Dr Paola Bonfanti, Principal Investigator
Epithelial Stem Cell Biology
Epithelia line the outer and inner surfaces of our body and play crucial role in tissue homeostasis and repair. Epithelia have a complex biology, understood only in part, and despite some common features, they undergo progressive diversification to fulfil their specific role and function.
Our group aims to understand the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate epithelia self-renewal and differentiation, with the final goal to produce long lasting medicinal product for tissue engineering and replacement therapies.
In the case of thymus, epithelial cells contribute to the microenvironment that instructs lymphoid precursors to mature towards functional immune cells to establish proper immunity against pathogens and also to induce self-tolerance that prevents autoimmunity. We aim to dissect the components of thymus microenvironment and study their role in regulating tolerance and immune cell maturation.
We use a number of experimental approaches ranging from clonal cell cultures, to molecular and functional characterization and to in vitro organ reconstruction.
The specific research interests are:
- Human thymus reconstruction to induce tolerance for tissue/organ transplantation
- Epithelium reconstruction for cell therapy of oesophageal atresia
- Human pancreas development and beta cell regeneration
- Gene editing for development of cystic fibrosis therapies