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Elisa Vilardo receives Elise Richter Programme

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(Vienna, 04-09-2017) Elisa Vilardo receives funding by the Austrian Science Fund FWF through the Elise Richter Programme. The scientist at the Center for Anatomy and Cell Biology of the Medical University of Vienna is working on a project to understand the biomedical consequences of RNA methylation.

The genetic information of every organism is stored in the DNA of each cell, and is expressed and decoded via RNA intermediates into protein. Both DNA and RNA use a code of 4 letters to store and express information. The four letters of RNA, A, G, C and U, are known since decades, but accumulating evidence shows that the cells do chemically modify these four letters to expand the decoding properties and function of RNA molecules. To date, more than a hundred different modifications have been identified, but only a handful of these have been intensively investigated. For the large majority of RNA modifications, we still have very little knowledge on how they are produced in the cell, and how they affect the flow of genetic information. In the awarded Elise Richter project, Elisa Vilardo will investigate two specific types of RNA methylations found in so called transfer RNAs (tRNAs). There is evidence that these modifications affect the shape and function of tRNAs, and hence the production of proteins. Failure to properly introduce these two specific tRNA methylations leads to a severe human disease, characterized by defects in brain development and diabetes. In her work, Elisa Vilardo will investigate how the modifications are introduced in RNAs in the cell, and what are the functional consequences of these modifications on tRNA function. In an international collaborative effort Elisa Vilardo will use an innovative approach to clarify the biology of this widespread tRNA modifications, thereby gaining insight in the cause of genetic disorders caused by aberrant RNA modifications.

Elise Richter Programme
The FWF is offering extremely well qualified female scientists who are working towards a career in universities the chance of a two-stage funding for a total of six years. The career development programme for female scientists and academics is divided into the Hertha Firnberg Programme for post-docs, which aims to support women at the start of their academic careers, and the Elise Richter Programme for senior post-docs and the Elise Richter Program for arts-based research, Elise Richter PEEK, which aim at providing the necessary qualifications to apply for professorial positions within Austria or abroad.

About Elisa Vilardo
Elisa Vilardo studied Genomic Biotechnology at “La Sapienza” University of Rome, and received her PhD in Neurosciences studying how regulatory RNAs control gene expression in the central nervous system, with a special focus on the regulation of the amyloid precursor protein. She then joined the Center for Anatomy and Cell Biology of the Medical University of Vienna as postdoc to study the how an RNA-processing enzyme affects Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, Elisa Vilardo has dedicated her work to the study of RNA modifications and their involvement in a rare disease characterized by progressive neurodegeneration and cardiomyopathy.