Maria Grazia Spillantini

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Maria Grazia Spillantini
Born Arezzo, Italy
Residence Cambridge, UK
Nationality Italian

University of Florence, Italy
INSERM, Paris, France
Medical Research Council, Cambridge, UK

University of Cambridge, UK
Notable awards Potamkin Prize of the American Academy of Neurology (2000)
Spouse Michel Goedert

Maria Grazia Spillantini FMedSci FRS, is Professor of Molecular Neurology in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge. She was elected as a fellow of The Royal Society in 2013.[1] She is most noted for identifying the protein alpha-synuclein as the major component of Lewy bodies, the characteristic protein deposit found in the brain in Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.[2] She has also identified mutations in the MAPT gene as a heritable cause for frontotemporal dementia.[3]

Education and career[edit]

Spillantini completed a laurea in biological sciences at the University of Florence, graduating summa cum laude. She remained at the University of Florence, moving to the Department of Clinical Pharmacology to conduct research. After research posts at INSERM Unité de Neurobiologie in Paris, and the Molecular Neurobiology Unit of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge UK, she began PhD studies at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Spillantini was affiliated with Peterhouse college during this time. She was awarded a PhD in molecular biology in 1987.

Spillantini was interviewed for a young researchers fellowship in 1991 by Nobel prize winner Rita Levi-Montalcini. On Levi-Montalcini's death in 2013, Spillantini told The Scientist magazine, “I was very nervous because she was a very well-known scientist. And it was really for me one of nicest experiences because she was really down to earth.” [4]

Spillantini is currently based at the University of Cambridge, where she is Professor of Molecular Neurology at the John Van Geest Centre for Brain Repair. Her research examines the mechanisms leading to neurodegeneration in diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and frontotemporal dementia. In particular her work studies the role of microtubule-associated protein tau and alpha-synuclein aggregation in the neurodegenerative process.


  1. ^ "New Fellows 2013". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Spillantini, MG; Schmidt, ML; Lee, VM; Trojanowski, JQ; Jakes, R; Goedert, M (Aug 28, 1997). "Alpha-synuclein in Lewy bodies.". Nature. 388 (6645): 839–40. PMID 9278044. doi:10.1038/42166. 
  3. ^ Ghetti, MG; Goedert, M; Crowther, RA; Murrell, JR; Farlow, MR; Ghetti, B (Apr 15, 1997). "Familial multiple system tauopathy with presenile dementia: a disease with abundant neuronal and glial tau filaments". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 94 (8): 4113–8. Bibcode:1997PNAS...94.4113S. PMC 20577Freely accessible. PMID 9108114. doi:10.1073/pnas.94.8.4113. 
  4. ^ Kelly Rae, Chi. "Rita Levi-Montalcini Dies". Retrieved 11 October 2013.