“Neurons from Stem Cells for Huntington’s Disease Research: Combining Genetics with Cell Biology and Evolution”, Elena Cattaneo, University of Milan, Italy

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Elena Cattaneo, University of Milan, Italy

Host: Dr. Dagmar Ehrnhöfer, BioMed X

Abstract

Huntington is an ancient gene implicated in many neuronal functions. Increasing evidence indicate that its mutation may affect early neurodevelopment with consequences later in life.

Our work with 2D and 3D neuronal differentiation protocols shows that HD patients’ derived iPS cells and isogenic RUES cell lines do not progress properly through the different phases of human neurodevelopment.

We concluded that early neurodevelopmental defects in Huntington’s disease may contribute to the later adult phenotype.

About Elena

Elena Cattaneo, is full professor of pharmacology at the University of Milan. She is director of the “Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Pharmacology of Neurodegenerative Diseases” at the Department of Biosciences and co-founder and director of UniStem, the University of Milan’s Centre for Stem Cell Research (www.unistem.it). On August 30th 2013, the President of Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, appointed her Senator for life on account of her scientific and social merits. Following the appointment, Elena Cattaneo has continued to lead the lab and to coordinate national and international projects funded by EU (Neurostemcellrepair, ERC Advanced grant, JPND), CHDI, Telethon and others.

The main research theme of her lab is the molecular pathophysiology of Huntington’s Disease (HD). In particular, the laboratory aims at exploiting the recent advances in embryonic and induced stem cell biology to obtain the medium-sized spiny striatal neurons that degenerate in HD, as they would represent an important tool for disease modelling and to study early pathogenic aspects. On the other hand, the lab is pursuing a detailed characterization of the function of the HD gene in health and disease and has identified a number of molecular pathways targeted by the gene. The lab’s ultimate goal is to identify cells, molecules and pathways that are suitable for therapeutic intervention and new reagents for drug screening in Huntington’s Disease.