Chiara Zurzolo is the chair of the Department of Cell Biology & Infection at Institut Pasteur, in Paris. She is a cell biologist studying the mechanism of protein trafficking and their role in diseases like cancer and neurodegeneration. Her recent research focuses on tunneling nanotubes (TNTs), a novel mechanism of communication between cells. She demonstrated that prions (and other amyloid proteins involved in neurodegenerative disease) use TNTs to spread between cells, thus providing an explanation for the progression of incurable diseases in the brain.
During her time at Radcliffe, Zurzolo is teaming up with neuroscientists and developmental biologists at Harvard to use a range of innovative imaging techniques in investigating the existence and relevance of TNT structures in vivo. They hope to understand whether there are opportunities for therapeutical intervention.
Zurzolo is an MD and PhD. She received her doctorate from the University of Naples Federico II and then spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University Medical College, in New York. She then went back to Naples University Federico II School of Medicine and Surgery, where she established her own research group as an assistant and then associate professor. In 2003, she moved to Paris as director of research. In 2015, she was made a professor at Institut Pasteur and elected a member of EMBO.