TO Luca Peruzzotti Jametti, Italian neurologist and researcher at Cambridge University (Uk), go the Rita Levi Montalcini Award for his research in the area of regenerative neuroimmunology for progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (Sm). Born in 1983, originally from Somma Lombardo (Varese), the scientist focused on understanding the cellular metabolism of the immune system as a new vision useful for understanding the neurodegenerative processes of progressive MS and for developing new experimental therapies. For this commitment, the FISM, the Italian Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, awarded him the award named after the Italian Nobel Prize for Medicine, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his death, as part of the annual congress that brings together 250 researchers from all over the world to discuss the strategic guidelines for the coming years and codify the priorities for the 2025 Agenda of the MS and related diseases.
Peruzzotti Jametti, with a degree in Medicine and Surgery and specialization in Neurology at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, boasts a long curriculum studded with experiences abroad and has written over 47 original articles on MS, of which 10 as first or last author, with publications in high-impact scientific journals. In 2018 he obtained a PhD in Clinical Neuroscience in Cambridge thanks to a scholarship and currently works as a researcher and neurologist in the laboratory directed by Stefano Pluchino, who in turn won the Montalcini Prize in 2007. Together, they are changing the vision and the prospects for the treatment of progressive forms of Sm.
Peruzzotti Jametti is studying how disease progression works by focusing on the link between immune cell metabolism and chronic neuroinflammation. A research that began thanks to a scholarship from Fism, which received recognition from the Italian Embassy in London (Italy Made Me Award), from the Cambridge Society for the Application of Research and from the Wellcome Trust with a Clinical Research Career Development Fellowship. In awarding him the award, the Italian Multiple Sclerosis Association Aism, with its Fism Foundation, trusts that Peruzzotti Jametti will be able to keep his promise to trace a path for the treatment of progressive MS.
“I am a neurologist with a passion for scientific research, a husband and a father – says Peruzzotti Jametti – Two weeks ago our second daughter, Yael, was born, just as I received the letter announcing the award of the Rita Levi Prize. Montalcini. For me it has a wonderful meaning. It is the honor of a lifetime, which I care a lot. Both for Rita Levi Montalcini, a hard-to-replicate scientist, who has given a lot and traveled a lot like me. I feel I can share your openness. mind built also by meeting other worlds beyond the one she was born in. But even more, I care a lot about this recognition because it was won several years ago by my mentor, Stefano Pluchino. In some way for me this victory is like a legacy that leaves me, the confirmation of the value of a research school. It is a booster, a propulsive rocket to get to give many people with progressive SM the answers they are waiting for to better live their own life. Great accolades come with great responsibilities: today I leave with the conviction and commitment to do everything that needs to be done “.
The scientist’s studies on Sm start from those on another pathology, stroke, and on cell damage induced by ischemia. “After graduating in Medicine in 2007 – he says – I graduated in Neurology in 2013. In those years I dealt with stroke, which at the time was a totally separate world from MS. But studying oxygen deficiency (hypoxia) and metabolism in nerve cells affected by stroke, I have laid the foundations for an innovative approach to SM, based on the study of the role of metabolism in the processes of chronic inflammation that characterize progressive forms of SM “.
To explain his work, the scientist borrows a phrase from the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach: “‘Man is what he eats’ and this is absolutely true above all on a cellular level. What cells ‘eat’ and their metabolism, i.e. the way they process their own nourishment and transform it into energy – highlights Peruzzotti Jametti – it guides the activity of every single cell under normal conditions and also under disease conditions. This is the basic idea that has guided all my scientific research“.
Research in recent years has shown that the cells of the innate immune system, in particular microglia and macrophages, are those most involved in secondary progressive MS. In particular, when a patient progresses from relapsing-remitting MS to secondary progressive MS, there is persistent activation of innate immunity cells within the central nervous system, resulting in neurodegeneration. In the central nervous system of patients with progressive SM, a consistent presence of lesions is identified that make different areas of the brain resemble a sort of ‘burnt forest’ around which a perennially active ‘circle of fire’ persists. It is a state of chronic inflammation that continues to expand even without attacks that produce relapses. The brain slowly continues to ‘burn’, to lose resilience, to age earlier, faster than in those without SM. This degenerative process is largely mediated by microglia and macrophages.
With his studies, Peruzzotti Jametti is trying to understand why these immune cells continue to generate that chronic state of inflammatory activity responsible for neurodegeneration, and above all how to intervene to extinguish that ‘fire’, preserve what is globally defined the neurological reserve and promote the resilience of the living nervous tissue, which would be destined to burn, slowing down aging.
The studies conducted are demonstrating the effectiveness of different approaches to modify the metabolism of innate immune cells within the central nervous system and change their function, so that they no longer do damage, but promote the resilience of the nervous tissue and, if possible, its regeneration.