Portrait of Dr Romina Vuono

Dr Romina Vuono

Lecturer in Biological Sciences/Neurosciences and Brain Diseases

About

Dr Romina Vuono obtained her first degree (Laurea Magistrale) in Biological Science at the University of Calabria (Italy) in 2003 and MSc (2nd level) in Biotechnology in 2005. Following this, Romina completed her PhD in Molecular Bio-Pathology (Neuroscience) at the same University in 2009. Her PhD thesis focused on the molecular effect of two novel tau mutations identified in a patient with Frontotemporal Dementia. Whilst at the University of Calabria, she was also Teaching Assistant for the Molecular Biology (Biological Sciences degree) and Biotechnology (Biotechnology, MSc 2nd level) courses. 

In early 2010, Romina moved to the University of Cambridge and spent 9+ years at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences where she gained a wide experience across the basic and clinical neurosciences. Her post-doctoral research focused mainly on a) the role of tau in Huntington’s disease (HD), showing for the first time a novel role of tau in the pathogenic process and clinical expression of HD, and b) the sleep and circadian phenotype of patients with early-stage Parkinson’s disease (PD). She also contributed to several projects looking at TREM2 as a major determinant of Alzheimer’s disease pathology in Down Syndrome. Beside this, she has been involved in many international collaborations such as the European Consortia (TRANSEURO and NeuroStemCellRepair) looking at the pathology across the PD and HD brain using high throughput technology platforms (Tissue Microarrays) to identify new genetic modifiers. More collaborative external research was conducted with the Laboratories of Stem Cell Biology and Pharmacology of Neurodegenerative Disease (University of Milan, Milan, Italy), Stem Cell Neurobiology (Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden) and the Department of Experimental Medical Science (Wallenberg Neuroscience Center, Lund, Sweden). The above collaborations focused on stem cell work and in particular on 1) the use of foetal tissues to derive cortical and striatal neurons to understand the molecular and functional definition of the developing human striatum; 2) the development of a protocol for the differentiation of midbrain dopaminergic neurons - using human foetal mesencephalic tissue - to be transplanted in patients with PD; 3) culturing human adult skin fibroblasts in order to derive neurons modelling brain diseases in vitro. 

Dr Romina Vuono was appointed lecturer in Biological Sciences with specialty in Neurosciences and Brain Diseases at the Medway School of Pharmacy (MSoP), University of Kent, in September 2019. She also holds an Honorary Research Associate position at the University of Cambridge.

SPECIALIST AREAS
Neuropathology, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Neurogenetics, Cognitive Neuroscience, Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, Traumatic Brain Injury, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Frontotemporal dementia, Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy-Regenerative Medicine, Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Research Ethics.

ORCID iD https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5162-3422

Research interests

Research in Dr Vuono’s lab focuses on uncovering the molecular mechanism behind protein misfolding and accumulation in toxic aggregates (e.g. tau tangles, amyloid plaques, Lewy bodies), which may trigger neurodegeneration. We are particularly interested in understanding how environmental factors (e.g. trauma, bacteria, viruses, toxins) interact with genetics and influence the onset and progression of neurodegenerative disorders. Our current and ongoing research is looking at the role of tau in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a widely discussed but poorly understood risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Each year, millions worldwide suffer TBI from road accidents, collision sports and falls. Awareness of the longer-term effects of TBI has increased in recent years with media coverage of repeated head injury in sport which leads to behavioural and cognitive problems. Indeed, extensive tau pathology, similar to that found in AD, has been described in brains of individuals exposed to repetitive head injury such as boxers, football players, and former military personnel with a history of blast- and military related concussion. Despite this, TBI is understudied and the underlying mechanisms leading to AD and PD are still unknown. Dr Vuono’s lab employs multidisciplinary approach and cutting-edge technologies to analyse brain tissue from people who had sustained TBI. In particular, we investigate whether the brain trauma may trigger abnormal structural changes in AD and PD-associated proteins and eventually lead to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles or Lewy bodies, well-known pathological features of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Looking onwards, this research may pave the way to a better understanding of the molecular basis of AD and PD, which will not only explain why most people develop these conditions later in life, but most importantly will lead to the discovery of novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. 

