The teams in the Department of Cell Biology and Infection are seeking to develop a detailed understanding of the workings of cells and how they interact with their environment, especially during the infectious process. The aim is to be able to predict how cells will react in the event of an infection or in other pathological contexts, to help combat disease. The department's research projects touch on a wide range of health-related areas:
- infections: chlamydia, emerging viruses (such as chikungunya, Zika and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)), meningitis (meningococcal, pneumococcal and Listeria), intestinal infections (e.g. Shigella and Salmonella) and respiratory infections (including tuberculosis);
- neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and prion diseases), often caused by the abnormal accumulation of a protein in the brain which forms aggregates, leading to the dysfunction or progressive degeneration of neurons;
- cancer: the department's teams investigate the biological processes governing cell division and migration to understand how the disruption of these phenomena can contribute to cancer proliferation and the spread of tumor cells through the body. This research is often related to studies on cell senescence and the mechanisms of aging;
- the role of the microbiota, or physiological bacterial flora, in maintaining homeostasis and in the development of various diseases is also analyzed.
Investigating biological phenomena at cell and tissue level and identifying the molecular players involved requires both advanced microscopy techniques and scientific expertise to analyze the results. The department therefore develops:
- in vitro and ex vivo models to study diseases, particularly microfluidic cell culture and organoid models in conjunction with the C2RT;
- advanced imaging techniques to observe infinitely small details (especially with the Ultrastructural BioImaging technology and service unit and the Photonic BioImaging technology and service unit) and methods to analyze the resulting images using algorithms developed by the department's engineers;
- genomics and proteomics tools to understand how the way in which bacteria behave and interact with the organism they are infecting can be changed by adjusting their genetic program;
- approaches devised by physicists and mathematicians, in collaboration with the department's biologists, to obtain a quantitative description of the dynamic, complex biological processes studied in the laboratory.