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.
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.
In 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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Brandimarti (email@example.com) by February 25, 2019. Also see additional information.
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!
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.
The Institute of Advanced Studies has invited Dr. Meucci to spend a six-week fellowship on campus in an effort to foster international collaboration and global educational initiatives. During her stay, she also presented a seminar entitled: “Three Key Questions on NeuroHIV: What is it? Why Should We Care? Can We Do Something?”
The award is given for first place in the platform presentation competition at Drexel’s Discovery Day. Lindsay’s talk was titled: The chemokine CXCL12 restores dendritic spine loss and cognitive deficits in a rodent model of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders.
Dr. Meucci will hold the position for a two-year term, from 2018 – 2020.
The award is given in recognition of extraordinary service in facilitating the operations of society initiatives. Dr. Meucci served as the chair of the Local Organizing and Scientific Committee during the 23rd annual SNIP conference in Philadelphia, PA.
Congratulations to Rachel Nolan on her recent appointment as a National Research Service Award (NRSA) pre-doctoral fellow on Drexel University’s Interdisciplinary and Translational Research Training Grant in NeuroAIDS, funded by the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Mental Health grant T32-MH079785).
DISCOVERY DAY 2016
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20 AT THE PENNSYLVANIA CONVENTION CENTER
Lab members attending the Society for Neuroscience Conference held in Chicago from October 17-21, 2015. SfN’s 45th annual meeting is the premier venue for neuroscientists to present emerging science, learn from experts, forge collaborations with peers, explore new tools and technologies, and advance careers.