Giampiero LEANZA

Full Professor of Physiology [BIO/09]

Giampiero Leanza is Full Professor of Physiology at the University of Catania since 2017.

2000-02 Assistant Professor of Physiology, University of Trieste. Since 2001 he is board member of the PhD program in Neurobiology, and of the Basic Research And Integrative Neuroscience (B.R.A.I.N.) Centre;

2002-17 Associate Professor of Physiology, University of Trieste. From 2005 he leads the Neurogenesis and Repair Lab at the Dept. of Physiology and Pathology (later joining the Dept of Life Sciences).

2008-16 Coordinator of the International Master’s Degree in Neuroscience, University of Trieste;

2010-13 Vice-Coordinator of the PhD School in Neuroscience, University of Trieste.

2015- Board member of the PhD Program in Functional and Structural Genomics, SISSA-ISAS, Trieste

2017 Full Professor of Physiology, Dept of Drug sciences, University of Catania

Giampiero Leanza has a degree in Biology (Summa cum Laude), and a PhD in Physiology awarded by the University of Catania. He had his research training at the Universities of Catania and Bologna, at the Dept of Neurobiology, Göteborg University and the Dept. of Medical Cell Research at Lund University, Sweden. He has been been post-doc and visiting scientist at the Wallenberg Neurocentrum and Dept Clinical Neuroscience, Lund University, and Visiting Professor at the Universities of Lund and Coimbra .

He is author/co-author of about 60 papers published in peer-reviewed international journals and about 100 presentations at international or national meetings, including invited lectures.

He is referee for the following Journals: Brain Research Bulletin; Brain Research Interactive; British Journal of Pharmacology; Cell Transplantation; Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology; Current Biology; Developmental Brain Research; European J. of Neuroscience; Experimental Brain Research; Experimental Neurology; J. of Alzheimer’s Disease; J. of Neurochemistry; J. of Neural Transplantation and Plasticity; J. of Neuroscience Methods; J. of Neuroscience Research; Molecular Therapy, Movement Disorders; Neurobiology of Disease; Neurochemical Research, Neuroscience Letters; Neuroscience; Neuroscience Research; Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience; Scientific Reports; World Journal of Stem Cells. Associate Editor for the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and The World Journal of Stem Cells.

Expert Reviewer for projects funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR, PRIN and FIRB funding programmes); National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences of Georgia; European Union (programmes INTAS, FP5, FP6, FP7).

Organizer, co-organizer and presenter of a number of events at regional, national or international level, all aimed at increasing public awareness towards the Brain and at popularizing the Neurosciences among young fellows. Communication venues include public conferences, conversations in historical cafés, workshops and symposia for high school students and teachers, radio and television broadcastings, public projections of movies, all having the Brain as a subject.


D.W. Kasongo, G. de Leo, N. Vicario, G. Leanza*, G. Legname* Chronic alpha-synuclein accumulation in rat hippocampus induces Lewy Bodies formation and specific cognitive impairments ENeuro 7(3) (2020) (*Co-Correponding          Authors)

E. Giusto, M. Codrich, G. de Leo, V. Francardo, M. Coradazzi, R. Parenti, M. Gulisano, N. Vicario, R. Gulino, G. Leanza Compensatory changes in degenerating spinal motoneurons sustain functional sparing in the SOD1-G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. J. Comparative Neurology (2020) 528, 231-243.

R. Pintus, M. Riggi, C. Cannarozzo, A. Valeri, G. de Leo, M. Romano, R. Gulino, G. Leanza Essential role of hippocampal noradrenaline in the regulation of spatial working memory and TDP-43 tissue pathology. J. Comparative Neurology (2018) 526, 1131-1147 

M. Coradazzi, R. Gulino, F. Fieramosca, L. Verga Falzacappa, M. Riggi, G. Leanza Selective noradrenaline depletion impairs working memory and hippocampal neurogenesis. Neurobiology of Aging (2016) 48, 93-102

H. Hall, S. Reyes, N. Landeck, C. Bye, G. Leanza, K. Double, L. Thompson, G. Halliday, D. Kirik Hippocampal Lewy pathology and cholinergic dysfunction are associated with dementia in Parkinson's disease. Brain (2014) 137, 2493-2508

H. Hall, M. Jewett, N. Landeck, N. Nilsson, U. Schagerlöf, G. Leanza, D. Kirik Characterization of cognitive deficits in rats overexpressing human alpha-synuclein in the ventral tegmental area and medial septum using recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors. PLoS One (2013) 8(5), e64844.

V. Antonini, A. Marrazzo, G. Kleiner, M. Coradazzi, S. Ronsisvalle, O. Prezzavento, G. Ronsisvalle, G. Leanza Anti-amnesic and neuroprotective actions of the sigma-1 receptor agonist (-)-MR22 in rats with selective cholinergic lesion and amyloid infusion Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (2011) 24, 569-586

M. Coradazzi, R. Gulino, S. Garozzo, G. Leanza Selective lesion of the developing central noradrenergic system: short- and long-term effects and reinnervation by noradrenergic-rich tissue grafts Journal of Neurochemistry (2010) 114, 761-771

E. Aztiria, T. Cataudella, S. Spampinato, G. Leanza Septal grafts restore cognitive abilities and amyloid precursor protein metabolism Neurobiology of Aging (2009) 30, 1614-1625

V. Antonini, O. Prezzavento, M Coradazzi, A. Marrazzo, S. Ronsisvalle, E. Arena, G. Leanza Anti-amnesic properties of (±)-PPCC, a novel sigma receptor ligand, on cognitive dysfunction induced by selective cholinergic lesion in rats Journal of Neurochemistry (2009) 109, 744-754

