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Simona Francia

Affiliated Researcher
Neuroscience and Smart Materials
Research center

Simona Francia graduated in Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Bologna in 2011. After the Master's degree, she won a research fellowship for 2 years at the Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma. She studied the molecular mechanism underlying pheromones receptors in rodent species, establishing a correlation between vomeronasal receptors and their ligands expansion. Then she moved for one year to the Department of Veterinary Physiology, at the University of Zurich, where she developed new skills and techniques in the Neurophysiology field. In Zurich, she worked on two different projects both in vitro and in vivo, aimed to study the signaling of specific genes involved in hypoxia and ischemic injuries that cause the disruption of blood-brain barrier integrity, vascular function, and cytoskeletal reorganization. Back in Italy, with an improved background in Neuroscience and Neurophysiology, she won a research fellowship at the CNR Institute in Padua, where she started a new research project at the Istituto Veneto of Molecular Medicine. In 2019, she obtained her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, taking part in challenging research that allowed the identification of an endogenous ligand of the axonal odorant receptors involved in axon targeting. She acquired a strong experience in cellular, Molecular biology, and the neurophysiology of the sensory systems, particularly the olfactory and visual systems. Since November 2019, she has been a post-doc at the Centre for Synaptic Neuroscience and Technology (NSYN), Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Genova. At NSYN, Dr. Francia got a solid experience in the in vivo physiology of visual systems, performing behavioral experiments and electrophysiological recordings of visual evoked potentials in the visual cortex of animal models characterized by retinal degenerations. The projects she is taking part in are focused on the subretinal injection of polymeric nanoparticles in retinal degeneration models aimed at restoring visual activities both at subcortical and cortical levels. The liquid retinal prosthetics based on photovoltaic nanoparticles represent a real breakthrough in visual prosthetics and will open up new avenues in the treatment of blindness.


Title: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institute: University of Padua
Location: Padua
Country: Italy
From: 2015 To: 2018

Title: Master degree in Molecular and Industrial Biotechnology
Institute: University of Bologna
Location: Bologna
Country: Italy
From: 2008 To: 2011

Title: BCs in Biotechnology
Institute: University of Parma
Location: Parma
Country: Italy
From: 2004 To: 2008


Description: FELASA Category B course on "Introductory Course in Laboratory Animal Science"
Date: 03-02-2014

Experience External

Title: PhD student-CNR fellowship holder
Institute: Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine- National Research Council (CNR)
Location: Padua
Country: Italy
From: 2014 To: 2019

Title: Fellowship holder
Institute: University of Zurich
Location: University of Zurich-Tierspital
Country: Switzerland
From: 2013 To: 2014

Title: Fellowship holder-"assegno di ricerca"
Institute: University of Parma
Location: University of Parma-Department of Neuroscience
Country: Italy
From: 2011 To: 2013


Molecular biology techniques: DNA, RNA and protein extraction from cells and tissues; PCR, RT-PCR, Real Time PCR, degenerate primer design and RNA probes; Molecular cloning (Mini/maxi preparation) and NGS sequencing; Gel electrophoresis and Western Blotting; Immunoprecipitation of protein (IP) and Chromatin-Immunoprecipitation (ChIP); Luciferase assay; Immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization on cells and on brain tissue sections; Proteins and nucleic acids database research tools and phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequences; Cellular biology techniques: Cell line cultures and transfection with: 1. RNA oligonucleotides (miRNA, antago-miRNA, siRNA); 2. Genetically encoded Ca2+ and cAMP sensors; 3. Fluorescent sensors for genetic expression of CRE activity; Primary cell cultures of olfactory sensory neurons, astrocytes, pericytes and brain endothelial cells; Transfection of primary culture with: 1. viral vectors (lentivirus or adenovirus) coding GFP and CRE-recombinase; 2. Genetically encoded cAMP and Ca2+ sensors; 3. Fluorescent sensors for genetic expression or CRE activity. In vivo techniques: Stereotaxic injections of viral vectors (adenovirus, lentivirus) expressing GFP/RFP and CRE recombinase or other constructs in transgenic/ mutant conditional mice model of mental retardation, autism and Parkinson's disease. Development and characterization of genetically encode cAMP and Ca2+sensors, and fluorescent sensors for CRE activity or for genetic expression in vitro and in vivo; Calcium imaging experiments in vitro; Confocal microscopy; Real-time imaging of turning behaviour of axons; Microsurgical techniques: craniotomy, stereotactic surgery, intracardial perfusion and intraperitoneal injections (IPs) in mice and rats; Brain dissections, organ harvesting; Cryostat and vibratome brain slices; Animal care and handling (Felasa licence-Zurich university for mice and rats); Maintenance of transgenic line of mice and rats; Behaviour in mice and rats (olfactory and light dark box test in rodents); Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Pupillary light reflex in rats; Electrophysiology in vivo (Visual evoked potential and visual acuity); Imaging techniques skills:

All Publications
Francia S., Shmal D., Di Marco S., Chiaravalli G., Maya-Vetencourt J.F., Mantero G., Michetti C., Cupini S., Manfredi G., DiFrancesco M.L., Rocchi A., Perotto S., Attanasio M., Sacco R., Bisti S., Mete M., Pertile G., Lanzani G., Colombo E., Benfenati F.
Nature Communications
Baumann J., Tsao C.-C., Patkar S., Huang S.-F., Francia S., Magnussen S.N., Gassmann M., Vogel J., Koster-Hegmann C., Ogunshola O.O.
Pericyte, but not astrocyte, hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) drives hypoxia-induced vascular permeability in vivo
Fluids and Barriers of the CNS, vol. 19, (no. 1)
Maset A., Galla L., Francia S., Cozzolino O., Capasso P., Goisis RC., Losi G., Lombardo A., Ratto GM., Lodovichi C.
Altered Cl− homeostasis hinders forebrain GABAergic interneuron migration in a mouse model of intellectual disability
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Francia S., Lodovichi C.
The role of the odorant receptors in the formation of the sensory map
BMC Biology
Zamparo I., Francia S., Franchi S. A., Redolfi N., Costanzi E., Kerstens A., Fukutani Y., Battistutta R., Polverino De Laureto P., Munck S., De Strooper B., Matsunami H., Lodovichi C.
Axonal odorant receptors mediate axon targeting
Cell Reports