CNR - Institute of Neuroscience CNR
Institute of Neuroscience


The Padua section of the Institute of Neuroscience is the result of the fusion of three CNR Centres. Two date back to the late 50s (one is the Centre for the Study of Muscle Physiopathology and the other for the Study of Mitochondria Phsiology), while the third (the Centre of Ageing) was founded in the early 70s. In fact, the birth of the current Padua section can be traced all the way back to 1945, when the Centre for the Study of Physiopathology was founded in Rome. Guido Vernoni, a pupil of Camillo Golgi, who was also director of the Institute of General Pathology at the Sapienza University of Rome, was appointed Director. This placement of the CNR Centres within the University reflects the intuition of the CNR's President at the time, Gustavo Colonnetti. Colonnetti advocated the creation of small- and medium-sized CNR centres within the university since he believed that this could provide the best synergy between the two largest scientific research institutions of Italy, the CNR itself and the various universities.

The original centre potentiated the research activities dedicated to the study of structural and functional alterations in skeletal and myocardial muscle in a series of pathologies with different origins: ischemic, nutritional, and genetic (dystrophies). These studies were carried out essentially by Massimo Aloisi and his collaborators G.F. Azzone, Bonetti, Corsi, and others. Aloisi, after Vernoni's retirement, became the new Director and thus the CNR Centre for the Study of Physiopathology moved first to the University of Modena, in 1954, where the research activity was potentiated by Aloisi's group and new students (E. Carafoli, A. Margreth, S. Schiaffino, among others). Subsequently, with Aloisi's move to Padua in 1958, the Centre was relocated to the Institute of General Pathology at the University of Padua, in via Loredan 16. The old formula of establishing collaboration protocols and a convention with the University was again renewed, and this turned out to be a particularly successful one.

The existence of this Centre guaranteed the availability of secure funding, which allowed a steady and continuous investment in high-end equipment, year after year. Perhaps the most noteworthy example was the acquisition of the first electron microscope in Padua. Furthermore, the Centre provided several fellowships and opened new positions for CNR research scientists (ricercatore CNR), attracting many brilliant young people who thus initiated their scientific career. Research was intensified on the mechanisms of muscle degeneration and regeneration (following different events of motorneuron degeneration), and new studies were launched on the biochemistry and physiopathology of mitochondria. The latter play a fundamental role in the life of all cells, in particular in neurons and muscle fibres. Mitochondrial research was developed above all by G.F. Azzone and, as an example of scientific osmosis, also by the group of N. Siliprandi, located in the nearby Institute of Biological Chemistry. These new developments were so much appreciated by the CNR that, in 1964, a new Centre was established in Padua, dedicated to "Mitochondrial Physiology". The same institutional rapport was established with the University of Padua and the new CNR Centre was located at the Institutes of Biological Chemistry and General Pathology, under the co-direction of Siliprandi and Azzone. Meanwhile, the Centre for the Study of Physiopathology had been renamed to CNR Centre for the Study of Muscle Biology and Physiophathology, and its direction passed to A. Margreth in 1971.

A fundamental development due to these two Paduan CNR Centres was the creation, also due to the opening of new positions by the CNR, of research groups made up of scientists not only with different scientific backgrounds (medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, etc), but also from various geographical origins, including numerous European and American researchers. In parallel, many young Paduan researchers were able to spend long periods at prestigious research centres in Europe and America, which further enriched the research quakity of these two CNR centres. Consequently, new research projects were pursued, many with innovative experimental approaches. This critical mass of people, laboratories, funding, and cutting-edge equipment generated scientific results of absolute excellence, awarding Padua a role of distinction within the biomedical research community. Notable examples include the discovery of new biochemical components of muscle, the characterization of myosin isoforms and other muscle components through the generation of very specific monoclonal antibodies, the elucidation of the role of Ca2+ and K+ ion fluxes through the internal mitochondrial membrane, and the stoichiometry between produced ATP and reducing equivalents.

In 1987, Stefano Schiaffino took over from A. Margreth, while G.F. Azzone was replaced by Cesare Montecucco. The latter's CNR Centre was renamed Centre for the Study of Biomembranes (in stead of the original Centre for the Study of Mitochondrial Physiology), to bring it in line with the latest changes in scientific interests. The scientific excellence of both centres was maintained and even increased with fundamental discoveries in the areas of Cell Biology and a growing interest in areas of neurobiology.

Meanwhile, in 1994, a CNR Centre for the Study of Ageing had been created. From its inception, the Centre was directed by G. Crepaldi, and located in the Teaching Hospital at the School of Medicine of the University of Padua. The main mission of this Centre was to support the ongoing "Progetto Finalizzato Invecchiamento", and in particular the ILSA Study (Italian Longitudinal Study on Ageing). The main focus of the research was the epidemiology of chronic diseases in ageing, with emphasis on neurological conditions such as dementia, Parkinsonism, and stroke.

In 2002, following the reform of the CNR, the Padua Centres were united into the Padua section of the CNR Institute of Neuroscience.