In a new review article published in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, Dr. Meucci’s group discusses clinical evidence of disrupted neuronal connectivity in HIV patients and the molecular mechanisms that drive neuronal dysfunction and cognitive impairment in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders.
Jared 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.
The Meucci lab published a book chapter on known and potential mechanisms by which µ-opioid agonists regulate neuronal iron homeostasis, a new finding that has implications for HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders and other neurological disorders. The chapter expands on previous work from our lab showing that morphine regulates iron storage in endolysosomes, and this leads to dendritic spine deficits in cortical neurons. In addition, the chapter covers known and probable molecular mechanisms for morphine regulation of endolysosomal iron stores, implications for other iron-related proteins including amyloid precursor protein (APP), and a new approach to determine if µ-opioid agonists regulate APP expression or processing.
This chapter was published in the second edition of the book “Opioid Receptors”, and an illustration from our chapter inspired the book cover art. The book is a part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series.
The abstract of the book chapter is available here.
In collaboration with 15 researchers, Dr. Meucci contributed to a viewpoint article on how coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) could be linked to Parkinson’s disease and Parkinsonism. The article discusses current knowledge and potential mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 may establish an infection in the brain, how brain infection might lead to clinical manifestations of Parkinsonism, and current clinical reports of movement disorders in COVID-19 patients.
The article is open-access and freely available at NPJ Parkinson’s Disease.
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.
DUniBo, 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.
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.
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.
The Meucci lab published a new review article that outlines the interplay between chemokine and opioid signaling and how these systems may regulate synaptodendritic damage in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). The article begins with a brief discussion of synaptodendritic damage in HAND and presents a small study on region-specific synaptic damage in two animal models of HAND. This is followed by a section on the mechanisms by which µ-opioid agonists contribute to synaptodendritic damage, and a discussion on exploiting the CXCL12-CXCR4 chemokine signaling axis to guide new therapeutic approaches that reverse dendritic spine deficits in HAND.
This article is part of a special issue published in Brain Research called “NeuroHIV in the current era: mechanisms and comorbidities contributing to cognitive impairment“, for which Dr. Meucci served as the guest editor.
The full-text article is available at Pubmed Central.
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.
Olimpia Meucci, MD, PhD
Professor & Chair
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
Department of Microbiology & Immunology
Drexel University College of Medicine
245 North 15th Street, NCB room #8221
Philadelphia, PA 19102
office phone: (215) 762-2597
lab phone: (215) 762 4138
fax: (215) 762-2299