Principal Investigator of the research group of Developmental Biology and Morphogenesis of the Department of Biology, University of Padova.
Current topics of specific interest:
1) Stem cells, asexual reproduction and regeneration in ascidians
2) Nervous system differentiation in ascidians
3) Mechanoreceptors and evolution of neural placodes in chordates
4) Tunicates as alternative resource for biomolecule production.
In last years, her researches on a novel ascidian mechanoreceptor, the coronal organ, composed of hair cells, supported a revision of theories on hair cell evolution. She revealed the presence in ascidians of structures sharing similarities with vertebrate neural placodes, shedding new light on the main theory on vertebrate evolution, which hypothesizes that neural placodes, together with neural crest, are responsible of main novelties of this group.
In 2013-2014, she coordinated a working group formed of researchers from Stanford University (USA), Keio University (Japan), Laboratoire de Biologie du Developpement de Villefranche-sur-mer (France), and Bioself Communication, Marseille (France) for the publication of the ontology of development and anatomy of the colonial ascidian Botryllus schlosseri (Manni et al., 2014, PLoS One)
In 2013-2017, she coordinated a working group formed of researchers from the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia, Venezia (Italy), University of Milan (Italy), University of Bari (Italy), University of Oxford, (UK), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany), McGill University (Canada), and University of Vienna (Austria) for the taxonomic revision of the model ascidian Ciona intestinalis, evidencing that under this name two criptic species (Ciona robusta and Ciona intestinalis) were hidden (Brunetti et al., 2015 J Zoolog Syst Evol Res ; Pennati et al., 2015 PLos One; Gissi et al., 2017 Zool Scripta). She involved the tunicate community in the discussion and in being aware of the topic, coordinating the Round Table “Taxonomy of Ciona sp” at the 8th International Tunicate Meeting. Aomori (Japan).
In recent years, she is involved in the projecy TUNICA, aimed at using tunicates as alternative and sustainable resource for producing biomolecules for industrial applications. The project was second at the Start Cup CVeneto 2021 competition, first in the category GreenTech&Energy.
Since 2022, she coordinates a European project financed by JPI Oceans for the study of noise impact on marine invertebrates. The project involves researchers from Italy, Spain, Norway and Romania.
Since 2022, she is involved in the study of ascidian biodiversity in a project financed by PNRR.
Past and active scientific collaborations:
- N.J. Lane (University of Cambridge, UK)
- M.C. Thorndyke (Kristineberg Marine Research Station, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
- J.S. Joly (CNRS Gif-sur-Yvette, France)
- G.O. Mackie (University of Victoria, Canada)
- S. Shimeld (University of Oxford, UK)
- T. Stach (University of Berlin, Germany)
- K. Hotta (Keio University, Japan)
- A. Voskoboynik (Stanford University, USA)
- P. Lemaire (CNRS, France)
- D. Dauga (CNRS, France)