Awards and honors

International research: a different environment, a same passion

Antonio Moretta is a post-doctoral biochemist at Pathophysiology and Genetics of Neuron and Muscle Laboratory (PGNM), working on Duchenne disease. He has been awarded a Marie Curie post-doctoral fellowship, designed to promote the international careers of young researchers.

How different is the way of doing research in different countries? There's nothing like immersing yourself in a new research environment to find out. That’s what motivated Antonio Moretta, a recent PhD graduate from the University of Basilicata, to come to Lyon. This young researcher in biochemistry has been welcomed as a post-doctoral fellow at the PGNM Laboratory, under the direction of Bénédicte Chazaud, with a Marie Curie post-doctoral fellowship to develop his research project.

The aim of the post-doctoral Marie Curie fellowships is to promote the careers of young researchers, particularly those aspiring to work in an international environment. They are part of the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation program. Highly selective, they give priority to scientific projects. "You have to propose an ambitious research project, describing precisely what you are going to achieve during the two years funded," explains Antonio Moretta. A real opportunity for this young researcher who plans to stay in France to pursue his carreer.

As a specialist in the biochemical study of proteins and peptides, he works at Laboratpry PGNM on a rare disease: Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This disease results from mutations in the DMD gene (for Duchenne muscular dystrophy). Because it is linked to the X chromosome, the disease only affects boys – around 1 in every 4,000 births.

These DMD gene mutations disrupt the expression of dystrophin, a protein essential for maintaining muscle cell architecture. The result is a progressive weakening of muscles, leading to mobility difficulties, limb deformities and even paralysis. Life expectancy is also severely affected.

To better understand the disease, Antonio Moretta and Bénédicte Chazaud have chosen an innovative approach. "Where most studies focus on what happens inside the cells, we want to concentrate more on the extracellular matrix proteins, to understand their role in the development of the disease", explains this young researcher.

By identifying alterations in these proteins in mice with Duchenne disease, using proteomics tools (the science that studies proteins), the aim is to hopefully discover new therapeutic targets.

"We're talking about fundamental research, but the ultimate aim is to improve the treatment of this disease and try to improve the daily lives and lifespan of patients suffering from it", he continues.

Beyond the scientific challenge, it is also the discovery of a new research environment that stimulates Antonio Moretta. "I think we all have different approaches in different countries. However, we all share the same passion for research. That's what makes it so exciting".

The latter had already discovered international research, having spent a year of his thesis in Germany - a mandatory international experience for a doctorate in Italy.

This year abroad helped him to adapt quickly to his new laboratory in France, he admits. "Particularly from an emotional point of view, because I already knew what it was like to change country, to be far from family and friends. But I was also very well received by my new team at the PGNM laboratory".

Published on April 23, 2024