The projects selected this year by the University of Trento to raise funds through income tax donations (5x1000) have two things in common: they are committed to combat diseases and to improve people’s health.
This year, too, the funds collected by the University through this awareness-raising campaign will be used for two specific projects, one led by the laboratory of Bio-Organic Chemistry of the Physics department and the other by the Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences.
The project of the Department of Physics, coordinated by Professor Ines Mancini, aims to develop cancer drugs by recreating in the lab some of the molecules naturally occurring in sea living organisms, like sponges and corals, which have natural antibacterial properties.
The project of the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences led by Professor Carlo Miniussi, on the other hand, will focus on the cognitive rehabilitation of people with Alzheimer’s disease by strengthening the brain’s natural plasticity through transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Providing information on the intended use of donations ahead of time, telling citizens how their money will be spent, is a way to ensure the transparency of the whole process since the very beginning.
To support these research initiatives simply enter the tax id of the University of Trento in the relevant box in your tax return form (under “Finanziamento della ricerca scientifica e dell’università”): 00340520220.
StimoLaMente: the project of Carlo Miniussi (CIMeC)
The risk of developing a cognitive disorder increases with ageing. Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the slow but inevitable progression of cognitive deficits, and little is known about the brain mechanisms that could be involved in terms of cerebral reorganization and compensation mechanisms. There are currently 30 million people with dementia in the world, with 4.6 million new cases annually (one new case every 7 seconds, based on estimates from Alzheimer's Disease International).
New non-invasive cerebral stimulation techniques developed in recent years improve learning. In particular, recent studies have demonstrated that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TSM) treatments improve cognitive deficits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The mechanisms used by the human brain to create memories, pay attention to things and use language abilities to communicate are crucial for people. Therefore working to restore these functions has a significant social and ethical impact.
Research conducted by the laboratory led by Professor Carlo Miniussi gives patients access to an innovative non-pharmaceutical treatment: its purpose is to assess the efficacy of rehabilitation treatments based on stimulation techniques. The researchers will also draft a rehabilitation protocol for patients with Alzheimer’s disease which combines cerebral stimulation and cognitive rehabilitation over a 4-week period.
The project also aims to establish the best protocols for helping cognitive rehabilitation through transcranial magnetic stimulation and for investigating the neural correlations of improvement achieved. The results are essential to better understand the mechanisms through which cortical stimulation helps cerebral plasticity and to design an effective approach to the treatment of cognitive deficits that can be used in clinical practice.
Drugs from marine organisms: the project of Ines Mancini (Department of Physics)
Marine ecosystems are still largely unexplored but we know that they are the source of many active substances that can be used to treat various disorders. The molecules coming from the underwater world are used to create new drugs, both directly and through the synthesis of new active substances.
Research at the laboratory of Bio-Organic Chemistry of the Physics department of the University of Trento, headed by Professor Ines Mancini, is focused mainly on the chemistry of natural products. The laboratory studies natural marine products found at great depths, in particular sponges from tropical and Antarctic seas.
One of the activities of the laboratory is the development of cancer drugs. A natural organic compound identified at the laboratory of the University of Trento from a sponge from New Caledonia has shown positive therapeutic effects to treat some types of leukemia. The research work of the team is mostly centred on secondary metabolites, substances that marine organisms use exclusively for self-defence to survive attacks of predators, for sexual reproduction or to defend themselves against bacterial attacks. The results achieved so far proved very promising to develop new drugs that can be used to treat solid tumors.
The compounds, extracted from marine organisms, are purified with modern analysis techniques like nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry. Larger quantities of the bioactive substance are created through organic synthesis, to identify products with a broader therapeutic use and a more targeted and less toxic impact. Natural molecules are chemically synthesized, modified and potentiated to be used to treat patients.
The press release also includes a report on the projects funded by UniTrento through 5x1000 donations in previous years.