The project TREM2MICROENGINES aims at demonstrating that raising and restoring TREM2 expression in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Nasu–Hakola disease (NHD) patients, and in particular in their microglia, would result in therapeutic benefit. AD is a severe neurodegenerative disorder that represents the most frequent form of dementia among the elderly which affects approximately 5.1 million Americans and this number is supposedly tripled by 2050. AD is believed to result from the deposition of extracellular amyloid-β (Aβ)-containing plaques. TREM2-Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 is a microglia cell-surface receptor whose deficiency or haplo-insufficiency augments Aβ accumulation due to a dysfunctional response of cells, which become apoptotic. Homozygous, loss-of-function mutations in TREM2 also cause the autosomal recessive disorder NHD, a ultra-rare inherited disease of the white matter (WM) with typical onset in the adult age, and patho-physiologically characterized by microglial dysfunction (microgliopathy). The key clinical feature of NHD is progressive presenile dementia usually leading to death in the fifth decade of life NHD patients also lack curative treatments. A relevant proportion of AD cases and all forms of NHD are caused by pathogenic mutations in the Trem2 gene which lead to microglia dysfunction contributing to and/or causing the onset and manifestations of AD and NHD. Based on this provision, our working hypothesis is that transplantation of HSCs engineered by LVs to express robust TREM2 levels in response to tissue damage in CNS-engrafted myeloid/microglia cells would modulate neuroinflammation, restore physiological microglia functions and contribute preventing and reducing Aβ accumulation in the CNS of AD and NHD patients. No existing approaches currently allow targeting microglia dysfunction in AD or in NHD, nor at enhancing microglia specific function through a microglia-targeted TREM2 delivery/engineering.
The research will identify and raise awareness about the audiovisual conventions and communication tactics of animation in multimedia science outreach, in respect to the representation of invisible objects (too big, too small, too far away in space and time). The research is in the field of animated documentary, a major point in the Animation Studies agenda (Honess Roe, 2013). It is also based on the epistemology of scientific communication; as Daston and Galison argued (2007), «truth-to-nature» objectivity is being superseded by visuals balancing art and science. Merleau-Ponty (1964) had previously called for an equilibrium between objectivity and subjectivity in science outreach, due to the new “invisible” frontiers of knowledge. The action will start with 12 months at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, whose excellence in visual research and its interdisciplinary environment will support the Researcher in: 1) building a list of animations in multimedia science outreach from 1980; 2) critically engaging the conventions and tactics from the point of view of animation theory, 3) of animators and 4) of scientists (in dialogue with the resident experts on data visualization). The next 12 months will be hosted by the Department of Cultural Heritage of the University of Padova, Italy. With the collaboration of the Department of Information Engineering and the CICAP (the Italian committee for scientific skepticism), the results from the outgoing phase will be used to: a) create an open access database of multimedia science outreach about the “invisible”; b) set up educational actions; c) create a permanent committee to promote good practices in animation for science. The Researcher will take advantage of his expertise in animation history and theory, his contacts with the industry and with animation schools, and his teaching experience. The research will consolidate his career and make him a mediator between academia, scientists, and filmmakers.
EcoSF investigates the prominence and distinctive representation of ecological issues in Italian science fiction (1952-2019). The project, which provides one of the very first extensive academic studies dedicated to this genre in Italy, examines the debate surrounding its cultural status and traces its evolution in relation to Italian history and culture. An ecocritical perspective is adopted, interrogating the relationship between literary imagination and the environment. Through such approach, EcoSF shows how literature is important to generate awareness of ecological issues and explore literary responses to the current ecological crisis. The cognitive estrangement raised by the imaginative effort of science fiction is central to the necessary re-thinking of current cultural and epistemological paradigms based on anthropocentrism, human exceptionalism, and ecophobia. Furthermore, by interrogating our current relationship with the environment, and imagining known environments after ecological catastrophes, science fiction can provide a tool to investigate our cultural heritage. Combining the innovative critical tools of ecocriticism and the speculative imagination of science fiction, EcoSF offers an alternative genealogy of our understanding of the environment outside an ecophobic perspective. The dissemination of the research will adapt dystopian imagination to the case of Venice, thus employing the theoretical categories of the project to reflect on local communities and landscapes.