Institutional Research Information Service
UCL Logo
Please report any queries concerning the funding data grouped in the sections named "Externally Awarded" or "Internally Disbursed" (shown on the profile page) to your Research Finance Administrator. Your can find your Research Finance Administrator at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/finance/research/rs-contacts.php by entering your department
Please report any queries concerning the student data shown on the profile page to:

Email: portico-services@ucl.ac.uk

Help Desk: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ras/portico/helpdesk
 More search options
Dr Silvia Dragoni
Institute of Ophthalmology
United Kingdom
Dr Silvia Dragoni profile picture
  • Senior Research Fellow
  • Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Faculty of Brain Sciences

Since a very young age, I have been passionate about science with a specific interest in the biology of the vascular system. After my bachelor's and master’s degrees, I earned a PhD in physiology and neuroscience at the University of Pavia (IT), where I studied endothelial cells of blood vessels in physiological and pathological conditions. I then moved to the US as a post-doc fellow and finally landed at the UCL IoO to study vascular leakage in the retina. Last year I was awarded a Career Development Award from Moorfields Eye Charity to gain some time to apply for small funding and to collect pilot data for an intermediate fellowship application to establish my independent line of research.

Besides research, I have always cared a lot about teaching, and I have been involved in education first as a student tutor and supervisor and now as the lead of the teaching assistants for the Bioscience Entrepreneurship and the Research Pathways in Advanced Therapeutics MScs at the IoO. A few years ago, I received the associate fellowship from the Higher Education Academy and I am now a tutor for the UCL Arena One to help people apply for such fellowship and have their teaching experience officially recognised. 

Finally, I am a proud member of the IoO Full Stop team, which is part of the Equality team and has the task to raise awareness about bullying and harassment and foster a positive working environment where everyone can feel supported and reach their full potential.

Research Summary

My overall research has focussed on the regulatory role of the cytokine vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF) in endothelial cells (ECs), in physiological and pathological conditions. During my PhD, I worked with endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) harvested from human volunteers and discovered that VEGF-induced calcium (Ca2+) signals trigger the molecular mechanisms that drive EPC proliferation and tubulogenesis in the healthy adult. Further, I discovered that such pathways are altered in EPCs harvested from the peripheral blood of cancer patients. These contributions not only increased the understanding of Ca2+ signalling in EPCs, but also indicated novel potential targets for therapy. As a post-doc, my research has been focused on two different topics: 1) the process of lymphocyte migration across ECs of the blood-brain barrier and 2) the mechanisms by which VEGF and the pro-inflammatory peptide bradykinin induce permeability of retinal blood vessels. To measure real-time changes of endothelial permeability and signalling in intact retinal blood vessels, I established an ex-vivo model of vascular leakage using mouse retinas. 

Thereby I uncovered a phosphorylation cascade that links VEGF and bradykinin to the activation of AMPK, a protein kinase not previously associated with vascular leakage in the retina. My research showed that AMPK is a key mediator of VEGF- and bradykinin-induced vascular leakage downstream of Ca2+ signalling and upstream of eNOS signalling, to the junctional adhesion molecule vascular endothelial cadherin. Moreover, AMPK is upstream of the p38 stress kinase and the heath shock protein HSP27, which regulate actin rearrangement of the cells. My work, therefore, links three different signalling pathways into one signalling network that is activated by both VEGF and bradykinin. 

I then joined the lab of Prof. Christiana Ruhrberg, where I am now defining the role of the transmembrane protein neuropilin 1 (NRP1) in retinal ECs. 

My plan is to build on all the expertise I have acquired on Ca2+ signalling, endothelial cells, and retinal physiology to establish a research group that investigates how Ca2+ signals regulate the retinal vasculature in physiological conditions and how Ca2+ signals are dysregulated in retinal disease. 

Teaching Summary

Oct 2020 – to date: Lead of the post-graduate teaching assistants for the UCL Bioscience Entrepreneurship and the Research pathways and advanced therapeutics MScs. 

Feb 2020: Lecture on Platelet biology and anti-platelet agents for the Vascular Biology module (UCL).

Nov 2019: Lecture on Cancer and EMT (Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition) for the Ocular Cell Biology module (UCL).

Oct 2019: Lecture on Vascular Signalling for the Ocular Cell Biology module (UCL).

Academic supervision

Apr - Aug 2019: 1st supervisor of MSc student Jana Jiang for the dissertation library project in clinical ophthalmology (UCL).

Apr-Aug 2019: 1st supervisor of MSc student Hakim Navid for the dissertation library project in clinical ophthalmology (UCL).

2018 - 2022: Lab supervisor of PhD student Bruna Caridi January (UCL).

Oct 2012 – Dec 2013: 2nd supervisor of MSc student Anna Saitta (University of Pavia).

Mar 2011 – Feb 2012: 2nd supervisor of MSc student Mariana Tolve (University of Pavia).

01-JUN-2022 MEC Career Development Fellow Institute of Ophthalmology  , United Kingdom
01-OCT-2019 Senior Research Fellow Institute of Ophthalmology UCL, United Kingdom
Academic Background
2014   Doctor of Philosophy Universita degli Studi di Pavia
2010   Master of Science Universita degli Studi di Pavia
2008   Bachelor of Science Universita degli Studi di Pavia
    ATQ-11 Recognised by Advance HE as an Associate Fellow against Descriptor 1 of the UKPSF  
Some IRIS profile information is sourced from HR data as explained in our FAQ. Please report any queries concerning HR data shown on this page to hr-services@ucl.ac.uk.
University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT Tel:+44 (0)20 7679 2000

© UCL 1999–2011

Search by