COLLABORATORS

Prof Michael Coleman, University of Cambridge, Department of Clinical Neurosciences; Dr Kieren Allinson, Cambridge Brain Bank, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University Hospital; Prof David Klenerman, University of Cambridge and UK Dementia Research Institute, Department of Chemistry.

KEY PUBLICATIONS AND RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Full list of publications available on PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Romina+Vuono

Vuono R et al, Association between TLR4 and TREM2 genetic variants and clinical progression in patients with Huntington’s disease, Mov Disord, 2019, Nov 14. doi: 10.1002/mds.27911

Vuono R, Stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease: Researching for an effective cure, www.eyenews.uk.com, Dec/Jan 2016. https://www.eyenews.uk.com/features/ophthalmology/post/stem-cell-therapy-for-parkinson-s-disease-researching-for-an-effective-cure

Vuono R et al, The role of tau in the pathological and clinical expression of Huntington’s disease, Brain. 2015 Jul;138(Pt 7):1907-18. doi: 10.1093/brain/awv107

Research Highlights:

August 2015: The paper Vuono R et al, Brain 2015, was selected by the Huntington Study Group as one of the most influential papers in the Huntington’s disease field of 2014-2015 and cited in HD insights, the global Huntington disease research periodical. http://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/579310-vol-12-fall-2015/15? 

May 2015: The paper Vuono R et al, Brain 2015, was highlighted in Nature Reviews Neurology volume 11, 310 (2015) Published online 26 May 2015. doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2015.87 
https://www.nature.com/articles/nrneurol.2015.87

Vuono R*, Breen DP* et al, Sleep and circadian rhythm regulation in early Parkinson’s disease, JAMA Neurol, 2014 May;71(5):589-595. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.65
*The authors have contributed equally to the work

Vuono R*, Anfossi M* et al, Compound heterozygosity of 2 novel MAPT mutations in frontotemporal dementia. Neurobiol Aging. 2011 Apr;32(4):757.e1-757.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2010.12.013
*The authors have contributed equally to the work

Teaching

Dr Vuono has a wide experience in teaching Basic and Clinical Neurosciences, Pathology, Histology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Genomics, Biotechnology, Biomedical Research Techniques, Stem Cell Therapy-Regenerative Medicine, and Research Ethics to Undergraduates and Postgraduates Students. 
She is currently teaching neuroscience and physiology related courses (modules listed below) to undergraduate Pharmacy students at the MSoP:
PHAM 1126 “Medicines and Disease - Brain, Psychiatry and Eyes” 
PHAR 1034 “Endocrine and Gastrointestinal Pharmacology” 
PHAR 1058 “Drugs and diseases” 
PHAR 1041 “Advanced Neuropharmacology”  
PHAR 1038 “Neuropharmacology” 
PHAM 1087 “Advanced Neuroscience”

Supervision

Dr Vuono is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students. 

Fully-Funded PhD studentship currently available - for more details visit https://www.kent.ac.uk/scholarships/search/FN24MSOPVC01

Self-funded applicants and those who have access to international scholarship applications, please contact Dr Romina Vuono directly (rv227@kent.ac.uk).

Professional

Research Lead of the Parkinson’s UK East of Anglia Research Group 
Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Regular peer review activity

Member of National and International Societies
British Neuropathological Society
British Neuroscience Association
Society for Neuroscience

Member of Academic Committees at the MSoP
Health & Safety
Students Wellbeing and Working Group 
Outreach Research Group

OTHERS
Founder and Director of the Dance Programme “Dancing 4 Parkinson’s”
Professional Dance Artist - People Dancing
Member of The Royal Academy of Dance
Member of One Dance UK

Publications