Professor Giovanni Scapagnini MD PhD
Assistant Professor, Institute of Neurological
Sciences, Italian National Research Council, Catania, Italy
Assistant Professor, Blanchette Rockefeller
Neurosciences Institute, West Virginia University, Rockville (MD),
Visiting Professor, Institute of Human
Virology, University of Maryland, Baltimore (MD), USA
Professor Scapagnini attended the University of Catania School
of Medicine and Surgery in Catania, Italy and graduated in 1992 with
a medical degree. He continued his education by obtaining a Ph.D. in
Neurobiology also from the University of Catania in 2000. Since completing
his education, Dr. Scapagnini has conducted research with the Institute
of Pharmacology School of Medicine associated with the University of
Catania and has worked as a Visiting Scientist with Department of Surgical
Research, Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research, Harrow, UK
in 1999, and with Laboratory of Adaptive Systems, National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Health
in Bethesda, MD, USA in 2000. Dr. Scapagnini currently holds two academic
positions as Assistant Professor with the Institute of Neurological
Sciences, Italian National Research Council and with Blanchette Rockefeller
Neurosciences Institute, West Virginia University. He has recently
obtained a visiting professorship with the Institute of Human Virology,
University of Maryland, where he is in charge of a research project
on HIV dementia. He is also the scientific director of the “Research & Progress” foundation,
founded by Dr Robert C. Gallo. He is author of 35 indexed scientific
papers and several book chapters. His fields of research regard gene
expression profiles of cellular stress response and biology and molecular
mechanisms of brain aging and nerurodegenerative disorders. In particular
he has studied the anti-aging activities of several nutraceuticals
present in the Mediterranean diet.
2012 - Pre-conference Workshop
Are there any Effective Protocols to Predict & Prevent Brain Ageing and Neuro-Degeneration Disorders?
The course provides an overview of the links between nutrition and the brain. It examines many of the mechanisms by which diet and individual nutrients are known to modify brain development, biochemistry and physiology, Food can affect brain health and mental function in several ways and at different levels. The brain consumes an immense amount of energy relative to the rest of the body. Thus, the mechanisms that are involved in the transfer of energy from foods to neurons are likely to be fundamental to the control of brain function. Processes that are associated with the management of energy in neurons can affect synaptic plasticity, which could explain how metabolic disorders can affect cognitive processes. Amounts and quality of dietary factors have been shown to influence cognitive processes and synaptic plasticity, beyond their energetic values. In fact, specific dietary components can affect multiple brain processes by regulating neurotransmitter pathways, synaptic transmission, membrane fluidity and signal-transduction pathways. Furthermore food’s ability to prevent and protect against brain ageing and neurodegenerative diseases is starting to be recognized.
Among functional food’s components, dietary lipids, vitamins and polyphenols seems to play a crucial role in brain functions. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are normal constituents of cell membranes and are essential for normal brain development and physiology. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes in the brain; however, the human body is not efficient at synthesizing DHA, so we are largely dependent on dietary DHA. It has been proposed that access to DHA during hominid evolution had a key role in increasing the brain/body-mass ratio (also known as encephalization). Dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Adequate levels of vitamins, such as B vitamins, are essential for brain function, and folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders, such as depression and cognitive impairment. Furthermore humans consume a wide range of foods, drugs, and dietary supplements that are derived from plants and which modify the functioning of the brain. A part of the workshop will be dedicated to assess the current evidence for the efficacy of a range of readily available plant-based extracts and chemicals that may improve brain function and which have attracted sufficient research in this regard to reach a conclusion as to their potential effectiveness as nootropics
In recent years, there has been a growing interest, supported by a large number of experimental and epidemiological studies, for the beneficial effects of some phenolic substances, contained in commonly used spices and herbs, in preventing various age-related pathologic conditions, included cognitive disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Although the exact mechanisms by which polyphenols promote these effects remain to be elucidated, several reports have shown their ability to stimulate a general xenobiotic response in the target cells, activating multiple defense genes.
Data from our and other laboratories have previously demonstrated that curcumin, the yellow pigment of curry, strongly induces heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) expression and activity in different brain cells via the activation of heterodimers of NF-E2-related factors 2 (Nrf2)/antioxidant responsive element (ARE) pathway. Many studies clearly demonstrate that activation ofNrf2 target genes, and particularly HO-1, in astrocytes and neurons is strongly protective against inflammation, oxidative damage, and cell death. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that other phenolics, such as caffeic acid phenethyl ester and ethyl ferulate, are also able to protect neurons via HO-1 induction. These studies identify a novel class of compounds that could be used for therapeutic purposes as preventive agents against brain ageing and cognitive decline.
In conclusion several evidences are improving an upcoming field of science, named nutritional neuroscience, that identify dietary manipulations as a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities and protecting the brain from damage, promoting repair and counteracting the effects of aging.