Benfenati Valentina

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+39 051 639 9786
Isof 4
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Research Profile: Her background is in Neuroscience, Electrophysiology, Neural cell physiology, Ion channel Biophysics, Glial cell physiology. From 2010 she coordinates a group working on biomaterials and organic functional materials targeted to neural cells interaction and to generation of advanced biomedical device for in vitro and in vivo analyse and manipulation of cells functionalities.
Scientific Achievements:

  • She contribute to the development and validation of the first organic field effect transistor architecture capable to stimulate and record electrophysiological signals from primary neurons O-CST (Benfenati et al., Nat Mater, 2013; see pub list). Results from the work she is coordinating, in synergy with researcher of commessa DIMO-ISMN are putting the basis for novel supradisciplinary field she called organic neuro-optoelectronic.
  • The group she is leading, in collaboration with researcher at ISOF, ISMN and IBIMET, has also establish an internationally recognized expertise on the silk fibroin. They were able to established in loco at CNR Research Area the entire silk fibroin chain from production of raw-material to assessment for upscaled extraction/purification methodology, to fabrication of tailored biophotonic substrates, nanocomposites and novel multifunctional biomaterials targeted to biophotonic and neuroregenerative medicine (12 pub as corresponding author, see pub list).
  • She contribute to define functional and molecular interaction between aquaporins and ion channels among which AQP4 and TRPV4, AQP4 and VRAC. (Benfenati et al., PNAS 2011; Benfenati et al., J Neurochem, 2007).

Research Grant Responsabilities

  • European Project:
    -Deputy coordinator, Responsible of Training and scientific activity at Coordinating Institute (CNR-ISMN) EU-ITN-Marie Curie project: TRAINING NETWORK ON ORGANIC OPTOELECTRONICS INTEGRATED WITH LIVING SYSTEMS FOR NEUROSCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS AND APPLICATIONS OLIMPIA (GA316832)
  • National Project:
    -Unit Responsible of FIRB-Futuro in Ricerca- Studio del ruolo patofisiologico della mutazione D184E nel gene dell'Acquaporina-4. RBFR12SJA8_002 Start date: 21 March 2013; duration: 36 months.
    - Coordinator of Progetto Bandiera (Fabbrica del Futuro), Silk-It, SILK ITALIAN TECHNOLOGY FOR INDUSTRIAL BIOMANUFACTURING Start date: 15 January 2013; duration: 24 months.
    - FIRB-ITALNANONET- FIRB RBPR05JH2P – Scientific Responsable of the activity at ISOF-CNR Unit, Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche e Tecnologie dei Materiali. Start: October 2010 duration: 36 mesi.

She is Responsible of Laboratory for Biology at ISOF and laboratory for bioorganic and hybrid interface at ISMN. She is coordinating research activities of 3 phD student 2 research collaborator and 1 Post-doc.

  • · 2012-today: Researcher at CNR-ISOF. Team-Leader.
  • · 2012 to present: Coordinator of scientific activity (Area 2.1) Laboratory MIST ER, Laboratory of Micro and Submicro Enabling technologies for Emilia Romagna. Laboratory of Industrial Research and Technology Transfer of High Technology Network of Emilia-Romagna. Area 2.1: Materials and optoelectronic devices biocompatible and biofunctional for biodiagnostic in-vitro and in-vivo and bio-manufacturing. (BIOMED). Develop research activities with industrial address to get biomimetic functional materials and devices are made capable of enabling applications in biodiagnostic and bio-manufacturing. The devices are mainly biosensors for recording, stimulation and modulation of electrophysiological signals of neuronal cells. She is also working for development and testing functionalization approaches for bioaterials of biomedical interest.

