Updates from the University of Bari

It’s been a busy six months for us at the University of Bari, Italy. There has been a lot of learning and milestones reached, and we are ready to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome a 2018 of hard work in our project.

In the November issue (Vol. 16 S.1) of the journal ‘Annals of Hepatology’, we had our first scientific articles published as co-authors. The articles are two reviews on bile acids, one regarding its physiology and another exploring the involvement of bile acids in the pathophysiology of cancer. The role of bile acids in liver disease has been increasingly recognized and you can read the articles to learn more about it:

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One of the co-authors, Prof. David Wang, works at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, USA. In December, we had the chance to meet Prof. Wang when he came to the University of Bari as a visiting professor. Prof. Wang has been working with Prof. Portincasa for many years now, and we look forward to participating in this collaborative work as well. While in Bari, Prof. Wang also presented two seminars that we had the chance to attend: “Cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism and atherosclerosis: recent advances in reverse cholesterol transport” and “Genetic analysis of gallstone gene Lith18: why is gallstone prevalence higher in women than in men?”.

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We also had the visit of Prof. Mo Lamkanfi from Ghent University, Belgium who gave two excellent lectures on inflammasomes, namely “Inflammasomes in autoinflammatory disease” and “Inflammasomes as cell death platforms”. Inflammasomes have also been related to liver diseases, mainly NLRP3, and is currently being investigated as a novel therapeutic target in the treatment of NAFLD.

For our Foie Gras project, we are working together to identify novel non-invasive diagnostic tools for patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention plan based on the Mediterranean diet and physical activity. The project has been recently approved by the Ethics Committee of the Hospital of Bari, and we have successfully started recruiting patients from the ‘Clinica A. Murri’.

The project has been also submitted and approved to the platform of clinical trials of the US National Library of Medicine. Clinicaltrials.gov is a database for clinical studies conducted around the world, and the inclusion of the Foie Gras project in such platform increases the dissemination of the project and eventually, its results. You can check it out here.


Our laboratory is based at the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Human Oncology (‘DIMO’) at the Hospital of Bari. We work with other PhD students, Post-doc, and technical personnel. The lab specialisations ranges from the analysis of microbiota in fecal samples, to intestinal permeability 4-sugar test, food intolerance breath tests, amongst others. The lab is currently involved in several innovative protocols, such as the 4-bread protocol, that looks into the effects in intestinal permeability of different fermentation processes in the production of bread; and the probiotic protocol, a double-blind study looking at the use of probiotics to treat gastrointestinal disorders.

We are very proud to be a part of this team!

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ESR7 Emilio Molina from Spain, and ESR11 Raquel Baccetto from Brazil, are currently working under the supervision of Prof. Piero Portincasa at the University of Bari ‘Aldo Moro’, Italy.


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