Physiology is a discipline that covers an extremely wide extension of research fields relevant to the basis and mechanisms of normal cellular and systemic functions of  animal organisms, with approaches typically characterized by the application of the highest possible levels of quantitative exactness.
The physiologists of the Dept. of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology “L. Spallanzani” are mainly active in the fields of Neurophysiology, Cellular and molecular Physiology, Cardiovascular Physiololgy, and some other application-directed ones.

Group leaders: Prof. Mauro Toselli, Prof. Gerardo Biella, Prof.ssa Paola Rossi, Prof. Franco Tanzi, Prof.ssa Laura Botta, Prof. Francesco Moccia.
Coworkers: Elisabetta Cesana (postdoc), Claudia Maniezzi (Ph.D. student), Luigi Salvioli (Ph.D. student),  Francesca Talpo (postdoc).

Main research topics:

Neurophysiology (see in the descriction of the research topic “Neurobiology”)

Cellular and molecular Physiology


(i) Roles of ion channels in tumor cells

It has long been known than ion channels, particularly Ca2+-permeable channels, are involved in the cancer hallmarks described by Hanahan and Weinberg, such as uncontrolled proliferation, apoptosis resistance, and metastasis. The present research project intends to study the role played by intracellular Ca2+ signals in the processes of proliferation, apoptosis resistance and migration in primary cell lines established from patients suffering from two different solid cancers, i.e. renal cellular carcinoma and colorectal carcinoma. Our attention is particularly focused on Orai1-3 and TRPC1-77 channel families.

Research Supervisor: F. Moccia
Collaborations: U. Laforenza, Dipartimento di Medicina Molecolare, UNIPV; D. Montagna, P. Pedrazzoli, C. Porta, IRCCS Policlinico S. Matteo, Pavia

– Cardiovascular Physiology

(i) Role of Ca2+ signaling in physiological and pathological vasculogenesis

Recent studies showed that vasculogenesis, i.e. the formation of blood vessels de novo by endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), not only takes place during embryonic development, but also during the angiogenic switch in solid tumors. Our group showed for the first time that Ca2+ signals  play a key role in the activation of healthy EPCs and EPCs deriving from several types of tumor (renal cellular carcinoma, infantile hemangioma and primary myelofibrosis). The present research project intends to: 1) keep on investigating on the Ca2+ toolkit in healthy EPCs to shed further light on their basic physiological mechanisms; 2) assess whether the Ca2+ toolkit i also dis-regulated in breast cancer-derived patients; 3) investigate whether and how the remodeling of the Ca2+ toolkit underpins tumor EPC resistance to chemotherapeutics and anti-angiogenic drugs; and 4) investigate the molecular mechanisms by which tumor microenvironment alters EPC’s Ca2+ toolkit. The present project takes advantage from the collaboration with IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia, which ensures the continuous availability of EPCs deriving from either healthy donors and tumor-affected patients.

Research Supervisor: F. Moccia

Collaborations A. Balduini, U. Laforenza, Dipartimento di Medicina Molecolare, UNIPV; D. Lim, Università del Piemonte Orientale, Novara; G. Guerra, Università del Molise, Campobasso; M. Della Porta, Humanitas Research University, Rozzano; M. Massa, P. Pedrazzoli, C. Porta, V. Rosti, IRCCS Policlinico S. Matteo, Pavia; L. Munaron, Università di Torino


– Other application-directed projects

(i) Antibiofilm profile of Pistacia lentiscus L. Oil. and Lentinula edodes

This research project studies the antioxidant and antimicrobial ability of extracts of Pistacia lentiscus and Lentinula edodes on human (oral) microbiota and, in particular on lingual biofilm. With the antibiotic resistance phenomenon in expansion the search for new antibacterial strategies rises great interest in the clinical context.

The activity will include the isolation of lingual biofilm and the assessment of the extent of oxydative stress with spectrophotometric measurements.

Research Supervisor: P. Rossi