• 2010-2012: Researcher at CNR-ISMN, home to Bologna, Department of Chemistry and Technology of Materials. Responsible for scientific and research activities of the laboratory for bio-electronics and bio-organic interfaces. Coordinates, as team leader, the research activities of the laboratory for bio-electronics and bio-organic interfaces.
• 2009: Guest researcher, 1 month as a visiting researcher for a specified period at Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. Coordinates the study of interactions of ion channels with astro glial aquaporins expressed in the brain.
• 2008-2010: Research Fellow at CNR-ISMN Bologna office, Department of Chemistry and Technology of Materials. Supervisor Dr. Michele Muccini. She works as head of the research laboratory for bio-electronics and bio-organic interfaces. The work addresses the engineering and validation of advanced materials and biomedical devices that analyze and modulate the electrophysiological properties and membrane channels involved in the homeostasis astro glial and neuronal physiology.
• 2008: Wins a Scholarship Programme Marco Polo (University of Bologna), in support of a stint as a post-doc at Institute of Experimental Medicine, University of Prague, supervisor Dr. Anderova and Prof Verkhratsky. Autonomously develops a research project on the study of ion channels in the homeostatic regulation astroglial their modulation in situ.
• 2007: Wins a scholarship from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Short-Term Fellowship Grant and a scholarship Marco Polo Fellowship Program travel grant award (University of Bologna), to work as a post-doc in the lab of Prof Ole Petter Ottersen in collaraborazione with Prof Amiry-Moghaddam, at Centre of the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology and Neuroscience (CMBN), University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. Develops and contributes to the coordination of the project "TRPV4 and AQP4 molecular complex in astroglial brain volume regulation".
• 2007: Vince "International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) Travel Grant" in support of his participation in "VIII Meeting on Glial Cells Euopean in Health and Disease", London, UK.
• 2005-2008: Winner of a scholarship MIUR (FIRB funds of 2001) and a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Bologna, at the Lab. Of Cellular Physiology Prof. Stefano Ferroni, to develop the research project "effects modulators of neurotrophins on glial cells "and the project" analysis of the molecular mechanisms and functional in the homeostatic regulation of astroglial cell volume: physiological and pathophysiological "
• 2006: Gets a Doctorate in Cellular Physiology and Neuroimmunofisiologia, University of Siena. Thesis title: Guanosine promotes the upregulation of an inward rectifier potassium current in cultured rat cortical astrocytes. Coordinator Prof Pessina, tutor Prof. Ferroni.
• 2005: Winner of a scholarship Marie Curie Host Fellowships for spending a period of work at the laboratory of Professor Ole Petter Ottersen in collaraborazione with Prof Amiry-Moghaddam, at Centre of the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology and Neuroscience (CMBN) University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. Formed his research experience in characterization techniques immunological in vitro and in situ as Immunogold electron microscopy (IEM) Confocal Microscopy in situ develops the project "role in the pathophysiology of the channel AQP4 brain." She develops independently the project "Identification of brain osmosensor complex: molecular mechanisms regulating cell volume in astroglial cells ", using immunoblotting techniques, co-immunoprecipitation, confocal and electron microscopy in situ. Coordinates the research activities of Dr. Melania Dovizio at CMBN.
• 2004: plays an internship at the Lab. Of Prof. Antonio Frigeri, (CEGBA), University of Bari, and Dr. Paola Nicchia theory and practice to acquire the technology of siRNA.
• 2002-2006: Winner of post doctoral fellowship at the University of Siena. Home to Work: Lab of Cellular Physiology, Dept. of Human and General Physiology, University of Bologna, tutor: Prof Stefano Ferroni. Forms the basis of his research, acquiring and developing theoretical and practical aspects concerning the molecular and functional analysis of membrane proteins. In particular, he developed a solid experience of research in neurobiology and neurophysiology cell, with reference to the study of molecules that modulate the functional activity of neural cells. Acquires the following techniques: primary neuronal cultures and secondary; functional analysis of membrane proteins: patch clamp, calcium imaging; Molecular analysis of protein and gene expression: RT-PCR, ELISA, electrophoresis and western blot, immunofluorescence.
• 2000-2002: graduating student at Lab of Cellular Physiology, Dept. of Human and General Physiology, University of Bologna, tutor: Prof Stefano Ferroni and Prof Carmela Rapisarda.