L. Wisman, G. Sahin, M. Maingay, G. Leanza*, D. Kirik* Functional convergence of dopaminergic and cholinergic input is critical for hippocampus-dependent working memory Journal of Neuroscience (2008) 28, 7797-7807 (*Equal contribution)

D. Sgubin, E. Aztiria, A. Perin, P. Longatti, G. Leanza Activation of endogenous neural stem cells in the adult human brain following subarachnoid haemorrhage Journal of Neuroscience Research (2007) 85, 1647-1655

P. Mohapel*, G. Leanza*, M. kokaia, and O. Lindvall Forebrain acetylcholine release regulates adult hippocampal neurogenesis and learning. Neurobiology of Aging (2005) 26, 939-946 (*Equal contribution)


Academic Year 2021/2022

Academic Year 2020/2021

Academic Year 2019/2020

Academic Year 2018/2019

Research Activity

The research program coordinated by Giampiero Leanza is focused on: (a) mechanisms underlying cognitive and/or sensorimotor deficits and their modeling in rodents; (b) survival, development, differentiation and functional integration of neuronal precursors grafted to animal models of neurodegeneration; (c) monoaminergic modulation of hippocampal neurogenesis and cognitive abilities.

Research work employs a combination of anatomical, behavioural, neurochemical, cellular, molecular and imaging approaches. Thus, the laboratory is endowed with facilities for stereotaxic microsurgery to adult and developing rodents, analysis of cognitive and sensory-motor behaviors (Morris’ and Radial Arm Water Maze, Rota-Rod, Open Field etc), histo- and immunohistochemistry, bright and fluorescence microscopy, stereological analyses, cell culture and PCR. All the activities are organized in several main lines of research, listed below:

Ongoing projects

Neurotransmitter interactions in the genesis of cognitive disturbances and histopathological alterations in neurodegenerative diseases

Previous findings of Cholinergic, Dopaminergic, and Noradrenergic neuron loss in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or Parkinson’s (PD), indicate both these pathological conditions as multi-system disorders, particularly as far as cognitive dysfunction (leading to overt dementia) is involved.

Studies carried out in the Neurogenesis and Repair lab (also conducted in close collaboration with colleagues at the University of Lund, Sweden) are presently ongoing to confirm and extend previously published (also own) findings in both rat and humans. Thus, the relative contribution of either transmitter system (alone or concurrently) in the development of cognitive deficits (in AD models) or non-motor symptoms (in PD models), as well as in the occurrence of histopathological alterations (e.g. amyloid, tau, TDP-43 or alpha-synuclein overexpression) in relevant brain areas are being investigated following selective ablation of   discrete neuronal populations. The results are expected to improve the understanding of disease mechanisms, and to help the design of adequate therapeutic strategies, such as those involving the use of newly developed, non-commercial neuroactive compounds (e.g. sigma receptor agonists), to be tested in the adopted models.

Functional analysis of human umbilical cord stem cells and their suitability for implantation in rodent models of central and peripheral neural dysfunction

The therapeutic use of cell protection/replacement strategies for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases originates from the unmet needs defined by the clinicians, and is today a much debated, high-expectation issue. Certainly, however, the identification of ethically sustainable, qualitatively/quantitatively plausible, sources of implantable cells to be tested in a reliable pre-clinical setting, is of paramount importance. Within such framework, the Neurogenesis and Repair Lab contributes with experimental work investigating in vitro features such as survival, development, and differentiation of stem cells and neural precursors from various sources, as well as their integration and functional capacity following transplantation. Ongoing studies are centered on two major endpoints, both with a high traslational relevance: (i) the possibility to improve the anatomical and functional reconstruction of the severed peripheral nerve (so far seen relatively weak and slow) by functionalized nerve tubulization using growth factor-releasing human umbilical mesenchymal stem cells (HUMSCs), and (ii) the disease-modifying potential of HUMSCs following implantation in transgenic mice recapitulating the dynamics of motoneuron degeneration and motor impairments seen in patients suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Noradrenergic modulation of hippocampal neurogenesis and cognitive abilities in the rat.

A severe noradrenergic depletion is known to occur in the neocortical and hippocampal areas of AD and PD patients, where it exceeds cholinergic and dopaminergic loss, respectively. However, studies on the functional role of the ascending noradrenergic system in the regulation of cognitive functions have so far been hampered by the  lack of reliable tools to selectively lesion these neurons. Owing to the recent introduction of a noradrenergic immunotoxin, the lab has started an extensive characterization of its efficiency and selectivity, investigating the anatomical, neurochemical and functional effects of its administration to developing and adult rats. In the early studies, the immunotoxin proved to be an excellent tool to address issues of spontaneous reinnervation of partially deafferented territories, as well as the potential of transplanted noradrenergic neuron progenitors to remarkably reinstate noradrenergic innervation and neurotransmission in sub-totally denervated spinal territories. Ongoing studies investigate the noradrenergic (and/or the combined noradrenergic-cholinergic) regulation of hippocampal neurogenesis and hippocampus-dependent cognitive abilities. The restorative effects of implanted noradrenergic (or noradrenergic-cholinergic)-rich neural progenitors upon these events are being investigated as well.

Giampiero Leanza has been organizer, co-organizer and presenter of a number of events at regional, national or international level, all aimed at increasing public awareness towards the Brain and at popularizing the Neurosciences among young fellows. Communication venues include public conferences, conversations in historical cafés, workshops and symposia for high school students and teachers, radio and television broadcastings, public projections of movies, all having the Brain as a subject. Giampiero Leanza is member of the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB). In such capacity, he shares the committment towards the advancement of public awareness and education about the importance and benefits of brain research (more info at