Italo Mocchetti, PhD
Ph.D. (Pharmacology) 1982, University of Milan, Italy
The primary focus of Dr. Mocchetti’s research program at Georgetown University is to develop new biotherapies for human neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and neurocognitive disorders caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Currently, Dr. Mocchetti’s group is using animal models to characterize the molecular and cellular mechanisms utilized by HIV to promote neuronal degeneration. The team has recently demonstrated that the neurotoxic effects of HIV proteins include damage to synapses, impaired mitochondrial function, reduced axonal transport, and loss of brain-derived-neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These neurotoxic effects are exacerbated by the use of opioids and blocked by synthetic compounds that inhibit HIV proteins. These results raise a legitimate hope that these compounds could be used as therapeutic tools against neural degeneration caused by HIV and drugs of abuse.
“’From these findings, it appears that morphine withdrawal may be a causative factor that leads to mental decline, presenting an important avenue for research in how we can better help people who are trying to quit using drugs,’ Mocchetti says.”
“‘This finding is extremely important for both basic scientists and physicians, because it suggests a new avenue to understand, and treat, a fairly widespread cause of dementia,’ Mocchetti says.”