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Interview with professor Livia Visai

Nanoparticles in medicine, the latest research of Prof. Livia Visai

Dr. Livia Visai is a researcher and professor in Biochemistry at the University of Pavia, working also as a vice-director of the Centro di Ingegneria Tessutale (CIT) since 2006, and, from November 2011, she holds a senior management position at the nanotechnology laboratory of the Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri.

Professor Visai in this interview will present her work as a researcher, explaining her research on nanotechnologies and their applications in nano-medicine.

  1. The life of a researcher in Italy, the differences between 'yesterday' and 'today'

The life of a researcher in Italy is difficult. There are, however, many people who want to do, they can compete globally, in spite of all the difficulties. Italian researchers have to face, however, more sacrifices than other foreign realities. For a woman is even more difficult because there is less attention for his work, it is very different in other countries. But who is really responsible may hold important positions.

There are no huge changes in the lives of researchers from the past.

      2.  What is nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is a branch of applied science and technology that deals with the control of matter on an infinitesimal scale, lower than the nanometer, a billionth of a meter. It works in interdisciplinary because it involves different areas of research such as biology, medicine, chemistry, physics, engineering. The nano-medicine can be defined as the application of nanotechnology in medicine.

      3.  Research on the application of nanotechnology as a countermeasure to osteoporosis in space.

This research was funded by ASI (Italian Space Agency) and is the application of nanotechnology on osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the principal cells of bone tissue, in an environment of microgravity

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects over 200 million people worldwide. This disease, which on earth is highlighted with aging, is linked to a process of demineralization of the bone, which can lead to fractures, difficulty moving and deformity. In Space the process of demineralization of the bones is considerably accelerated by the fact that there is no load on the bones, just for the microgravity there present. Our experiment "Nanoparticles and Osteoporosis" acronym NATO was sent with the rocket SPX-6 on the International Space Station (ISS) with the mission Futura, where there was also the Italian Air Force captain, Samantha Cristoforetti.

Experiment, by kind interdisciplinary, have also collaborated the University of Milan, the Institute of Crystallography (CRN) of Rome and Kayser Italia S.r.l. of Livorno.

In short the experiment: osteoblasts were transported from Italy to the laboratory NASA in Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA), which was set up the experiment in vitro by addition of nanoparticles. From there the biological material inside the "KIC" technical term for the container of the experiment, was transferred along with the experiments of other researchers aboard the Dragon spacecraft on the SPX-6 rocket launched on 14 April 2015, with a day late due to bad weather.

Upon arrival in Orbiting Station, Captain Samantha Cristoforetti with the robotic arm Canadarm2 has also transferred the "KIC", the containers of the experiment, which where then introduced in an incubator activated at a temperature of 37 °. The experiment lasted four days, finished which the captain Cristoforetti recovered material and then place it in a freezer until May 21, the date of return of the Dragon capsule. Friday, May 29 the material has arrived in Italy and 9 June will open the KIC so that we can see if the experiment was successful and we can proceed with the analysis that will last months. During these tests it can actually understand whether this technology can be effectively used for the treatment of osteoporosis on people who suffer from it.

      4.  The application of nanotechnology in the diagnosis and therapy of tumors

This study is in collaboration with the University of Brighton (UK). It provides the combination of nano-gold spheres intelligent with the anti-tumor drug to carry the drug to the tumor cells while avoiding to attack the other healthy. The goal of this research is a cancer treatment that may be less invasive and then give fewer side effects. Think of breast cancer that causes more and more victims particularly in the western world and affects more and more young women. This research could be adapted to the treatment of various cancers, changing the drug could be adapted to different therapies.
At the time the research is the first phase, namely the testing of nano-system in vitro and gives good prospects. This research is on a crowdfunding platform where you canfinance this project, so that the study can proceed to step 2, animal testing and then get to the third phase where the product will be available to patients.

      5.  The application of nanotechnology to the reduction of bacterial infection.

In collaboration with the German Research Center Technische Universität Braunschweig, Institut für Biochemie, und Biotechnologie Bioinformatik, Braunschweig (Germany) for a few years we are trying to develop antibodies that interfere with the adhesive process of microbes to host tissue, reducing infectious processes . This is not the first research on this issue, but now, thanks to the technology of "Phage Display" we may be able to isolate human antibodies can then test to catch on infectious processes such as prostheses.

Dr. Visai is an excellent example of Italian excellence that makes us proud but also hopeful for a future that awards ever more the value.