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Prof Patrizia Ferretti
UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
30 Guildford Street
Prof Patrizia Ferretti profile picture
  • Professor of Regenerative Biology
  • Developmental Biology & Cancer Dept
  • UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
  • Faculty of Pop Health Sciences
Patrizia Ferretti’s initial background was in biology (University of Pisa, Italy) and neuropharmacology (Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research)/ neurobiology (post-doctoral Fellow Max Planck Institute, Goettingen, Germany). She then gained experience in molecular biology and organ regeneration in Prof. J.P. Brockes’ laboratory in London before setting up her own laboratory at the Eastman Dental Institute.

She has identified a number of cellular and molecular mechanisms which play a role in response to injury and repair and established useful models for the study of stem/progenitor cells; these include demonstrating:

  • changes in neural progenitors and in the extent of hemorrhage and apoptotic response following spinal cord injury are associated with impaired regenerative ability. Secondary response to injury can be reduced by targeting some of the pathways involved in these responses recently identified in her laboratory.

  • endogenous neuroblast migration can be effectively imaged in vivo by MRI using modified contrast agents.

  • the human spinal cord contains distinct and dynamic populations of neural precursors which are developmentally regulated and FGF signaling/FGFR1 seems important for maintaining the undifferentiated state in human neurospheres as in the regenerating salamander spinal cord.

  • PAD enzymes are important regulators of neural injury response in animal models and in human neural cells in vitro, where they are effectors of calcium-dependent apoptosis

  • new putative PAD inhibitors, developed through a close collaboration with medicinal chemists, are potential neuroprotective agents

  • paediatric ADSC are highly plastic and can be valuable for autologous cell therapy in children, and in combination with novel nanomaterials offer much promise for the repair of craniofacial deficits in these patients. This work is underpinned by valuable collaborations with clinicians and material scientists.

Altogether she has made a sustained and internationally recognized contribution to the regeneration field and the book on regeneration she edited (Cellular and Molecular Basis of Regeneration from Invertebrates to Humans; Eds. P. Ferretti and J. Geraudie. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 1998) was very well received and sold out. She has also had a major involvement in editing an electronic book on tissue engineering (2003, http://www.oulu.fi/spareparts/ebook_topics_in_t_e/list_of_contr.html) and a text entitled “Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects” (2006; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/book/10.1002/9780470090121).

Research Summary
Patrizia Ferretti has a long-standing interest in the basic mechanisms governing regeneration of a variety of complex body structures in vertebrates, and on the relationship between regeneration and the normal and abnormal development of such structures. Within this context her current work is mainly focused on issues of stem cell plasticity and differentiation potential and their underlying molecular basis, on how this could be used to develop models of human diseases, particularly childhood diseases, and on developing strategies for restoring functionality in damaged or diseased human tissues with a particular focus on the nervous system and craniofacial abnormalities.

Ongoing work:

  • Human somatic stem cell plasticity, with a particular focus on adipose-tissue-derived stem cells, and their potential for craniofacial tissue repair in combination with biocompatible scaffolds and morphometric analysis.

  • Human neural stem cell behavior and their use for establishing 3D models to study human neural development, response to injury (e.g. hypoxic- ischemic insult) and disease mechanisms.  This currently includes development of neural models from patients with Down’s syndrome and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

  • Role of the calcium-dependent enzymes, peptidylarginine deiminases, in health and disease.

  • Cellular and molecular basis underlying changes in the regenerative capability of the spinal cord.

Additional information on the Ferretti’s lab can be found at:

Keywords: Neural Stem Cells, Adipose Tissue-Derived Stem Cell, Regeneration, Repair, Injury, Hypoxia, Spinal Cord, Brain, Choroid Plexus, Craniofacial, Cartilage, Bone, Development, Differentiation, Apoptosis.

Diseases: Craniofacial Birth Defects, Down’s Syndrome, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Hydrocephalus, Ischaemic Stroke, Traumatic Injury.

Methods: Cell and organotypic cultures, Cell tracking, Cell transplantation, Gene and protein expression profiling, Immunohistochemistry, Fluorescence microscopy techniques, Confocal microscopy, Image analysis, In vivo electroporation, Ionophoresis and microinjection, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS), Light microscopic techniques, Microarrays, Proteomics, Pharmacological and genetic manipulations.

Species: Human, chick, rodent, amphibians.

Teaching Summary

Patrizia Ferretti’s academic posts have all been in postgraduate Institutions, hence her formal teaching has been mainly directed to postgraduate students. She has set up a new lecture course when she was a Lecturer at the Eastman Dental Institute and has contributed lectures to postgraduate and undergraduate courses at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UCL GOS-ICH), UCL and abroad (France and Italy) and to various short courses. 

She is co-Director of the MSc on ” Cell and Gene Therapy” at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and directors of two modules that are part of this course: she has designed, runs and is the tutor of the Stem Cells and Tissue Repair Module, and organizes and oversees the Laboratory Projects Module. She also continues to contribute to postgraduate teaching at UCL GOS-ICH and UCL.

She supervises several undergraduate and Master projects, in addition to PhD and MD students. She is also a member of the Research Degree Committee and of the Education Committee at UCL GOS-ICH.

Academic Background
1981   Doctor of Philosophy Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Milan, Italy
1978   Doctor of Philosophy Universita degli Studi di Pisa
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