Saturday, October 19 2019

In the last decades, enormous effort was put into understanding how human brain is organized and functions. Such uninterrupted research was strongly encouraged by the urgent need to understand the mechanisms underlying debilitating brain pathologies affecting large parts of the population at different times throughout life, from intrauterine development to old age. Much of this progress was based on investigations performed on either animal models or on post-mortem human specimens. However, while invaluable, both paradigms have important limitations. Post-mortem human samples have characteristics of end-stage disease, which may not recapitulate the molecular events taking place during the first prodromal phases.  Moreover, bioptic samples offer a snapshot of the terminal pathological conditions, without the chance to investigate underlying cellular dynamics. Similarly, animal models may not reflect the complexity of the human brain, especially for those areas, like the neocortex, which have had a substantial development in humans and that make us different from other components of the animal kingdom.

In general, treatment options for brain disorders are, at present, quite limited and most of them actually address symptoms rather than the causes of the disease. This is due mainly to the following reasons:

•    Conclusions drawn from animal models that poorly translate to patients;
•    Analysis of convergent intracellular pathways that may not account for the large genetic diversity variations in diseased persons.

These issues highlight the importance of continuing basic research in Neuroscience, and in particular, the development of patient-derived models that could improve the translation of conclusions drawn from model systems to patients. In this respect, a Neuroscience program that tries to parallel animal data with data derived from human cells is highly desirable. In this regard, FPS focuses on the development of human-derived induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and organoid models, in order to better focus research on the mechanisms underlying carefully-defined cases, and ultimately to test tailored therapeutic approaches.
FPS Neuroscience research is currently focused on the study of neurodegenerative disorders with special attention to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).