in-BDNF consortium

ultima modifica 26/11/2013 16:44

in BDNF consortium






































The University of Milano, established in 1924, with a teaching staff of about 2,200 tenured professors and with almost 60,000 students, is the largest university in Lombardy, one of the most dynamic italian universities, and an internationally high-ranked one. In addition, it is the only Italian university among the 21 prestigious members of LERU (League of European Research Universities).

The group of Prof. Maurizio Popoli at the Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences is experienced in the fields of neuroscience and neuropsychopharmacology, particularly with animal models of stress and psychiatric disorders, and holds long-standing collaborations with several groups in Europe and in the US. Main topics of research in the group are: the regulation of neuroplasticity/gene expression and synaptic function, with particular regard to the action of stress and pathogenesis of psychiatric/neurodegenerative disorders; and genome-wide studies of animal models of pathology and drugs response (transcriptomics, proteomics, epigenetics, miRNomics). Special attention is given to the identification of new targets for diagnosis or treatment, that may improve efficacy and alleviate adverse effects.





We use a multidisciplinary approach, ranging from pharmacological to genetic animal models, to study the molecular basis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In detail, we study how the altered expression of neural genes during embryonic brain development can impact autistic-like behaviours during postnatal life. As a model of ASD, we make use of mice lacking the homeobox-containing gene Engrailed-2 (En2-/- mice), which display neuroanatomical and behavioural deficits related to human ASD. Our previous studies showed that  En2-/- mice have a partial loss of forebrain inhibitory neurons, whose maturation is known to be controlled by BDNF. Our current research aims to investigate the role of BDNF in GABAegic neurons dysfunction in the En2-/- brain.


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Università degli Studi di Ferrara (UNIFE) hosts approximately 18,000 students. UNIFE is constantly scored among the top mid-size Italian Universities by both public (governmental) and private (newspapers) surveys. In these surveys, UNIFE has been scored first in Italy in terms of application of research results. The activities of Prof. Simonato’s Unit, at the Department of Medical Sciences, are specifically oriented at the neurobiology and pharmacology of epilepsy. This Unit holds a long-standing expertise in this field, in particular in the study of the involvement of neuropeptides and neurotrophic factors in acquired epilepsies. Collaborations exist with multiple research groups in Europe and North America. Current research activities include studies on:

- involvement of neuropeptide systems in temporal lobe epilepsy;

- involvement of neurotrophic factors in temporal lobe epilepsy;

- developing viral vectors for the transfer of genes in the adult central nervous system.

The long-term aim of these activities is to identify new therapeutic targets and/or to develop new therapeutic strategies for partial epilepsies.


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Project coordinator: prof. Michele Simonato -


in-BDNF consortium