Genetics and cell biology

Reproductive sciences

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Group Leader

Paola ViganĂ²

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Research focuses on pre-implantation embryo development, the onset of uterine receptivity, the regulation of implantation and decidualization and the causes of endometriosis. Specifically, the main interests include:

  • the characterization and role of extracellular vesicles (EVs) in human reproduction;
  • the molecular mechanisms underlying the endometrial receptivity;
  • the genotypic and phenotypic variability in endometriosis.

The close collaboration with the Assisted Reproduction Unit, performing about 1,500 ovarian stimulation cycles/year, offers the possibility to validate the results of preclinical studies in a large cohort of patients.

Research activity

Main projects are the following:
  1. The characterization and role of EVs in human reproduction. Increasing importance for all aspects of inter-cell communications is acknowledged to EVs.Unit aims is to characterize EVs secreted by human preimplantation embryos in the culture media and investigate both their potential use as embryo health status fingerprints and their potential internalization by the maternal compartment. Moreover, the group aims to investigate the EV profile of the endometrial receptive phase in order to identify a profile of endometrial receptivity.
  2. The molecular mechanisms underlying the endometrial receptivity. Embryo implantation is thought to involve a two-way communication between maternal uterus and the blastocyst. Understanding molecular signaling networks that coordinate strategies for successful implantation may lead to approaches to improve the outcome of natural pregnancy and pregnancy conceived from in vitro fertilization.
  3. The genotypic and phenotypic variability in endometriosis. The genetic component contributes to about half of the variance associated with the risk of endometriosis. Group aims is to identify both common and rare variants associated with the disease in the Italian population and to correlate these variants to the various forms and manifestations of the disease.