I am studying individual cellular memory, with in mind the following overarching biological question: can individual cells learn? As a model system, I am employing specific sets of primary immune cells which show high adaptability to different environmental conditions, as well epigenetic plasticity. By combining microfluidics, nanotopography and biochemical approaches, I am challenging these cells to overcome environmental hurdles, aiming to train them on specific biological functions. Upon successful training – defined as quantitative increase of the success rate in currying out the biological functions of interest – I investigate biophysical, genetic and biochemical changes trained cells have gone through, in order to unravel the mechanisms underlying cell memory in vitro. Finally, I am validating my results in vivo by assessing the ability of trained cells to resolve infections in mice models. My work has the potential to contribute to the new field of trained immunity and, in the long run, in the clinical application of cellular therapy. A bit too vague? You want to know more? well..wait some time: I have just started my postdoc ;p
I am European, Italian, Sicilian – in that order.
I was a terrible student in middle and high school...but then I changed my mind, and I obtained my BSc in Biology and MSc in molecular biology at the university of Milan (Milan, Italy). I did my master thesis at NCBS/InStem (Bangalore, India) where, in the lab of Srikala Raghavan, I studied stem cell regulation and tissue regeneration in mice models. For my PhD I switched gears and moved to biophysics: in Alba Diz-Muñoz group I studied the mechanical properties of the animal cell surface using molecular engineering and single-cell force spectroscopy in the context of a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative project. In 2021 I obtained my joined PhD title from EMBL and Heidelberg university (Heidelberg, Germany). Of note, during my PhD I attended the prestigious physiology course (Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA).