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Prof. Donatella Taramelli

Curriculum vitae:

Donatella Taramelli is born in Perugia, Italy, on February 24, 1953. In 1976 she graduated in Biological Sciences at the University of Perugia, Italy. Her research group is part of the Institute of Microbiology of the University of Milan. From 1978 to 81 she was Visiting Scientist, in the laboratory of Immunodiagnosis at NCI, NIH, USA, then she continued as Research Associate of National Cancer Institute, Milan, Italy. From 1985-87 she was Research Associate in the Dept. Exp. Medicine of the University of Rome "La Sapienza" and then Visiting Scientist at the Univ. of Maryland at Baltimore, USA from 1987-89. In 1988 she became Associate Professor of Pathology, and then full professor of Pathology School of Pharmacy of the University of Milan in 2000. Her research group is affiliated with the Institute of Microbiology, University of Milan. She has been and presently she is Principal Investigator of several research projects financed by the EU(1996-99), by UNDP-World Bank-WHO on the mechanism of action of antimalarials (1997-99), by the ISS- National program on AIDS (1999-01) on opportunistic infections, by the Italian Ministery MURST-PRIN from 97 to 2003 on malaria pathogenesis and drug screening, by the Italian Ministery of Foreign Affairs , Italy- South Africa agreement from 2001-04. She is the Italian Representative of the UE Concerted Action COST B22 entitled “Drug development for parasitic diseases”. Prof. Taramelli has several collaborations with scientific groups in Italy and abroad, such as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the Università di Lille, as well as the Dept. of Chemistry, University of Cape Town, South Africa and the Wellcome Center for Trop diseases-University of Mahidol, Bankgok, Thailand. Her research activity is focused on immunology and infectious disease. In particolar, she is conducting studies on the pathogenesis of malaria and opportunistic fungal infections, as well as on antimalarial drugs. She published 72 papers on peer reviewed journals, 189 congress presentations, 10 book chapters and she presented an international patent application on antimalarial compounds. She is in the editorial Board of J. Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and member of the following Societies: AAI, ASTMH, ISHAM, Soc It Parassitologia, Soc It.Immunol.

Scientific interests:

Prof. Taramelli’s group in the last few years has been involved in two main research areas: malaria and opportunistic infections in AIDS.
The interests on malaria span from the studies on the pathogenesis of severe anemia to the identification and screening of new antimalarials and studies on their mechanism of action. The projects and the available technical platforms are detailed below

  1. Drug screening (in vitro chemosensitivity assays against P. falciparum strains using the pLDH method) for the identification of new compounds with antimalarial activity and SAR studies. Development of novel screening assays with fluorescent probes (Picogreen)
    Studies on the mechanism of action of antimalarials active during the intraerythrocytic stage of malaria parasites
    Identification of inhibitors of the haem detoxification process and the formation of haemozoin using a spectrophotometric microassay (BHIA, beta-haematin inhibitory activity) developed for medium/low throughput screening, recently adapted for robotic platforms
  2. Identification of inhibitors of haemoglobin proteases (plasmepsin II and IV) using in vitro spectrophotometric assays of enzyme activity
  3. Studies on the mechanism of toxicity of quinoline and artemisinin antimalarials (Role or oxygen and iron on drug action).
  4. Pathophysiology of parasite-host relationships
    4.1 effects of parasite products on the host immune response, cytokine production, endothelial cells functions in relation to tissue hypoxia
    4.2 mechanisms of accelerated senescence of RBC in relationship to anemia. 

The studies on AIDS have been focused on the characterisation of an opportunistic fungus, Penicillium marneffei, practically unknown before the AIDS pandemic and presently the third cause of death among AIDS patients in South East Asia, where it is endemic. The main research projects of Prof. Taramelli’s group in this area are as follows

  1. In vitro studies on pathogenicity of Penicillium marneffei : an in vitro model of intramacrophage growth of P. marneffei has been developed to investigate the pathogenicity, the immune response and the virulence factors of this fungus.
  2. In vitro studies on the chemosensitivity and resistance of P. marneffei to antimicotic agents and to new compounds in relationship with in-use anti retroviral therapy.
  3. In vivo studies of P.marneffei pathogenicity and immunogenicity. A mouse model of disseminated granulomatous infection of P. marneffei is available. Studies have been performed on the immune response, cytokine production and drug sensitivity. Molecular analysis of infected tissues has been performed by RT-PCR and immunoistochemistry .
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