From the U.S. to Berlin: Junior Research Group Leaders for the MDC and NeuroCure
2014-09-01 / Cancer research and the neurosciences at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) have been strengthened. The biologist Dr. Michela Di Virgilio from The Rockefeller University in New York, USA began work in September as Helmholtz junior research group leader at the MDC, a research institution of the Helmholtz Association. Concurrently with Dr. Di Virgilio, the neuroscientist Dr. Niccolò Zampieri from Columbia University, New York, USA began work as junior research group leader at the MDC and in the excellence cluster NeuroCure* of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
Dr. Michela Di Virgilio (Photo/ Copyright: private) (above); Dr. Niccolò Zampieri (Photo/ Copyright: private)
Dr. Di Virgilio explores the repair mechanisms with which cells respond to DNA damage. Among other factors, DNA damage can result from ionizing and UV rays, chemicals or toxic metabolic products which occur thousands of times per day. However, cells have control systems that can detect and repair DNA damage within a short time. These repair systems comprise the first line of defense to prevent permanent damage to the DNA. If the repair of the DNA damage does not succeed, or if errors occur, cancer can develop. Moreover, DNA repair systems are of central importance in the treatment of cancer patients with radiation and/or chemotherapy. The frequent resistance to therapy is usually due to a mutation of the DNA repair genes in the tumor cells.
Dr. Di Virgilio received her doctorate from the Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy for the work she performed at Columbia University in New York City in the laboratory of the geneticist and developmental biologist Professor Jean Gautier. She then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University in the laboratory of the immunologist Professor Michel C. Nussenzweig. There she investigated repair mechanisms in B cells, the antibody-producing cells of the immune system. In the field of DNA repair, her results are considered to be groundbreaking.
In his research, Dr. Zampieri focuses on how the organization of neural circuits and the specificity of synapses are regulated during the development of the nervous system. He is particularly interested in the role of certain signaling molecules (cadherin/catenin). Dr. Zampieri studied biology at the University of Milan and did his doctoral work there and at New York University, New York, USA. Before coming to Berlin, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratories of Professor Lawrence Shapiro and Professor Thomas M. Jessel at Columbia University.
*Along with Charité, the partners of NeuroCure are Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, the Max Delbrück Center for Moleculare Medicine (MDC), the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) and the German Rheumatism Research Center Berlin (DRFZ).
MDC Press release