Kidney disease: The Italian researcher Paola Romagnani wins the third ERC grant

Funding from the European Research Council has been awarded to the University of Florence lecturer and chief physician at Meyer for research on the role of gender in kidney disease. The Florentine researcher, the only Italian in the field of Life Sciences, is the author of over 190 publications in international journals and has received numerous awards in her career.

Malattie renali

After receiving last year's international lifetime achievement award for "outstanding contribution to research in the field of nephrology" from the prestigious European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association, Paola Romagnani, Professor of Nephrology at the University of Florence and head of the Complex Operative Unit of Nephrology and Dialysis at the Azienda Ospedaliero-universitaria Meyerwon a Advanced Grant of the European Research Council (ERC). 

Paola Romagnani

What are ERC grants?

They are the most sought-after form of European scientific funding and are awarded to leading researchers in their field internationally to implement innovative ideas. For the Florentine researcher this is the third victory after a starting grant in 2008 and a consolidator grant in 2015, funding always aimed at developing treatments to fight kidney disease.

The success of Romagnani in the three categories represents a totally exceptional event in Europe. Romagnani's five-year project - called SIMPOSION, an acronym for Sexual dimorphIsM in renal PrOgenitors to explain gender- Specificity In kidney physiOlogy aNd diseases - received funding of EUR 2.3 million.

"With this new funding, I will be working with my research unit on a project to understand why many kidney diseases occur differently in men and women". explains Romagnani - In particular, kidney disease in general progresses more rapidly towards kidney failure in men, while women of childbearing age are more protected, although they may develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, a frequent complication in which the kidney plays a central role. In addition, kidney tumours are more frequent in men. The reason for these different frequencies is unknown to date, which in many cases hinders the development of appropriate therapies that take gender differences into account". "We think we understand why this happens - concludes - and we proposed a research project to the ERC to test our hypothesis, which evidently convinced the committee.

Among the studies that carry his name and which have attracted the attention of the international scientific community, one has obtained the cover of the prestigious scientific journal Science Translational Medicine. The article, for the first time in the world, demonstrates that kidney cancer originates from stem cells "gone mad" following acute kidney damage, suggesting new strategies for the prevention and treatment of kidney cancers. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Meyer, University of Florence and Careggi and financed byItalian Association for Cancer Research and fromEuropean Research Council.

With 330,000 new diagnoses every year, kidney cancer it is among the ten most frequent in the Western world, the seventh in Europe, where every year there are more than 100,000 new cases.

Risk factors

They are smoking, obesity and some toxic substances, but most cases arise without a clear risk factor.

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