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FROM ALMA MATER TO SALT LAKE CITY TO DEFEAT GENETIC DISORDER

University Of Bologna | Medical Science

My interest in genetic diseases began very early. I was a student in the Righi High School, and I volunteered in the pediatric department of the neurology clinic in via Foscolo. Being in contact with these young patients, I realized what I wanted to do in life: to study, understand and maybe one day cure genetic diseases.

After high school I joined the course in Biotechnology which in 1995 had just been activated by the University of Bologna and, 5 years later, I was among the first graduates in Medical Bio Technology in Italy.

The search for a medical genetics laboratory to prepare my thesis led me to the Gaslini Pediatric Hospital of Genoa, where I did a thesis on the Kallman syndrome. After graduation I stayed at the Gaslini for 2 years to continue my research by developing an in vitro system for the study of "MYH9 related disorders", first with a grant from the Interdepartmental Centre for Biotechnology, and then with a Telethon fellowship.

The opportunity to return to Bologna coincided with the establishment in 2002 of a new laboratory of medical genetics at the hospital S. Orsola-Malpeghi, directed by Professor Giovanni Romeo, and the beginning of my doctorate in human genetics at the University of Turin. I went to Turin to present my results an follow the courses of the PhD.

At the time I was presented with an opportunity to move to Germany to participate as a Visiting Researcher in a project of population genetics at the Laboratory of Human Genetics of the GSF in Munich, directed by Professor Thomas Meitinger. This experience has allowed me to approach new technologies and professional challenges, but also to compare myself with a new and stimulating cultural environment in which I integrated with satisfaction.

In 2007, obtained the title of PhD, I decided to expand my area of research. Until that moment I was mainly involved in the identification of disease genes in families. I then started to get interested in animal models, which are an indispensable tool for understanding the pathogenesis of hereditary diseases.

In May 2008, the Professor Mario Capecchi, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, was in Bologna for a conference organized by the European Genetics Foundation. I asked him for an interview to talk about my research and my interest in mouse models. That meeting was the turning point of my destiny as a researcher and a few months after I started working in the laboratory of Professor Capecchi in Salt Lake City in the United States.

It's been 4 years since my arrival in the U.S. and this experience continues to amaze me every day. Surely it is the experience which is testing myself to the most, with regard to the acquisition of new techniques and challenges posed by the extremely ambitious project pursued in this laboratory.

I'm happy with the relationship established with my colleagues and I am stimulated by the daily contact with Professor Capecchi and his advice, which I try to make the most of in my work on Ewing's Sarcoma, a bone tumor of adolescence.

My dream continues to be to help children with genetic diseases. To achieve it I have gone far, following my passion anywhere it will take me, and one day I would like to go back to Bologna to share my experience with young future colleagues.

 

 

 

 

Article by Emanuele Panza, Phd

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