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Kirey Group for Fondazione Veronesi: Research Progresses on the Effects of Air Pollution on Children

Kirey Group


    Our support for Fondazione Veronesi’s research continues into 2023. This year, our contribution has been allocated to Dr. Edoardo Franceschini, a biologist and research doctor in Endocrine Sciences at the University La Sapienza in Rome.

    We had already met Edoardo Franceschini in May to learn about his research activities, which focused on investigating the effects of air pollution on a sample of school-age children. Now, as the year approaches its end, we have discussed the progress of the research.

    At what stage is your research? What has been accomplished, and what is yet to be done?

    The first phase of the project, involving spring-summer sampling and analysis, is 100% complete. Mouth cell samples taken from children have been processed for laboratory analysis: recovery from fixative, transfer to slides, staining, fluorescence microscope reading of genomic abnormalities, and statistical analysis/interpretation of results. And now, we have recently begun sampling for the fall/winter season.

    Can you tell us more about how sample collection works when research involves, as in your case, a segment of the population?

    When human subject samples are involved in research, experiments are bureaucratically much more complex than just laboratory analyses. This is particularly true when young people are involved, as numerous administrative levels overlap with the experimental level of the project. In my project, researchers cannot directly collect cells from students at schools, since we are dealing with primary school children. The Principal Investigator (P.I.), the project manager who has previously obtained consent from the children involved, must contact the Mayor of the city where sampling will occur. The Mayor then contacts the Education Officer, who informs the School Principals of our intention to sample. Once consent is obtained from all parties involved, time windows are established within which we can visit schools for sampling. Naturally, we are authorized to collect biological samples only from minors whose parents have signed a declaration authorizing us to take cells from their children. Additionally, for this occasion, we have obtained the consent of the children themselves through a form they signed, asking them to help us for the good cause of fighting pollution.

    Have you collaborated with other researchers in recent months? What is your working team composed of?

    When we physically go to schools to collect cells during the sampling phase, the entire laboratory staff is usually involved (the P.I., a Ph.D. student, the laboratory technician, and any thesis students, interns, and Erasmus students who want to participate). I personally conduct the experimental phase, possibly with the support of a laboratory technician, and report the results to the P.I. If thesis students, interns, and Erasmus students are interested in observing the experiments I conduct, I gladly involve them in explaining the experimental part or answering their questions.

    Have you encountered any obstacles so far? Or, on the contrary, have you already achieved some goals?

    I haven't encountered particular obstacles other than the normal problems that can arise during research, which are part of the profession, such as standardizing an experimental method to follow or adapting a laboratory procedure to my needs or the available instrumentation. The satisfaction comes from carrying out a complex task independently and obtaining results, facing and overcoming the difficulties that may arise.

    What advice would you give to those interested in pursuing a career in your research field?

    I’d like to give two pieces of advice: have great passion and great patience. Without these, this work cannot be sustained in the long term. It can be done for a while, but inevitably, it will be abandoned realizing that it is not the right path.


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