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Developmental biology Laboratory

Biologia Cellulare dello Sviluppo

Referents: Prof. Silvia Garagna, Prof. Maurizio Zuccotti

Co-workers: Valeria Merico, Paola Rebuzzini, Giulia Fiorentino, Mario Zanoni

All living organisms on Earth are born through reproduction and many of these from the union of two gametes, the egg cell and the sperm. However, not all gametes produced by the ovary and testicle are competent to support the development of a new individual. This is especially evident in our species; in fact, the World Health Organization has defined infertility as a disease that afflicts 15% of couples of reproductive age (60,000 new cases per year in Italy). Added to these are cancer patients of childbearing age (8,000 per year in Italy), both men and women, undergoing gonadatoxic treatments that can cause infertility. To date, this pathology can be cured in only 30% of cases, thus leaving a wide margin for a possible improvement in the effectiveness of new therapeutic strategies.

In the Developmental Biology Laboratory (LBS) we study how the different hierarchical levels - molecular, cellular and tissue - that make up the ovary or testicle interact to modulate the differentiation of female and male gametes capable, after fertilization, of supporting embryonic development.

We study female and male gametogenesis both by disrupting the mouse ovary or testis into its cellular components, analyzing them separately before or after in vitro culture, and by preserving their three-dimensional (3D) organization, maintaining the different integrative levels of spatio-functional organization. Indeed, central to our research is the awareness that in order to understand the complexity underlying these relationships - how the gonad works and how it deviates from homeostasis to dysfunction - we must learn to represent the spatial association and temporal dynamics between its functional components in a 4D (space + time) model of the organ. For this reason, together with fellow engineers we are building in silico 4D models of the ovary and testicle that reproduce their morphological and functional characteristics and their changes during aging and in pathological conditions.

By entering the LBS, the student enters a highly multidisciplinary research path which, together with the methods of in vitro fertilization, embryo culture, gamete and embryo micromanipulation and the most recent ones in cell and molecular biology employs tools from information technology, artificial intelligence and bioengineering.

The completion of the training in the field of reproductive biology is also enriched thanks to the opportunity to follow seminars held by internationally renowned specialists carried out as part of our II level Master in 'BIOLOGY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION: FROM RESEARCH TO CLINIC'. The imprint of the Master is not only academic or clinical, but also aimed at training professionals oriented to carry out their work in companies directly or indirectly related to Medically Assisted Procreation.