Chiara Pretto

About myself

Chiara Pretto, (1992, Vicenza) received her M.Sc. in Medical Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technology at the University of Padua in 2016. During her master, she worked in the lab of Prof. T. Viitala (University of Helsinki) and Prof. S. Salmaso (University of Padua) on Surface Plasmon Resonance for in vitro biological characterization of drug nanocarriers. Between January and April 2017 she performed an internship at the Philochem Company (Zurich) working on antibody production. Since May 2017, she holds a PhD position in the group of Prof. J.C.M. van Hest at the Technology University of Eindhoven. Her work focuses on protein cages modified for cell selective delivery to retinal cells.

Protein cages modified for cell selective delivery to retinal cells

Posterior segment ocular diseases, such as AMD, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, are nowadays drastically spreading worldwide representing a challenge in the field of ophthalmological research. 

The lack of efficient ocular therapeutics imposes the investigation of innovative compounds and new strategies capable of facing the complex structure of the eye for the selective treatment of these pathologies. 

From this prospective, the Cowpea Chlorotic Mottle Virus (CCMV) represents an interesting tool for delivery applications because of its dynamic structure, high loading capacity as well as the suitability for internal and external functionalization. Indeed, viral particles are capable of self-assembly and disassembly in a reversible manner to form icosahedral–shaped cages in the presence or absence of the viral RNA at physiological conditions. Moreover, the N-terminus of capsid proteins, facing the inner cavity of the structure, is positively charged allowing the interaction and encapsulation of negatively charged species such as DNA, siRNA and anionic polymers. Furthermore, the presence of useful amino acid residues on the outer particle surface allows the covalent functionalization with targeting agents or stealth biopolymers.

All these factors contribute to form an ideal candidate for applications in the treatment of posterior segment ocular diseases. 

The aim of my project is to exploit CCMV particles for the encapsulation and targeted delivery of therapeutic siRNA into retinal cells and the validation of such a system both in vitro and in vivo.

Office: STO 3.23