1. Pistone A., Sagnella A., Chieco C., Posati T.,Varchi G., Formaggio F.,Bertazza G., Saracino E.; Caprini M., Bonetti S. Toffanin S., Divirgilio N.; Muccini M., Rossi F.; Ruani G., Zamboni,
R., Benfenati V.* Silk fibroin film from Golden-Yellow Bombyx mori is a biocomposite that contains lutein and promotes axonal growth of primary neurons. Biopolymers 2016, 105:287-99.
2. Posati T., Sagnella A., Pistone A., Bonetti S., Donnadio A., Saracino E., M. Nocchetti, Dionigi C., G. Ruani, M. Muccini, Benfenati V. *, Zamboni R. Effect of different fabrication methods on the chemo-physical properties of silk fibroin films and on their interaction with neural cells. RSC ADV 2016,6, 9304-9314.
3. Benfenati V. * ¶, Ferroni S. Microdynamics of Water and Ion Homeostasis in the Brain. Role of Aquaporins and Ion Channels of Astroglial Cells In: Boison D, Masino SA, eds. Homeostatic control of brain function. First Edition. Oxford University Press 2015; pg 3-40, DOI: 10.1093/med/9780199322299.003.0001
4. Sagnella A., Zambianchi M., Durso M., Posati T., Del Rio A., Donnadio A., Mazzanti A., Pistone A., Ruani G., Zamboni R., Benfenati V*. and Melucci M. APTES mediated modular modification of regenerated silk fibroin in a water solution RSC Adv., 2015,5, 63401-63406
5. Rapozzi V, Ragno D, Guerrini A, Ferroni C, Pietra ED, Cesselli D, Castoria G, Di Donato M, Saracino E, Benfenati V, Varchi G. Androgen Receptor Targeted Conjugate for Bimodal Photodynamic Therapy of Prostate Cancer in Vitro. Bioconjug Chem. 2015 26:1662-1671
6. Bonetti S, Pistone A, Brucale M, Karges S, Favaretto L, Zambianchi M, Posati T, Sagnella A, Caprini M, Toffanin S, Zamboni R, Camaioni N, Muccini M, Melucci M, Benfenati V*. A lysinated thiophene-based semiconductor as a multifunctional neural bioorganic interface. Adv Healthc Mater. 2015, 4: 1190-1202.
7. Alberga D, Nicolotti O, Lattanzi G, Nicchia GP, Frigeri A, Pisani F, Benfenati V, Mangiatordi GF. A new gating site in human aquaporin-4: Insights from molecular dynamics simulations. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014, 1838: 3052-3060.
8. Cavallini S., Toffanin S., Chieco C., Sagnella A., Pistone A., Posati T, Benfenati V*, Natali M, Di Virgilio M., Ruani G., Muccini M., Zamboni R. and Rossi F., Naturally Functionalized Silk as Useful Material for Photonic Applications. Composite Part B 2015, 71, 152–158.
9. Sagnella A., Chieco C., Di Virgilio N., Toffanin S., Cavallini S., Posati T., Pistone A., Varchi G., Muccini M., Ruani G., Benfenati* V., Zamboni R. and Rossi F. Project: Silk Italian Technology for Industrial Biomanufacturing. Composite part B: Engineering, 2015, 68, 281-287
10. Prosa M., Sagnella A., Posati T., Tessarolo M., Bolognesi M., Posati T., Toffanin S., Cavallini S, Benfenati* V., Seri M., Ruani G., Muccini M., and Zamboni R. Integration of a silk fibroin based film as luminescent down-shifting layer in ITO-free organic solar cells. RSC Adv., 2014, 4, 44815-44822.
