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Tommaso Leonardi

Research Interests


Supervisors:  Dr Stefano Pluchino and Dr Anton Enright

The main aim of my project is to characterise a novel mechanisms of cell-to-cell communication mediated by the horizontal transfer of nucleic acids within extracellular membrane vesicles (EMVs). In recent years, numerous works have shown that many cell types - and in particular stem cells - secrete EMVs containing specific classes of ncRNAs, among which miRNAs. It was also shown that cells are able to modify the subset of secreted ncRNAs in response to external stimuli. In my PhD I'm applying and developing bioinformatics strategies aimed at better characterising the population of ncRNAs secreted within EMVs, delineating the molecular basis for the selective secretion of specific ncRNAs and assessing the functional relevance of the EMV-mediated transfer of ncRNAs to recipient cells. To achieve this goal, we mostly make use of next generation high throughput techniques (such as RNA-Seq and ChIP-Seq) and we hope that this approach will allow us to gain a better understanding of stem cell behaviour and hopefully help us towards the development of novel therapeutic approaches for neurological disorders.


chromatin ; microRNA ; interferons ; non-coding RNA ; microarrays ; inflammation ; bioinformatics ; chromatin immunoprecipitation ; DNA sequencing

Key Publications

Cossetti C, Smith JA, Iraci N, Leonardi T, Alfaro-Cervello C and Pluchino S Extracellular membrane vesicles and immune regulation in the brain. Front. Physio. 2012, 3:117