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Jared Luchetta awarded neuroAIDS fellowship

Jared LuchettaJared Luchetta was appointed as a National Research Service Award (NRSA) pre-doctoral fellow on Drexel University’s Interdisciplinary and Translational Research Training Grant in NeuroAIDS. The training grant is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health as part of a long-standing collaboration between Drexel and Temple University investigators.

Congratulations Jared!

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New Meucci lab publication shows that a chemokine can enhance cognitive flexibility

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DiI labeling of dendritic spines in the layer II/III prefrontal cortex.

The Meucci lab recently published a new study suggesting that learning and memory problems in patients with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) may be reversible. Using an animal model of HAND, Dr. Lindsay Festa and colleagues showed that treatment with the chemokine CXCL12 improved cognitive flexibility in a set-shifting task and increased dendritic spine density in the layer II/III prefrontal cortex, a critical brain area for flexible problem solving. CXCL12 treatment achieved these effects by activating a molecular signaling cascade via the small GTPase Rac1, which stabilized thin dendritic spines on cortical neurons. The study shows that CXCL12 reverses cognitive impairment in an animal model of HAND, suggesting that new treatments for HAND could exploit the CXCL12/Rac1 pathway in the brain.

This study is open access and freely available at eLIFE.

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DUniBo update: “The Outlooking Scientist”

Bologna collageDUniBo, the new collaboration between Drexel University and the University of Bologna, Italy – led by Dr. Olimpia Meucci (DUCOM) and Dr. Renato Brandimarti (UniBo) – received funding from the University of Bologna to launch its first exchange project titled ‘The outlooking scientist’. The grant supports a visit of four graduate students (two from each institution) to their respective academic partner. The Drexel University ambassadors for 2019 (Anthony DiNatale and Julia Farnan, trainees from the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology) returned to Philly on December 5th, 2019. The students from the University of Bologna (Ottavia Tartagni and Claudia Albertini from the Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology) will arrive on January 10, 2020. The program will conclude in the Spring of 2020 with a half day workshop – organized and run by the students – focused on the impact of social media on science.

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Morphine releases iron from storage: Research summary on Neuronline

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Bradley Nash and Olimpia Meucci recently published an article on the Society for Neuroscience website Neuronline breaking down the Meucci lab’s latest research on opioid regulation of neuronal iron metabolism. The article discusses why the lab was looking into opioids effects on iron, the results of our most recent study, and how the insights gained from the study may apply to several different neurological disorders. Neuronline works to promote learning and discussion of neuroscience topics and professional development of people working in the neurosciences.

Read the Neuronline article here and see the original research report published in eNeuro.

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Dr. Meucci elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

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Congratulations to Dr. Meucci, who has been elected as a 2019 fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI)!  Each year, the NAI elects a class of academic fellows whose innovations and inventions have made a positive impact on society. The NAI fellow is the highest level of distinction for academic inventors, developed to both honor their contributions and inspire the next generation of inventors.

See the entire 2019 NAI class here, and for more information, visit the NAI website.

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Ipek Eralp wins 2nd place at Discovery Day 2019 poster competition

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Congratulations to Ipek Eralp, who won second place in the junior graduate students poster competition at Discovery Day 2019! Ipek’s poster was titled: Morphine regulation of the iron-dependent protein ferritin heavy chain in cortical neurons: is there a role for the divalent metal transporter-1?

For more information, as well as a complete list of Discovery Day 2019 winners, visit the Drexel Discovery Day website.

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Meucci Lab publishes new collaborative study on the role of iron in neuronal opioid signaling

Visual abstractIn collaboration with Dr. Jonathan Geiger’s lab at the University of North Dakota, the Meucci lab recently published a new study describing how iron contributes to opioid-induced morphological changes in cortical neurons. Interestingly, morphine caused the release of iron stored in neuronal endolysosomes to the cytoplasm, which led to a post-transcriptional upregulation of the iron storage protein ferritin heavy chain. Increased ferritin heavy chain levels in these neurons was associated with a reduction of dendritic spine types that are thought to play important roles in learning and memory. Morphine-mediated dendritic spine deficits and ferritin heavy chain upregulation were completely blocked by selective chelation of endolysosomal iron, suggesting that these iron stores could be a new therapeutic target for opioid-using people at risk for developing cognitive impairment.

This study is featured and freely available in eNeuro, an open-access journal of the Society for Neuroscience.

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Dr. Brandimarti and Dr. Meucci Receive DUniBo 2019 Award

The University of Bologna has awarded Drs. Meucci & Brandimarti a grant to support the DUniBo initiative, which aims to increase student-centered scientific collaborations and other types of academic interactions between the University of Bologna and Drexel University. This new award will support an approximately six-month project known as The Student Ambassador, where students from each institution will spend 8-10 weeks abroad under the guidance of a faculty mentor and a fellow local student. Interested applicants should contact Dr. Meucci (om29@drexel.edu) and Dr. Brandimarti (renato.brandimarti@unibo.it) by February 25, 2019. Also see additional information.

Dr. Meucci Receives NIH MERIT Award

Dr. Meucci has been selected by The National Institute on Drug Abuse for a Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) award for the research grant: Role of chemokines in neuronal function and survival. The NIH MERIT program comprises an initial MERIT award and the opportunity for a five-year MERIT award extension, totaling up to 10 years of funding. MERIT awards are designed to provide long-term, stable support to investigators whose research competence and productivity are distinctly superior, and are awarded to less than 5% of NIH-funded investigators. Congratulations to Dr. Meucci for this great achievement!

Lindsay Festa

Lindsay Festa Defends PhD Thesis

Congratulations to Lindsay Festa for successfully defending her PhD thesis titled: Defining the molecular pathways involved in CXCL12-mediated rescue of dendritic spines and cognitive deficits in an animal model of neuroHIV. The quality and impact of Lindsay’s work has been recognized both locally and internationally, as evidenced by three publications in high profile peer-reviewed journals, numerous awards and honors, and her participation in international meetings. Lindsay established new techniques in the lab to study cognitive impairment in HIV-transgenic rats, and visualize dendritic spines in different contexts, which have contributed to two additional manuscripts currently in preparation.