11. Sagnella A., Chieco C., Di Virgilio N., Toffanin S., Posati T., Pistone A., Bonetti S., Muccini M., Ruani G., Benfenati* V., Rossi F. and Zamboni R. Bio-doping of regenerated silk fibroin solution and films: a green route for biomanufacturing. RSC Adv., 2014,4, 33687-33694.
12. Posati T, Melucci M, Benfenati V.*, Durso V., Nocchetti M, Cavallini S., Toffanin S., Sagnella A, Pistone A., Muccini M., Ruani G and Zamboni R. Selective MW-assisted surface chemical tailoring of hydrotalcites for fluorescent and biocompatible nanocomposites RSC Adv., 2014,[b]4[/b], 11840-11847.
13. Posati T., Benfenati V.*, Sagnella A., Pistone A., Nocchetti M., Donnadio A., Ruani, G. Zamboni R., Muccini M. Innovative Multifunctional Silk Fibroin and Hydrotalcite Nanocomposites: a Synergic Effect of the Components. Biomacromolecules, 2014, 158-168.
14. Benfenati V*¶, Martino N, Antognazza MR, Pistone A, Toffanin S, Ferroni S, Lanzani G, Muccini M. Photostimulation of Whole-Cell Conductance in Primary Rat Neocortical Astrocytes Mediated by Organic Semiconducting Thin Films. Adv Healthc Mater. 2014, 3, 392-399.
15. Dionigi C., Posati T., Benfenati V.* , Sagnella A., Pistone A., Bonetti S., Ruani, G. Dinelli F., Padeletti G., Zamboni R., Muccini M. A nanostructured conductive bio-composite of silk fibroin/single walled carbon nano tube. J. Mater Chem B, 2014, 10, 1424-1431.
16. Benfenati V*, Toffanin S, Bonetti S, Turatti G, Pistone A, Chiappalone M, Sagnella A, Stefani A, Generali G, Ruani G, Saguatti D, Zamboni R, Muccini M. A transparent organic transistor for bidirectional stimulation and recording of primary neurons. Nature Materials, 2013,12, 672.
17. Toffanin S, Benfenati V*, Pistone A, Bonetti S., Koopman W, Posati S, Sagnella, A, Ruani G, Zamboni R., Muccini M. N-type perylene-based organic semiconductors for functional neural interfacing. Journal of Material Chemistry B, 2013, 1, 31, 3850. [IF = 6.1]
18. Varchi G, Benfenati V, Pistone A, Ballestri M, Sotgiu G, Guerrini A, Dambruoso P, Liscio A, Ventura B. Core-shell poly-methylmethacrylate nanoparticles as effective carriers of electrostatically loaded anionic porphyrin. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2013.
19. Bolognesi M, Tessarolo M, Posati T, Nocchetti M , Benfenati V, Seri M, Ruani G, Muccini M. Efficiency enhancement of P3HT:PCBM solar cells containing scattering Zn-Al hydrotalcite nanoparticles in the PEDOT:PSS layer. Organic Photonics and Photovoltaics, 1, 1, 2013.
20. Benfenati V*, Stahl K, Gomis-Perez C; Toffanin S; Sagnella A; Torp, R; Kaplan DL; Ruani G; Omenetto FG; Zamboni, R; Muccini, M. Biofunctional silk/neuron interfaces, Advanced Functional Materials, 2012, 22, 1871
21. Butenko O, Dzamba D, Prajerova I , Benesova J, Honsa P, Benfenati V, Ferroni S, Anderova M. The increased activity of TRPV4 channel in the astrocytes of the adult rat hippocampus after cerebral hypoxia/ischemia. PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39959.
