Paolo Codega

Postdoc at Doetsh Lab, Columbia University.

paolo codega

From Trieste to New York, driven by the passion of research. In one sentence this is the story of Paolo Codega, young neurobiologist and active traveller.

He studied Medical Biotechnology at the University of Trieste, his native city, where he met Vincent Torre, coordinator of the Neurobiology Sector of SISSA.  He decided to apply for the PhD position, and in 2005 he entered in Torre’s lab.

Paolo’s first research project focused on the correlation between photoreceptors and gene regulations. This aspect was almost unknown: in vertebrate photoreceptors light adaptation is mediated by multiple mechanisms, but the genomic contribution to these mechanisms was never studied before.

SISSA team investigated changes of gene expression using microarrays and real-time PCR in isolated photoreceptors, in cultured isolated retinas and in acutely isolated retinas. In all these three preparations, after 2 hours of exposure to a steady light, they observed an up-regulation of three specific genes, coding for proteins known to play a major role in phototransduction. This shed a new light on the concept of up-regulation itself, which was proved to have intensity-dependent characteristics.

After this first important result, Paolo decided to enhance his research field.  In 2009, the big change: he left Trieste to hold a Postdoc position at the Doetsh Lab of Columbia University, New York, where he currently lives.

Here he studies the neurobiology of stem cells of human brain. Stem cells residing in germinal regions in the adult brain continuously generate large numbers of neurons, which become integrated into neural circuits. In mammals, new neurons are incorporated into areas important for olfaction and for memory formation. The addition of thousands of neurons each day provides a powerful means of sculpting brain circuitry.

Although the functional consequences of adult neurogenesis are not yet understood, much has been learned about their cellular lineage. The Doetsh Lab found that the stem cells for in vivo adult neurogenesis are a subset of astrocytes, which generate neurons via an intermediate short-lived transit amplifying cell. The identification of the in vivo stem cells as astrocytes raises the exciting possibility that other brain astrocytes may be latent stem cells.

According to Paolo Codega, this research on the biology of neural stem cells is key to understanding brain repair and neural pathologies, including tumors, and may also lead to insights in other stem cell fields.


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