Prof. Nicoletta Gagliano has a Ph.D. in Physiopathology of Aging from the University of Milan. She is a Professor of Histology at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, and Director of the Extracellular Matrix Laboratory, University of Milan. She has been a visiting professor at Texas Tech University in the USA. Her main research topics are the study of extracellular matrix remodelling and collagen turnover in different pathological conditions (such as fibrosis, gingival overgrowth, tumour invasion, and tendon physiopathology), and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in carcinoma progression. She has written more than 80 PubMed-indexed publications.

Erik Campano: What do you love about your subject, cytology, histology and microanatomy?

Prof. Gagliano: Cytology, histology and microanatomy seem so different but, at the same time, are very tightly related. The study of cytology seems less exciting than the other two, but offers the possibility to understand the basis of most biological processes determining morpho-functional properties of cells. The knowledge of cytology allows the comprehension of tissue characteristics, either morphological or functional, in order to understand how tissue organization influences organ structure and, therefore, physiology and pathology. Any molecular mechanism, or pathological modifications, can be observed at the cytological, histological and anatomical level.

Please tell us something fascinating about your professional scientific research work.

My research is focused on the study of cell-extracellular matrix interplay. It is fascinating to have the possibility to detect, observe and describe, by both morphological and molecular methods, some characteristics of live cells, as well as how modifications of the extracellular environment can affect the cell phenotype. This is true, in particular, in the study of cancer biology; it is extremely exciting to study how cancer cells interact with, and modify, tumor stroma, and how, in turn, the stroma, in the microenvironment, modifies cancer cell behavior.

What is it that you enjoy about teaching at IMS?

Teaching at IMS offers the possibility to meet students coming from different countries and from different degree courses. So, it is very interesting to learn about the different methods of teaching histology and anatomy. Also, for me, it is a continuous challenge to improve my teaching in English, in order to be a good professor at IMS.  

Please share some wisdom about how to be a great medical student.

Continuous curiosity, and the desire to learn, should represent the fuel of a great medical student. More specifically, to study histology and anatomy, it is useful to remember the statement by the great Italian histologist and embryologist Angelo Ruffini: “shape is the expression of function”. This is the key; if you remember this, it will be easier to study, and you will be able to have a great overview of, the human body.


Erik Campano