22. Monasterolo C, Ballestri M, Sotgiu G, Guerrini A, Dambruoso P, Sparnacci K, Laus M, De Cesare M, Pistone A, Beretta GL, Zunino F, Benfenati V, Varchi G. Sulfonates-PMMA nanoparticles conjugates: a versatile system for multimodal application. Bioorg Med Chem. 2012, 20: 6640-6647.
23. Benfenati V*, Caprini M, Dovizio M, Mylonakou MN, Ferroni S, Ottersen OP, Amiry-Moghaddam M. An aquaporin-4/transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (AQP4/TRPV4) complex is essential for cell-volume control in astrocytes. PNAS, 2011, 108(6):2563-8. Edited by Prof. Peter Agre, Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
24. Benfenati V*¶, Toffanin S, Capelli R, Camassa LM, Ferroni S, Kaplan DL, Omenetto FG, Muccini M, Zamboni R. A - platform that enables electrophysiology and targeted drug delivery in brain astroglial cells. Biomaterials, 2010, 31, 7883
25. Capelli R, Amsden JJ, Generali G, Toffanin S, Benfenati V, Muccini M, Kaplan DL, Omenetto FG, Zamboni R.Integration of silk protein in organic and light-emitting transistors. Organic Electronics, 2011, 12, 1146
26. Toffanin, S., Kim, S., Cavallini, S.,Natali, M., Benfenati, V; Amsden, JJ; Kaplan, DL; Zamboni R, Muccini M, Omenetto FG. Low-threshold blue lasing from silk fibroin thin films. Applied Physics Letters, 2011, 101, 091110
27. Benfenati V*¶, Sagnella A, Chieco C, Di Virgilio N, Muccini M, Zamboni R, Rossi F. Silk fibroin as platform for neural cells and hybrid optoelectronics. Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy, 2012, 6, 508
28. Benfenati V*, Ferroni S. Water transport between CNS compartments: functional and molecular interactions between aquaporins and ion channels. Neuroscience, 2010, 168, 926 [IF = 3.122]. Invited review.
29. Melucci, M; Durso, M; Favaretto, L; Capobianco, ML; Benfenati, V*; Sagnella, A; Ruani, G; Muccini, M; Zamboni, R ; Fattori, V; Camaioni, N Silk doped with a bio-modified dye as a viable platform for eco-friendly luminescent solar concentrators. RSC Advance 2012, 2, 8610.
30. Benfenati V, Caprini M, Nicchia GP, Rossi A, Dovizio M, Cervetto C, Nobile M, Ferroni S. Carbenoxolone Inhibits Volume-regulated Anion Conductance in Cultured Rat Cortical Astroglia. Channels (Austin), 2009, 3, 323.
31. Vignali M, Benfenati V, Caprini M, Anderova M, Nobile M, Ferroni S. The endocannabinoid anandamide inhibits potassium conductance in rat cortical astrocytes. Glia, 2009, 57, 791
32. Benfenati V¶, Amiry-Moghaddam M, Caprini M, Mylonakou MN, Rapisarda C,Ottersen OP, Ferroni S. Expression and functional characterization of transient receptor potential vanilloid-related channel 4 (TRPV4) in rat cortical astrocytes. Neuroscience. 2007, 148, 876 [IF = 3.122].
33. Benfenati V¶, Nicchia GP, Svelto M, Rapisarda C, Frigeri A, Ferroni S. Functional down-regulation of volume-regulated anion channels in AQP4 knockdown cultured rat cortical astrocytes. J. Neurochemistry 2007 100(1):87-104.
34. Benfenati V¶, Caprini M, Nobile M, Rapisarda C, Ferroni S. Guanosine promotes the up-regulation of inward rectifier potassium current mediated by Kir4.1 in cultured rat cortical astrocytes. J. Neurochemistry 2006, 98, 430.

