The Associazione Amici del “Centro Dino Ferrari” was founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1984 in memory of his son Dino. It was established within the Clinical Neurological Institute at the University of Milan, Fondazione I.R.C.C.S. Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, to sustain and increase the activity of the “Centro Dino Ferrari”, by collecting the funds necessary to promote scientific and clinical research in the field of neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases. We have managed to gain some insights from the Director of the “Centro Dino Ferrari”, Prof. Nereo Bresolin of the Department of medical and Surgical Physiopathology and Transplantation at the University of Milan.
What is the outlook for research funding in Italy?
Scientific competition is far from new. We are driven primarily by the desire to help those who are limited by severe disabilities. Especially in recent years, public financing has become insignificant – both in terms of University funding, and that of the National Research Council. In order to remain competitive in the international arena, we have to produce research that will lead to a type of therapy, thus maintaining scientific credibility.
What is your strategy for the future?
In a recent national statistics report, the I.R.C.C.S. Policlinico in Milan (Scientific Institute for Research, Hospitalisation and Health Care) where the “Centro Dino Ferrari” is based, is the number one Institute in Italy for scientific publications. Within the hospital, the Multi-Specialty Department of Neurology, which encompasses the “Centro Dino Ferrari”, is the most productive of the 65 units that make up the whole hospital. Our strategy ranges from participation in international trials in order to prevent serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, through to vaccinations, new drugs and genetic methodologies.
What are the factors that influence these diseases and their methods of treatment?
There are many exogenous factors: diet and lifestyle habits affect a factor known as epigenetics. Awareness of these may help to some degree. There are several genetic factors that affect longevity of life. Both diet and lifestyle habits can cause cancer, and only a biomolecular knowledge of the underlying mechanisms of these illnesses can lead to a prospect of therapy. There are three main lines of development in science: the pharmacological industry, especially as far as prevention is concerned; gene therapy, and research into the use of stem cells.
In my opinion, doctors should not neglect the philosophical approach, remembering to add life to years, not just years to life. Lastly, each of us should be dedicated to better understanding the meaning of life, and also of death – which is considerably harder to accept.