are focused on the following goals:
define the steps leading to the acquisition of oligodendrocyte identity, in order to correct potential deficits due to aging and pathological states
understand how myelin forms during development, in order to better design protocols to instruct stem cells towards forming new myelin
develop new therapies to preserve axonal function and improve recovery after myelin damage has occurred
develop patient-based therapeutic approaches
Patrizia Casaccia, MD, PhD
I am interested in translational research in regenerative and personalized medicine. With the help of my team we made several contributions to elucidating the molecular mechanisms responsible for oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelin formation during development.
Listen to Dr. Casaccia's segment on NeuroPod (November 2012; neuroscience podcast from Nature)