Professor Giovanna Mallucci is Programme Leader at the MRC Toxicology Unit, University of Leicester.
Her research group works on mechanisms of neurotoxicity.
Her background is in modelling prion diseases in mice, looking at mechanisms of neurotoxicity and developing new therapeutic approaches. Her group have shown that early synaptic changes in mice with prion disease can be reversed, resulting in recovery of synaptic and cognitive function and behavioural deficits, long term neuroprotection, and life long survival of affected animals. Thus neurodegeneration can be prevented by reversing early synaptic deficits.
Their programme uses several model systems – mice (wild type and transgenic), primary neurons and the nematode C. elegans, to understand the early molecular events that cause synaptic toxicity and neuronal cell death in neurodegeneration. In parallel, they are looking at the mechanisms involved in synaptic repair processes.
Their main aims are to define:
1) the earliest mechanistic impairments in the neuronal response to toxic proteins in neurodegenerative diseases
2) how synaptic dysfunction and loss are triggered
3) how synapse loss leads to neuronal loss
4) how toxic responses can be reversed for neuroprotection
5) how repair processes can be harnessed for therapy
In this way, they aim to define key pathways for modification in novel therapeutic approaches; to develop mouse models reflecting disease mechanisms; and to define new biomarkers for identifying susceptible individuals.