I have a PhD and Adjunct Professorship in neurobiology. My current research interests are: Potential synaptic dysfunction, contribution of microglia and inflammation, and alterations in protein degradation and cellular energy metabolism in the pathogenesis of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) as well as fluid biomarkers in FTD and other early onset dementias.
The aim of our studies is to provide new insights into the molecular basis of genetic (especially C9orf72 repeat expansion-associated) and sporadic frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and translate our findings for the benefit of the patients by discovering novel biomarker or therapeutic candidate targets.
We are utilizing hiPSC cells to model Parkinson’s disease (LRRK2 G2019S-mutation). My focus is in PD related neuroinflammation and glial cells, microglia and astrocytes.
The projects I am working on are important research in the field of gene regulation. Furthermore, the TFs that we study, glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and androgen receptor (AR) are important therapeutic targets in inflammation and prostate cancer respectively. On the chromatin environment, GR and AR exert their functions by interacting with other assisting proteins, coregulators. Thus, coregulators can affect the outcome of GR and AR activation through different processes, such as chromatin remodeling, histone-binding and post-translational modification. Despite the importance of coregulatory interactions in GR and AR function, the protein interactomes of these important drug targets have remained poorly defined. The results from these projects will enable us to increase our understanding about the regulatory mechanisms of these two physiologically important TFs.
My research concerns about the health effects of foods, especially the low grade inflammation. In addition, I have studied the effect of psychological stress and recovery on the metabolism and their relations to food and eating behaviour. I am currently with my research group establishing two new research platforms to complement the already existing expertise at our department, namely the platforms for the studying the dietary proteins and their health effects and together with Prof Hani El-NEzami aa platform studying the gut function and microbiota. Also via establishing these platforms my aim is to understand more on the underlying mechanisms of the effects of foods, their components and structures. With the latter I have collaborated for several years with the VTT food technologists.
Pathological processes, such as inflammation and injury, affect the metabolic balance of brain and other organs. Often the metabolic changes precede structural alterations in tissue and therefore give an early warning sign of the developing disease. Among the common pre-clinical and clinical imaging modalities, MR-based methods are unique in that they allow a non-invasive spatial and chemical separation of a range of tissue metabolites. Furthermore, Dissolution dynamic nuclear polarisation (dDNP) method increases sensitivity of 13C-labelled metabolite markers >10,000-fold making real-time in vivo metabolic MR imaging possible. Our group is interested in the development of novel metabolic MR imaging methods and combining them with advanced 1H MRI to gain a better understanding of potential biomarkers for metabolic diseases in brain and in other organs such as heart.
We use and develop several research methods typically used in the field of pharmacy for the needs of microplastics research. We use molecular modeling for molecular level studies of plastics, we develop extraction and sample preparation methods for plastic samples and create analytical methods for NMR and mass spectrometry. The membrane permeability is studied using, among others, the PAMPA-method. We do particle size analysis, microscoping and imaging. In toxicological research we examine, for example, cell viability and inflammation markers.
Our primary disease models are transgenic mice carrying familial Alzheimer or frontotemporal dementia linked human APP, PSEN1 and tau mutations. These mice with highly predictable time course of pathology progress allow us to study the very first steps in the disease pathogenesis in the brain, whereas neuropathological examination in human patients is usually limited to the advanced cases.
To test the disease mechanisms, we perform intervention with special diets, pharmacological agents, antibodies and viral vector mediated gene transfer or cross these mice expressing typical Alzheimer pathology with a mouse line carrying a gene defect that potentially modulate the main pathology.
To directly study the brain functions, we use multichannel and multisite electrophysiological recording in freely moving (or sleeping) mice alone or combined with functional MRI or PET in collaboration with the Biomedical Imaging group. In addition, we conduct a large battery of behavioral tests to assess memory functions, emotionality, social behavior as well as motor and sensory functions.
At the end of any study, the mouse brain is carefully examined for hallmarks of AD pathology (amyloid deposit, tau phosphorylation, neuroinflammation) and other processes of interest. Here we apply light, fluorescent and confocal microscopy and combine these with gene expression or protein assays from brain and if needed from other tissue.
Valeria is from Italy where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan (Italy) in 2015. At the same University she completed the Master degree in Molecular, Cellular and Medical Biotechnology in 2017. Her thesis project, performed at the Viral Evolution and Transmission Unit of San Raffaele Hospital under the supervision of Doctor Gabriella Scarlatti, focused on the effect of seminal plasma on human colonic mucosa and its possible role in modulating HIV infection. She completed her training as Post Graduated Student for one year on the same project.
Since 2019 she is PhD student and works at the BestTreat project on Mechanisms relating gastrointestinal microbiota with liver and adipose tissue metabolism and inflammation in the development of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, under the supervision of Professor Marjukka Kolehmainen at Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio (Finland).