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Research groups


Wellcome Trust
The Joan Pitts-Tucker Family Trust

Research institutes

Kavli Institute for Nanoscience Discovery

Maria Claudia Caiazza

Postdoctoral Research Scientist

  • Postdoctoral research scientist
  • Fulford Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College
  • DPhil students supervisor

iPSC-derived models of Parkinson's to study intracellular calcium using high throughput calcium imaging and functional genomics

Parkinson's disease is a debilitating disorder that impacts numerous individuals globally and lacks a definitive cure. It is characterised by the degeneration of a specific group of dopamine neurons in the brain, leading to motor symptoms. In my research, I employ stem cell technology to produce dopamine neurons derived from patients affected by Parkinson's. By utilising these lab-generated neurons, we can closely examine and investigate the disease, aiming to gain a better understanding of its underlying mechanisms.


Calcium is crucial for cellular functions, including energy production, protein function, and neurotransmitter release. Dopamine neurons, with their high energy demands, rely on calcium oscillations to support mitochondrial function and energy production. In the endoplasmic reticulum, calcium aids in protein folding. Parkinson's is associated with decreased energy production and accumulation of faulty proteins, potentially linked to calcium dysregulation. Due to the importance of calcium in dopamine neurons, even slight disruptions in calcium balance can have significant effects. Understanding the relationship between calcium and Parkinson's could provide valuable insights towards a better understanding and potential treatment options for the disease.

I study calcium dynamics in stem cell-derived dopamine neurons carrying the mutations GBA-N370SGBA-L444PSNCA-Trp and SNCA-A53T using spatially resolved calcium imaging. I use CRISPRi-based functional genomics in neurons to determine the role of specific genes in regulating calcium homeostasis and dynamics.

Development of new therapeutic targets for Parkinson's

In collaboration with AstraZeneca, Dr Brent Ryan, Dr Ricardo Marquez-Gomez, Ms Janine Brandes and Ms Parnaz Sharifi, we evaluated the ability of compounds to improve cell physiology in stem cell-derived dopamine neurons from patients.

The Team

Ms Johanna Hoffmann
Ms Parnaz Sharifi

Past members:
Ms Marianna Mignanelli
Dr Thomas Pass


I was granted leave to supplicate for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the Medical Science Division of the University of Oxford at the start of 2023. Prior to this, I obtained a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from the University of Pisa, as well as completed an Undergraduate Course at the Scuola Normale Superiore.