James Defended His Master’s Thesis!

Congratulations to James Johnson for successfully defending his master’s thesis project! James presented his excellent work on developing and optimizing organotypic slice cultures of live human brain tissue as part of a broader project to create a human tissue model of neuroHIV. His essential contributions moved the project forward and positioned him for success in future scientific endeavors. James is scheduled to graduate at the end of the year and is currently applying to PhD programs to further his research training.

James celebration

JNIP journal

New publication on opioid control of iron transport

Dr. Elena Irollo and colleagues from the Meucci lab recently published a new study on how morphine uses the iron transporter divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1) to control iron metabolism in cortical neurons. The study also reports a new set of molecular tools to study DMT1 in a variety of cellular systems. This work continues a longstanding story on how morphine and mu-opioid agonists can impair cognitive function in people with HIV by dysregulating neuronal iron metabolism.

The study is open access and freely available at the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

DMT1 Visual abstract

Morphine uses the iron transporter DMT1 to move endolysosomal iron into the cytoplasm of cortical neurons, which later upregulates the iron storage protein ferritin heavy chain. Our previous work reported excess ferritin heavy chain is associated with lower dendritic spine density in prefrontal cortex neurons and cognitive deficits in an animal model of neuroHIV.

Jared Luchetta

Jared Defended His PhD Thesis!

Congratulations to Jared Luchetta for successfully defending his PhD thesis! Jared’s work uncovered how chemokine signaling through the CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway controls neuronal activity, and he identified that CXCR4 expressed on cortical inhibitory neurons is a major driver of CXCL12’s beneficial and homeostatic effects. Jared was a T32 fellow of Drexel’s Interdisciplinary and Translational Research Training Grant in NeuroAIDS, and he was recognized by several awards including the department’s top award for scholarship, the Benjamin Weiss Scholar Award, and the Mary Hoffman Shaw Travel Award. He was also involved in several other projects in the lab and helped other lab members move projects forward and develop new approaches to address longstanding research questions.

Jared defense slide

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We’re hiring a research assistant!

Research/Laboratory Assistant

Job Overview: The research assistant will be involved in ongoing NIH-funded projects in the field of neuroHIV and neuroprotection, and additional collaborative studies in oncology. The successful candidate will have expertise in both cellular/molecular biology techniques and small animal in vivo models. They are also expected to facilitate teamwork and ensure proper function of the laboratory. Highly experienced candidates can be considered for a lab manager role.

Qualifications: Post-Bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline and some previous hands-on research experience.

Applicants at different levels of expertise will be considered, though the ideal candidate would have technical skills in one or more of the following areas: traditional and modern techniques of cellular and molecular biology (preferably neurobiology), histology, microscopy and cellular imaging, and/or small animal models for the study of CNS disorders. Some previous experience in the fields of cell biology and HIV neuropathology, human brain tissue analysis, or familiarity with primary neuronal cultures, is preferred – along with self-motivation, commitment to success and innovation, and exceptional organization skills.

Essential Functions: Performs standard laboratory procedures. Assists with and/or independently conducts experiments. Analyzes and reports experimental data. Complies with lab safety and regulatory protocols. Tracks and orders supplies. Organizes supplies, materials, and equipment, and sets up equipment for use. Additional tasks include: help with literature search, preparation of material for presentations, technical training of new students, maintenance/update of lab protocols, participation to lab meetings.

Supplemental Position Information: This is full-time research assistant position available immediately, for a minimum of 1 year. The successful candidate can eventually transition to a senior position (i.e. senior lab technician/lab manager), and is encouraged to become a stable, integral part of the laboratory.

Please contact Dr. Olimpia Meucci (om29@drexel.edu), if interested in this opening.DUCOM logo

Mol Neuro cover

New publication on US9 fusion proteins to control amyloidogenesis

Dr. Renato Brandimarti and colleagues from the lab published a new study detailing US9 fusion proteins that control amyloid precursor protein processing without targeting endogenous secretases. The work was published in Molecular Neurobiology and is freely available.

Click here to read the publication!


Us9 controls APP

The US9 fusion protein gPTG9TM pulls APP away from sites of B-cleavage, which produces more neuroprotective soluble α-APP and improves several markers related to Alzheimer’s disease.

department retreat flyer

Chunta wins elevator talk competition

Chunta participated in our trainee elevator talks competition at this year’s department retreat and received a first place award for his talk! Well done, Chunta!

Chunta elevator talk


We’re hiring a postdoc!

neuronDescription: This position is for a post-doctoral researcher with extensive experience in neurobiology, neuroimmune pharmacology, and translational neuroscience eager to contribute to the overall mission of the lab with creativity and passion. This individual will be involved in ongoing NIH-funded projects in the field of neuroHIV, neuroprotection, and drug abuse, which require expertise in both cellular/molecular neurobiology techniques and small animal in vivo models. The experienced researcher is expected to facilitate teamwork, participate in the training of graduate students, and ultimately enhance the research potential of the whole group.


Qualifications: PhD (or MD/PhD) or equivalent doctoral degree is required.

At least 3 years’ experience in a neurobiology or translational neuroscience setting.

Strong communication and interpersonal skills.

Time management and organization skills.two neuron

Highest work ethic standards.


Candidates should have extensive experience in traditional and modern techniques of cellular and molecular neurobiology, histology, microscopy/cellular imaging, and use of small animal models to study CNS disorders. Ideal candidates will have experience in techniques including electrophysiology, multi-electrode arrays, and/or in vivo imaging. Candidates will be able to keep up with, and implement, the many emerging technical innovations in the field of neuroscience. Previous experience in the field of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders is a plus, along with familiarity with primary neuronal cultures and brain tissue processing, self-motivation, commitment to success and innovation, and exceptional organization and communication skills.  Opportunities for career advancement are available.


Contact: Please contact Dr. Olimpia Meucci (om29@drexel.edu) for additional information.


MERIT award extension

We received a five-year extension of our R37 MERIT (method to extend research in time) award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse! The extension will support lab’s longtime research project “Role of chemokines in neuronal function and survival.”

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Erica Dalla defends PhD thesis!

Eri DCongratulations to former lab member Erica Dalla, who successfully defended her PhD thesis at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine!

Erica worked in the lab of Dr. Julio Aguirre-Ghiso where she studied how lung macrophages control the fate of disseminated tumor cells. Her work in the PhD program contributed to several high-profile publications that capped off a highly productive period of research!

Happy Holidays from the Meucci Lab!

Meucci lab members