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University of Ferrara

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Via Fossato di Mortara 64/b
44121 Ferrara

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Brief presentation of the institution

The Section of Histology and Embryology has developed high expertise in in vitro experimental cell models. Since 1994, we have focused our interest in the study of  the interaction between electromagnetic fields and biological systems by evaluating the influence of electromagnetic fields on the behaviour of several cell types (mainly osteoblast-like cells, chondrocytes, synoviocytes and mesenchymal stem cells). The aims of our studies are to investigate the cellular effects of electromagnetic stimulation and to understand its action mechanisms, to facilitate new therapy strategies. More recently we have focused our research on in vitro Electroporation and Electrochemotherapy (ECT). The Section of Histology and Embryology is part of the Department of Morphology, Surgery and Experimental Medicine at the University of Ferrara. The members are involved both in research and education.



Main Electroporation related topics

Major directions pursued in our group are cell membrane electroporation with its applications in medicine, particularly electrochemotherapy of cancer cells (ECT).

The main aims of our studies are:

1. the analysis and identification of optimal impulse protocols; specifically, in an in vitro model, we have studied how the modification of voltage and number of pulses applied to electropermeabilize cell membrane may influence the electroporation efficiency.

2. in vitro analysis of the effects of drugs on cell lines, in combination with electroporation, in order to improve ECT strategies.

3. in vitro preclinical validation of innovative electrodes developed for ECT application. Determination of biological effects derived by electroporation performed on cell cultures, by using novel electrodes with different geometry and configuration compared to those currently used in ECT.


Main Electroporation related research techniques and equipment

-Cliniporator EPS01 (Igea S.p.A., Carpi, Italy)

 - Spectrophotometer (Jenway 6305, Zetalab Padova, Italy)

 - Microplate Reader Sunrise (Tecan Trading AG, Switzerland )

 - Fluorescence microscope Nikon Eclipse TE 2000-E equipped with a digital camera (DXM1 200F) and filters: UV-1A ex 365/10 ( DAPI); B-2E/C ex 465-495 (FITC); G-2E/C ex 540/25 (TRITC) (Nikon Instruments Spa, Sesto Fiorentino (FI), Italy)

 - Phase Contrast Inverted Microscope DIAVERT (LEITZ)

 - Laboratory safety cabinet FASTER BH-EN 2005 (FASTER NETHERLANDS ZUID HOLLAND)

- CO2 incubator FORMA SeriesII Hepa Class100 (Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.)

 - Cooled centrifuge Thermo SL 16 R (Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.)

Research topics, techniques and equipment not related to Electroporation

Other fields of interest:

Cell Biology: We have developed good knowledge in the field of articular cartilage and synovial membrane metabolism by the utilization of in vitro experimental models. Our specific competence includes the analysis of metabolic markers of the chondrocyte and synoviocyte functions, the analysis of the synthesis of extracellular matrix components, involved in both normal and pathological conditions. The main purpose of our research is to assess new therapy strategies for the treatment of pathologies affecting cartilaginous tissues including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Main field of interest include: 1) analysis of the cellular effects of biophysical stimulation with pulsed electromagnetic fields, and its interaction with biochemical agents including growth factors and cytokines; 2) identification of molecular action mechanisms of pulsed electromagnetic fields.

Methods: experimental models: 1) cartilage explants, 2) chondrocytes, synoviocytes and mesenchymal stem cells cultured in monolayer. Biochemical and molecular markers of chondrocytes and synoviocytes activities (Proteoglycan release and synthesis, Nitric oxide release, Prostaglandin production, cyclooxygenase-2 and matrix metalloproteases expression, cytokine release)

Molecular Biology. Identification of genetic risk factors involved in the development of cancer and non-cancer diseases by the analysis of genetic polymorphisms. Pharmacogenetic analysis of the association between the genetic background of the patients and their clinical response to specific drugs.

Projects: 1) Analysis of folate polymorphisms in haematological malignancies. 2) Analysis of genetic polymorphism associated with anti-TNF therapy in rheumatoid arthritis.

Methods: DNA extraction, PCR, Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism, statistical analysis (univariate and multivariate logistic regression models).


Brief information on available facilites

-  laboratory for human and animal cell cultures

-  laboratory for biochemical analysis

-  laboratory for basic molecular biology techniques

 - laboratory for Histology and Immunohistochemistry (IHC)

 - Igea Cliniporator EPS01 (Igea S.p.A., Carpi, Italy)

- EMF generator system (IGEA, Carpi, Italy).

 - inverted fluorescence microscopes equipped with different sensitive  and fast camera

 - light microscopes and stereomicroscopes


Willingness to accept/host visiting researchers


  • Effects of biophysical stimulation on chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells.
    Project type: National
    Funding: Igea S.p.A.
  • Effects of electromagnetic stimulation on stem cells chondrogenic differentiation. (2011)
    Project type: National
    Funding: University of Ferrara


  • Monica De Mattei

    Position: Professor
  • Alessia Ongaro

    Position: Researcher
  • Agnese Pellati

    Position: technician

Project Office

Working groups

Steering Committee

Founding members

DC Rapporteurs

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