Paolo Bernardi, MD

Paolo Bernardi, MD, University of Padova, Italy

Paolo Bernardi is a Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Padova, Italy where he coordinates the PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences. He earned his MD at the University of Padova, where he began his studies on mitochondrial physiology and ion transport, and completed his education at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research – MIT. He pioneered the field of mitochondrial channels and their role in cellular pathophysiology, in particular the permeability transition pore (PTP), a high-conductance channel critically involved in cell death. He has defined the key points of regulation of the PTP and developed tools to reliably monitor mitochondrial function in situ. These studies made it possible to address mechanistic questions on mitochondria as targets for therapy in cancer and degenerative diseases; and led to the demonstration that PTP opening is a causal event in muscular dystrophies, findings that paved the way to a potential therapy with non immunosuppressive analogs of cyclosporin A. He recently provided solid evidence that the PTP originates from the FOF1 ATP synthase and identified key points of regulation by site-directed mutagenesis and electrophysiology. The discovery that the F-ATP synthase synthase—the enzyme of life—can undergo a Ca2+-dependent transition from an energy-conserving to an energy-dissipating state offers great promise for defining its role in health and disease, and provides a novel drug target in degenerative diseases and cancer.