The elucidation of the intricate 3D structure-function relationship in human tissues is certainly a critical issue for a deeper understanding of the physio-pathological processes. In vitro human models allow to dissect the impact of different aspects on cellular phenotype.

Cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of death in modern society and there is a great need for new laboratory models for studies on human cells and for conducting low-cost preliminary testing prior to clinical trials. We are studying the effects of the major pathological stimuli of an infarcted myocardium on the functional properties of pluripotent cell-derived human cardiomyocytes.

We have developed technological systems for precise control of oxygen partial pressure in culture, for simulating heart mechanical stress and for studying electrical signal propagation at cell-cell junctions. Particular attention is devoted to the study of the ischemic heart and of the genetic disease arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy.

cardiomiocytesHuman cardiomyocytes.

 Skeletal muscle diseases

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is the most common, lethal, inherited disease of skeletal and cardiac muscles. Although several years have passed since the identification of the molecular defect involved in this disease, effective therapies have not been developed yet. Our research efforts are aimed at producing in vitro human skeletal muscle myotubes exhibiting functional properties by a proper design of the in vitro artificial niche.

We culture dystrophic myoblasts in a 3D hydrogel with mechanical properties resembling those of muscular tissue in vivo. Spatial alignment of the myoblasts is obtained by surface functionalization, and electrical stimulation is coupled to the cultures in order to mimic the physiological electrical signals of muscle tissue in order to study skeletal muscle functional activity.


Human myotubes.

 Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a complex multi-organ disease in rapid expansion. Precise dissection of each tissue contribution to the disease is very complex in in vivo studies. We are developing a network of micro-scale systems to culture different human tissues relevant for the study of type 2 diabetes (skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, single pancreatic islets).

myoadiposeHuman adipose tissue and myotube micro-scale cultures.


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