Valeria Di Leo


I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Bari (Italy) in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnologies in 2015, where I had my first experience in mitochondrial research.

Then I moved to the University of Trieste (Italy) to get my master’s degree in Functional Genomics, graduating with first class honours. Thanks to the Erasmus student exchange programme I joined the Newcastle University for the first time in April 2017. Here I started my master’s experimental thesis at the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre, following a project on muscular myopathy.

Now I am undertaking my PhD with the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research.

Research Focus

Deep phenotyping: understanding the effect of exercise on mitochondrial disease patients.

My project will be focused on the characterization of molecular mechanisms in skeletal muscle triggered by a period of resistance exercise training in patients with mitochondrial myopathy. I will look into biochemical and molecular changes and then apply these findings for the development of a mimetic exercise drug.

The study will be composed of three main parts :

  1. Initial screening of human skeletal muscle biopsies pre-training from patients with single, large-scale mtDNA deletions to better investigate the oxidative phosphorylation deficiency and the fibre typing pattern;
  2. Deep phenotyping of the samples pre- and post-training to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that modulate the exercise tolerance improvement in mitochondrial patients;
  3. Characterization and development of an exercise mimetic drug using high throughput screening of a library of compounds in iPSC lines generated from mitochondrial patients.