Via Fossato di Mortara, 74 - 44121 Ferrara

Sezione: Biochimica Biologia Molecolare e Genetica Mediche

Unità di Medicina Rigenerativa

Responsabile: Prof. Roberta Piva


Regenerative Medicine Unit:

- BioMolecular Engineering Laboratory for Bone and Cartilage Repair -




Prof. Roberta Piva, group leader - Professor of Biochemistry, Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences, Faculty Appointment: Medicine, University of Ferrara

dr. Maria Letizia Penolazzi, Technician

dr. Elisabetta Lambertini, Fellowship

dr. Marco Angelozzi, PhD Student


Main Research Interests

“Osteogenic and chondrogenic differentiation: analysis of molecular and cellular aspects for regenerative medicine applications”

Experimental models: human primary cell cultures – Mesenchymal Stem Cells (hMSCs) from different sources (umbilical cord, amnios, bone marrow, adipose tissue, periodontal ligament), osteoblasts, chondrocytes from surgical specimens and osteoclasts from peripheral blood. Culture conditions: traditional two-dimensional (2D), static and dynamic (in bioreactor) three-dimensional (3D), co-colture systems, combination with biomaterials.

Experimental approaches and technologies: cell transfection (gene silencing, decoy, overexpression), regulation of gene expression analysis, DNA-protein interactions, protein-protein interactions, characterization of gene promoter activity, gene expression analysis.

Biomolecular investigation: this research field is mainly focused on comprehension of the molecular mechanisms underlying osteogenesis and chondrogenesis in human. Through modulation of gene expression by gene silencing or expression vectors employment, the role of specific transcription factors and microRNAs on differentiation process is investigated.

Aims: i. to define new molecular circuits involved in gene expression regulation and production of desired extracellular matrix; ii. to determine new therapeutic target for bone and cartilage tissue repair.

Cellular investigation: this research field is mainly focused on improvement of osteochondroprogenitors culture protocols, and set up of proper 3D culture systems mimicking bone and cartilage in vivo microenvironment.

Aims: i. to develop innovative cell culture models thanks to the use of  scaffolds, cellular encapsulation techniques, and a bioreactor with HARV technology; ii. to generate cell-based constructs as tissue engineering tools potentially implantable in vivo to repair cartilage or bone defects.

“Osteoclastogenesis and osteoclast behaviour”

Osteoclasts from peripheral blood of healthy volunteers or patients affected by different pathologies (osteoporosis, MRONJ, osteoarthritis) are combined with osteoblasts to in vitro generate the bone morphogenetic unit. The function of the two different cellular population is monitored in presence of different treatments aimed at modulating bone metabolism or apoptosis.

Aims: i. to develop an in vitro experimental platform (very close to in vivo situation) in order to test anabolic and catabolic activity of specific molecules (plant extracts, vitamins, nucleic acid based drugs, inhibitors or positive effectors of specific signaling pathways); ii. to study the alteration of osteoclast-osteoblast cross talk in specific pathological conditions.



In the course of many years of research activities the members of the Lab have started a serie of national and international collaboration programs with many laboratories.

At UniFE:

Prof. Leonardo Trombelli, Dipartimento di Scienze biomediche e chirurgico specialistiche

# Innovative combinations stem cells/biomaterials in dental field.

Prof. Antonio Pastore, Dipartimento di Scienze biomediche e chirurgico specialistiche.

# Characteristics and differentiation potential of chondrocytes and osteoblasts from cranio-facial district.

Prof. Claudio Nastruzzi, Dipartimento di Scienze della vita e biotecnologie

# Biomaterials for osteochondroprogenitors.

Prof. Roberto Gambari, Dipartimento di Scienze della vita e biotecnologie

# Gene expression regulation.



Dr. Gina Lisignoli: Laboratorio di Immunoreumatologia e rigenerazione tissutale, Istituto di Ricerca Codivilla-Putti, Istituti Ortopedici Rizzoli, Bologna

# Bone and cartilage repair: analysis of new biomarkers.

Prof. Assunta Pandolfi: Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Università di Chieti

# Stem cells and aging.

Dr. Stephen Badylak, Department of Surgery, and deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, USA.

# Decellularized matrix as scaffold.

Dr. Gerjo van Osch, Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam Department of Orthopaedics and Otorhinolaryngology,  Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

# Validation of molecular target by in vivo models.


In addition to the above mentioned laboratories, Roberta Piva lab is in contact with other  Research Centers including:

- Ivo Kalajzic lab, Center for Regenerative Medicine and Skeletal Development, Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT, USA  (http://regenerativemedicine.uchc.edu/faculty/bios/kalajzic.html)

- Fulvio Mavilio Research programs at GENETHON, Parigi (http://www.genethon.fr/en/)

- Centre for Regenerative Medicine “Stefano Ferrari”, Università di Modena (http://www.cmr.unimore.it/home.html)

- Cosimo De Bari lab, University of Aberdeen, Regenerative Medicine Group - Musculoskeletal Research Programme, Institute of Medical Sciences, Aberdeen – UK

- Marco Tripodi lab, Dipartimento di Biotecnologie Cellulari ed Ematologia - Sapienza Università di Roma (https://web.uniroma1.it/sssas/node/5784)

- Umberto Galderisi lab, Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Seconda Università di Napoli (http://www.umbertogalderisi.it/)


Further Info:

External Responsibilities

Roberta Piva is:

- Member of PhD in Molecular Medicine and Pharmacology

- Coordinator of a Research Unit of CIB (Consorzio Italiano di Biotecnologie)

- Member of the Board of Stem Cell Research Society


- Author of 140 papers in international, peer-reviewed journals


Useful links:




Student opportunities:

Roberta Piva lab offers a variety of topics for master or PhD theses for students of various disciplines (e.g. biological sciences, biotechnology, pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, sport science).

For further information please contact piv@unife.it or just visit us (Via Fossato di Mortara n. 74).