Rovatti - 25 years old, from Verona and just graduated from the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Medicine and Surgery - works in the laboratory of Immunogenetics, genomics and immunobiology of leukemias directed by Luca Vago. The award-winning research concerns a particular type of relapse of Acute Myeloid Leukemia, in which tumor cells, following bone marrow transplantation, hide from T lymphocytes through the mutation of some proteins present on their membrane. Together with colleagues from the unit headed by Luca Vago, Rovatti is currently testing mice, a particular antibody that can make the tumor visible again to the immune system, thus negating the "trick" used by the disease.
The mechanisms underlying beta thalassemia
Born in the province of Alessandria, Annamaria Aprile also graduated from the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, in Medical Biotechnology, took a PhD in Rome-Tor Vergata and then returned to the IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele, in the direct unit by Giuliana Ferrari at the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy. Aprile's work comes out of the oncology field and concerns a rare genetic blood disease, beta thalassemia, very common in the Mediterranean area. In beta thalassemia red blood cells are incapable - due to a genetic mutation - of transporting oxygen efficiently. Aprile's research showed for the first time that even blood stem cells - from which red blood cells are derived - behave abnormally in sick patients. According to the first results obtained by the group, modifying the bone marrow microenvironment, in which these cells live, could constitute a new therapeutic strategy.
Prof. Fabio Ciceri, Professor of Hematology UniSR, head of the Operative Unit of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation and Scientific Vice Director for Clinical Research of the San Raffaele Hospital, concludes:
"We are particularly proud of our young students. The awards are not only a demonstration of the excellence of the research carried out in our laboratories, but testify that we are growing a new generation of doctors and scientists who will make the difference".