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BCAM collaborates in the ASTROTECH project, which is funded by the European Commission through the latest call of Horizon 2020 ITN (Innovative Training Networks)

The image of the human brain, a hologram, a dark background.

  • Maurizio De Pittà will be one of the researchers of the training network in the programme

Basque Center for Applied Mathematics – BCAM, by the hand of the researcher Maurizio De Pittà, ‘La Caixa’ Junior Leader Postdoctoral Fellow, will participate in the next ASTROTECH project, which has started on November 1st, 2020.

To understand the goal of this project we must start with the astrocytes – the cells that this project aims to study. Astrocytes basically represent the “other half” of our brain. They are not neurons – they are glial cells in fact -, and they do not generate electrical signals. Yet, astrocytes emerging as key players in the brain´s function and dysfunction. How to quantify the role of astrocytes in the healthy or diseased brain however is challenging.

Many of the tools currently used previously for the study of astrocytes are borrowed from our knowledge of neurons, with limited advancement. Therefore, ASTROTECH is the first proposal to pioneer the field of Glia Engineering, to develop new of tools for recording and manipulating astrocytes in our brain.

BCAM is one of the funding institutions of the ASTROTECH Consortium by Dr. Maurizio De Pittà who will supervise the development of digital twins of astrocytes to model brain-wide neuron-glial-vascular coupling. These digital astrocytes will be incorporated in the Virtual Brain Software – a platform used by medical doctors to diagnose brain diseases, and design surgical strategies and pharmacological therapies to cure brain disorders.

Dr. De Pittà is an international leader on glial modeling and a pioneer of the emerging field of computational glioscience – the branch of mathematics and physics applied to the study of glial and astrocytic physiology.  Dr. De Pittà who supervise a small team of a graduate student and a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar at BCAM, will be joined by a new PhD. student at BCAM in the months to come, to be hired by the ASTROTECH consortium, who will collaborate with international partners in France and Italy.

ASTROTECH is part of a new ITN aid scheme, framed within the well-known Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). This initiative, led by the CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche), aims to train, a new generation of creative and innovative researchers, through an international network of public and private centres. ASTROTECH’s researchers will be pioneers in the field of Glial Technologies, and will be capable of transforming such technologies into products and services for the economic and social benefit of the European Union.