PhD: Miriam Romano

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Each month we are going to be highlighting one of the PhD’s of the project so their work can be showcased. We continue with Miriam Romano, PhD in University of Brescia. We are asking the PhD’s five questions and here is how Miriam answered.

Good morning Miriam, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi! I’m Miriam Romano. I was born and raised on a little island (4 km2) called Procida, near Naples; that’s why I can barely survive without seeing the sea for too long. Since the very beginning, I had to get used to looking beyond the physical horizon given by the sea. So right after high school, I moved a lot, crossing Italy and Europe from the south to the north. I wanted to become a physiotherapist, but for serendipity, I got a biology degree. I immediately fell in love with the subject. Every lesson was like answering philosophical questions using molecules and actual data. In 2022 I got a Ph.D. in Precision Medicine, and I’m currently working as a research fellow in the lab headed by Prof. Paolo Bergese at the University of Brescia. During these years, I have been working on studying extracellular vesicles for their applications in nanomedicine as personalized diagnostics and therapeutics.

Could you explain your last discovery?

During the last year of my Ph.D., I have been involved in the bio-evaluation of the nano-building blocks used in BOW. Specifically, I focused on the biological characterization of the magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs), the synthetic core of the hybrid systems BOW aims to develop. I carried out most of the experiments at the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, where I work as a visiting Ph.D. student supervised by Dr. Sebastiano Di Bucchianico. All the work led to the writing of my last publication, “Synthesis and Characterization of a Biocompatible Nanoplatform Based on Silica-Embedded SPIONs Functionalized with Polydopamine.” We can fierily say that we were able to define a safe-by-design strategy to obtain MNPs with great stability in biological media and excellent biocompatibility, essential properties for nanomedicine applications.

Which is the advancement for science and technology that you are currently studying?

Well, MNPs are currently under the spotlight in nanomedicine as alternative contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or drug delivery systems. The problem is that their translational journey from the benchwork to clinics is often hindered by several roadblocks, mostly related to low solubility and toxicity concerns. Our safe-by-design approach can help provide MNPs with reduced risks, safeguarding their biological applications. But the paper also gives something more: a comprehensive and systematic biological characterization, from in vitro to in vivo, made possible thanks to fantastic networking and collaborations raised within BOW. And this is the upfront strength of the work.

Which would you say are the possible impacts on society?

It depends on how you see it. For BOW, these results represent a good starting point for setting up the MNP prototype to be covered with the EV membrane. On the other hand, this paper could inspire researchers working with MNP offering a solid methodology to test them from in vitro to in vivo. Thinking big, Do I see a real impact on society? Well, the journey is still long, but we are getting closer to the goal line step by step. Taking inspiration from a famous expression: “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”

Is there someone you want to acknowledge?

So many people. First, my supervisor(s), Prof. Paolo Bergese, Prof. Annalisa Radeghieri, Prof. Giuseppe Pomarico, and Dr. Sebastiano Di Bucchianico. My lab friends at the University of Brescia and the Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen. The BOW partners with whom I shared the journey that finally led to the publication. I believe in interdisciplinary teamwork, and this paper represents a clear expression.

Miriam’s scientific publication: