The main topic of our area of research is the study of the basic mechanisms governing the immune tolerance and the interactions between the metabolic/nutritional status and the immune system. More specifically, the focus is the analysis of the functional alterations of T CD4+ effector lymphocytes (Teff) and regulatory T cells (Treg), a cellular subset involved in the control of peripheral tolerance, in different models of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), type I diabetes (T1D) and in purely metabolic diseases such obesity and auto-inflammatory disorders (Tumour necrosis factor receptor-associated periodic fever syndrome, TRAPS). The main objective of these studies is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanism by which metabolism controls immune cells function both in vitro and in vivo (in patients and in animal models of autoimmune diseases). The identification of the precise relationship between the metabolic status and the immune system as well as the definition of the microenvironment necessary for a physiological development of Teff/Treg cells aim at the identification of new therapeutic strategies that exploit the modulation of the metabolic asset for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The main research lines are:

  • Analysis of the metabolic and immunological asset of patients with MS, T1D, TRAPS and obesity.
  • Role of metabolism on the transcriptional and epigenetic control of lineage-specific factors (ie. FoxP3, Treg; ROR-t, Th17);
  • Study of the metabolic signals involved in the genesis of Treg cells;
  • Functional characterization of molecules at the interface between metabolism and immunity (ie. Sirtuin, AnnexinA-1, Prep1) in subjects with autoimmune diseases and in murine models;
  • Identification of novel biomarkers for the prognosis and progression of the disease (MS, T1D);
  • Novel therapeutic strategies based on the modulation of the main metabolic pathways in vivo in murine models of autoimmunity;
  • Comprehension of the immunological mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of obesity.

  • Key international collaborations:

    Prof. Antonio La Cava, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
    Prof. Tamas Horvath, Yale University, New Haven, USA
    Prof. Christos Mantzoros, Harvard University, Boston, USA
    Dr. Egle Solito, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), London, UK