Research Groups

Molecular Medicine

Research Interests and Description

Group Leader: Mauro Giacca, MD, PhD

Group Members

Research Interests

Gene and cell therapy of cardiovascular disorders, adeno-associated virus (AAV), angiogenesis, cardiac regeneration, molecular biology of HIV-1 infection.

Description of Research

The main interest of the Group is in the field of Molecular Medicine. Projects aim to identify proteins or microRNAs controlling vascular and cardiac function that might also be exploited for the therapy of cardiovascular disorders. A large part of the activity exploits viral vectors based on the adeno-associated virus (AAV) to deliver to genes in the heart that induce therapeutic angiogenesis or promote tissue regeneration. In this area, the laboratory has developed procedures for the direct, in vivo selection of therapeutically useful genes upon transduction of cDNA and microRNA libraries cloned into AAV. The laboratory also hosts a high throughput screening facility exploiting whole genome, mouse and human synthetic siRNA and microRNA libraries, and is actively screening these libraries for genes involved in cardiac proliferation and differentiation. Recent work from the laboratory has led to the identification of microRNAs promoting cardiac regeneration in vivo. The laboratory is also interested in some basic aspects of the molecular biology of AAV, with particular reference to the identification of the cellular proteins that regulate AAV infection.

A second interest of the Group is in the field of AIDS research, where the focus lies in unraveling the molecular properties of different HIV-1 proteins, with particular reference to the processes of viral integration and transcription. The laboratory has contributed to the understanding of the role that chromatin exerts on viral gene expression and transcriptional latency. Another interest is the viral protein Integrase, which is essential for the integration of the proviral DNA into the host cell genome. The laboratory has reported the post translational regulation of this enzyme by acetylation and phosphorylation and  that the latter modification is essential for HIV-1 genome integration in resting T-lymphocytes.

Recent Publications

Eulalio, A., Mano, M., Dal Ferro, M., Zentilin, L., Sinagra, G., Zacchigna, S., Giacca, M. 2012. Functional screening identifies microRNAs inducing cardiac regeneration. Nature In press doi:10.1038/nature11739

Carrer, A., Moimas, S., Zacchigna, S., Pattarini, L., Zentilin, L., Ruozi, G., Mano, M., Sinigaglia, M., Maione, F., Serini, G., Giraudo, E., Bussolino, F., Giacca, M. 2012. Neuropilin-1 identifies a subset of bone marrow Gr1_ monocytes that can induce tumor vessel normalization and inhibit tumor growth. Cancer Res In press doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-0762 

Lovric, J., Mano, M., Zentilin, L., Eulalio, A., Zacchigna, S., Giacca, M. 2012. Terminal Differentiation of Cardiac and Skeletal Myocytes Induces Permissivity to AAV Transduction by Relieving Inhibition Imposed by DNA Damage Response Proteins. Mol Ther 20, 2087-2097 PubMed link

Giacca, M., Zacchigna, S. 2012. VEGF gene therapy: therapeutic angiogenesis in the clinic and beyond. Gene Ther 19, 622-629 PubMed link

Manganaro, L., Lusic, M., Gutierrez, M.I., Cereseto, A., Del Sal, G., Giacca, M. 2010. Concerted action of cellular JNK and Pin1 restricts HIV-1 genome integration to activated CD4(+) T lymphocytes. Nat. Med. 16, 329-333 PubMed link

Giacca, M. 2010. Gene Therapy. Springer-Verlag. pp. 1-309

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