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Bio-organic hybrid material platform for sustainable bio-technologies and biomedicine.
The major objectives BIO-NE-T

  • To define and develop the potential of silk fibroin biomaterials platforms, in sustainable and bio-derived technologies for photonics, electronics and biomedicine.
  • To exploit bio-functionalities of innovative ad-hoc tailored materials and device platform in neurophysiological research and neuroregenerative medicine.
  • To define bio-activity (in terms of gene, protein molecular and functional expression) of novel synthesized small molecules, drugs, nanodelivery systems, advanced multifunctional materials, biophotonic systems, on membrane water and ion channels which are essential for the biology and physiology of primary brain cells as well of cells of cancer origin.

Our mission is to create effective tools for biomedical research biotechnologies and neuroregenerative medicine by contributing to engineering, fabrication and characterization of innovative device based organic biomaterials and field-effect transistor architecture or biophotonics structures that could provide cell/device bidirectional communication with excitable and non-excitable cells of the CNS. To this end we define biofunctional and bioactive properties of bioorganic hybrid materials platforms deriving from natural or synthetic origin such as silk fibroin, organic semiconductors and lamellar nanoparticles are characterized by state of the art technologies in cellular biology molecular biology and cellular physiology.
The multidisciplinary nature of the topics developed relies on competence of the broad team of researcher involved in the topic that regards on cell and system physiology, neuroscience, neurobiology, chemistry, materials science, device physics, photonics. The different research topics are developed in straight synergy with researchers from other Institutes of the DCSTM.
The activities are developed through participation and coordination of national and international projects and related collaborations are settled also including those in the framework of EU-FP7 the Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN) Olimpia (Traning Network on Optoelectronics Integrated with Living Systems for Neuroscience Investigations and Applications) GA (316832); Start date 1st October 2012, duration 48 month; FIRB-Futuro in Ricerca- Studio del ruolo patofisiologico della mutazione D184E nel gene dell'Acquaporina-4. RBFR12SJA8_002 Start date: 21 March 2013; duration: 36 months. Progetto Bandiera (Fabbrica del Futuro), Silk-It, SILK ITALIAN TECHNOLOGY FOR INDUSTRIAL BIOMANUFACTURING, Start date: 15 January 2013; duration: 24 months. They are also carried out in the framework of industrial collaboration within the Laboratory of Industrial Research and Technology Transfer of the High Technology Network of Emilia-Romagna (MIST-ER, POR_FESR 2007-2013) Attività 2.3 BIOMED).
- The core Team: Valentina Benfenati (ISOF, Team leader), Assunta Pistone (ISOF), Anna Sagnella MIST-ER, Tamara Posati MIST-ER, Francesco Formaggio (ISMN); Emanuela Saracino (ISMN) Simone Bonetti (ISMN), Saskia Karges (ISMN) Marie Curie PhD student, Ana Borrachero (ISMN) Marie Curie PhD student

Bio-Labs-Facilities [Joint Laboratories at ISOF-Bo ISMN-Bo, Lab Responsible: Valentina Benfenati]
Labs have all the facilities need for the preparation, maintenance and monitoring of cell culture (primary and secondary). In particular, instruments such as Cell culture incubator, Laminar hood, Optical and Fluorescent Microscopes are present. The lab is also equipped with Autoclave for sterilization and liquid nitrogen Duar for cell storage. The lab is equipped with Varioskan (Thermo scientific) microplate reader enabling high-throughput assays for cell viability (citotoxicity), injector for HTS drug testing for calcium signalling, apoptosis and cell death, ELISA based assays.
The lab is also fully equipped for cellular and molecular biology, protein and cell analyses. BIORAD Real Time PCR, Chemidoc Imaging system, Miniprotean-System, High speed Refrigerated Centrifuge, Microbiology incubator.
Patch-clamp set-up for intracellular stimulation recording and MEA System (microelectrode array) for extracellular stimulation and recording are present in the lab. Finally, the patch-clamp set-up is integrated with instruments for microfluorimetric monitoring of dynamic variation of intracellular calcium (calcium imaging).
Collaborations (out of CNRs)
Research Institutions and Universities:
- University of Bologna, Dept of Biotechnology and Pharmacy (UNIBO)
- University of Bari (UNIBA) (Prof GP Nicchia,, Prof Frigeri, Prof Maria Svelto)
- Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience (CMBN) (Prof Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Prof Ole Petter Ottersen)
- Ecole Nationale Superieure ded Mines de Saint Etienne (EMSE) (Prof George Malliaras)
- Italian Institute of Technology (IIT)- POLIMI (Prof Guglielmo Lanzani, Maria Rosa Antognazza)
- Italian Institute of Technology (IIT)- NBT (Michela Chiappalone, Fabio Benfenati)
- University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) (Prof David Mecerreyes)
- Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM) (Prof Paolo Lugli)
- Imperial College London (ICL) (Prof John de mello)
Private Partners:
- ETC srl (Italy)
- Histocell (Spain)