A recent study by research groups of Professor Raffaello and Professor Rosario Pizzuti of the University of Padua, which involved the Institute of Biomembranes, Bioenergetics and Molecular Biotechnologies (IBIOM), the University of Bari, the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Lyon and which also included Professor Viola’s group, has not only been published in the prestigious journal Science Signaling, but it also made the cover.

Dr Fabio Munari, co-author of the study and researcher of the immunity, inflammation and angiogenesis laboratory at the Pediatric Research Institute, tells us about the important implications that the study will have for research into new therapeutic alternatives for chronic inflammatory diseases in children. 

“Muscles are the most voluminous tissue in our organism. In fact half a healthy person’s weight is down to muscle tissue. Muscles are extremely important for our everyday life, because they allow us to stand, walk, eat and breathe. Moreover they are also our storage of glycogen, the main source of energy for our body.

The unique characteristic of muscle tissue is that it can regenerate after being damaged, such as, for example, a tear or a contusion. The regeneration process is very complex and involves different types of cells that, by communicating with each other, repair the damage and rebuild the damaged part. Macrophages, which are cells of the immune system in all our tissues, play a crucial role in this mechanism, acting as controllers. As soon as they detect a danger, that could be an infection or a damage, they go on alert and start cleaning the tissue of the invaders, or of the particles released by the damaged cells, and secreting the factors that stimulate the repair.

In our work we have found a protein (MCUb) that is used by the macrophages during muscle regeneration, to pass from the ‘alert’ state, after the damage, to the ‘regulator’ state. This is a crucial step to ensure the reconstruction of the tissue. Our study has proved that if this protein is missing in the macrophages, the muscles are no longer able to regenerate efficiently after a damage. 

This work is very important because it lays the foundation for understanding the mechanisms of the actions of the macrophages in different chronic inflammatory pathologies. In such cases the macrophages are always in an alert state and they cannot become regulators, such as for example rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and Crohn’s disease”.