Our primary focus research is to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying the growth of rhabdomyosarcoma, a pediatric soft-tissue cancer arising from mesenchymal cell precursors that are characterized by the expression of muscle-specific markers (if you want to know something more about rhabdomyosarcoma, please read here). Currently, the major efforts are addressed to establish the functional role of two classes of proteins, known as Caveolins and Cavins, in the progression of rhabdomyosarcoma. These multifunctional proteins play a pivotal role in the generation of the plasma membrane domains known as caveolae, which are involved in endocytosis, cholesterol homeostasis and signal transduction. Understanding whether and how these proteins may facilitate or hamper the development of rhabdomyosarcoma is our main goal.
Skeletal muscle physiopathology
Skeletal muscle is the most abundant tissue in the body of vertebrates and represents a determinant of strength, endurance and physical performance. In addition to serve as a protein storage for the whole-body, the skeletal muscle also represents the primary target of the insulin-dependent glucose uptake, can regenerate after injury, and is subjected to size remodelling in response to mechanical loading or unloading. The muscle integrity can be compromised in several conditions, such as aging (sarcopenia) or in diseases like chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer, HIV, sepsis, immune disorders and muscular dystrophies. Our research is also focused to investigate the role of different proteins, including Caveolins, Cavins, TGF-Beta family members and muscle-specific enzymes, in the processes leading to skeletal muscle size remodelling due to physiological or pathological conditions.