PhD student profile, Diletta Francesca Squarzanti

PhD Student: Diletta Francesca Squarzanti (ORCID n. 0000-0001-8090-7718)


Supervisor: Prof. Stefania Arioli, DEFENS

Co-tutor: Prof. Diego Mora

Company tutor: Patrizia Malfa, R&D manager, SynBalance srl

Dean: Prof. Diego Mora

Research area: Food Science and Nutrition


Research topic

Probiotics and Food associated microorganisms: ecology, molecular and functional characterization, impact on host health


Project Synopsis

The human intestinal microbiota plays a key role in the maintenance of host health and well-being by providing energy, nutrients, and immunological protection. The modulation of the gut microbiota is emerging as a promising target for the management or prevention of many diseases. One strategy among the others is the supplementation with probiotic strains. Some are well-characterized and routinely used by the general population, practitioners, and clinicians. These are traditional probiotics, mainly belonging to Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera, derived from gut and traditional fermented foods. Moreover, in silico analyses has increased the knowledge on microorganisms with potential health benefit, called Next-Generation Probiotics (NGPs), but further evidence about their effects and mechanism of action is needed. This project aims to isolate and investigate selected microbes and, by an in deep characterization, to discover potential NGPs that satisfy the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in terms of safety, functionality, and technological usability.


Project keywords

Microbiota, intestinal microbiome, probiotic



Via Celoria, 2

Università degli Studi di Milano

Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences



Fellowship sponsor: SynBalance srl for Executive PhD fellowship



Publications with impact factor (peer reviewed):

Squarzanti DF, Zanetta P, Ormelli M, Manfredi M, Barberis E, Vanella VV, Amoruso A, Pane M, Azzimonti B. An animal derivative-free medium enhances Lactobacillus johnsonii LJO02 supernatant selective efficacy against the methicillin (oxacillin)-resistant Staphylococcus aureus virulence through key-metabolites. Sci Rep. 12(1):8666. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-12718-z

Zanetta P, Ormelli M, Amoruso A, Pane M, Azzimonti B, Squarzanti DF. Probiotics as Potential Biological Immunomodulators in the Management of Oral Lichen Planus: What’s New? International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Special Issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms Underlying Probiotic Activity. 2022:23(7):3489.

Azzimonti B, Raimondo L*, Squarzanti DF*, Rosso T, Aluffi Valletti P, Chiusa L, Masini L, Pecorari G, Airoldi M, Krengli M, Giovarelli M, Valente G. Macrophages expressing TREM-1 are involved in the progression of HPV16-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Annals of Medicine. 2021: 53:1, 541-550, doi: 10.1080/07853890.2021.1905872    *co-authorship

Zanetta P*, Squarzanti DF*, Sorrentino R*, Rolla R, Aluffi Valletti P, Garzaro M, Dell’Era V, Azzimonti B. Oral microbiota and vitamin D impact on oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinogenesis: a narrative literature review. Crit Rev Microbiol. 2021:1-24. doi: 10.1080/1040841X.2021.1872487  *co-authorship

Ghini V, Tenori L, Pane M, Amoruso A, Marroncini G, Squarzanti DF, Azzimonti B, Rolla R, Savoia P, Tarocchi M, Galli A, Luchinat C. Effects of Probiotics Administration on Human Metabolic Phenotype. Metabolites, Special Issue Metabolomics and Its Application in Human Diseases Volume 2. 2020:10,396. doi:10.3390/metabo10100396

Squarzanti DF, Zavattaro E, Pizzimenti S, Amoruso A, Savoia P, Azzimonti B. Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: news from microbiota research. Crit Rev Microbiol. 2020:1-17. doi:10.1080/1040841X.2020

Squarzanti DF, Sorrentino R, Azzimonti B. High-risk HPVs, microbiota and epithelial carcinogenesis: state of the art and research contribution of in vitro 3D models. Journal Cancer Metastasis Treat. 2019:5-73. doi: 10.20517/2394-4722.2019.19

Squarzanti DF, Cena T, Sorrentino R, Migliario M, Chiocchetti A, Rimondini L, Azzimonti B, Valente G. Implications on pathogenesis and risk of oral lichen planus neoplastic transformation: an ex-vivo retrospective immunohistochemical study. Histol Histopathol. 2019:18104. doi: 10.14670/HH-18-104

Squarzanti DF, Sorrentino R, Landini MM, Chiesa A, Pinato S, Rocchio F, Mattii M, Penengo L, Azzimonti B. Human papillomavirus type 16 E6 and E7 oncoproteins interact with the nuclear p53-binding protein 1 in an in vitro reconstructed 3D epithelium: new insights for the virus-induced DNA damage response. Virol J. 2018:15:176. doi: 10.1186/s12985-018-1086-4

Invernizzi M, Carda S, Rizzi M, Grana E, Squarzanti DF, Cisari C, Molinari C, Renò F. Evaluation of serum myostatin and sclerostin levels in chronic spinal cord injured patients. Spinal Cord. 2015: 53:615-20. doi:10.1038/sc.2015.61

Pittarella P*, Squarzanti DF*, Molinari C, Invernizzi M, Uberti F, Renò F. NO-dependent proliferation and migration induced by Vitamin D in HUVEC. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2015:149:35-42. doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2014.12.012    *co-authorship

Lattuada D, Uberti F, Colciaghi B, Morsanuto V, Maldi E, Squarzanti DF, Molinari C, Boldorini R, Bulfoni A, Colombo P, Bolis G. Fimbrial cells exposure to catalytic iron mimics carcinogenic changes. Int J Gynecol Cancer. 2015:25:389-98. doi:10.1097/IGC.0000000000000379

Uberti F, Lattuada D, Morsanuto V, Nava U, Bolis G, Vacca G, Squarzanti DF, Cisari C, Molinari C. Vitamin D protects human endothelial cells from oxidative stress through the autophagic and survival pathways. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014:99:1367-74. doi:10.1210/jc.2013-2103

Molinari C, Rizzi M, Squarzanti DF, Pittarella P, Vacca G, Renò F. 1α,25-Dihydroxycholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) induces NO-dependent endothelial cell proliferation and migration in a three-dimensional matrix. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2013:31:815-22. doi:10.1159/000350099


Publications without impact factor:

Squarzanti DF, Zanetta P, Ormelli M, Azzimonti B. Role of specific probiotics in skin diseases: new insights from in vitro investigation. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2021. Volume 141, Number 10S, Supplement 2.

Squarzanti DF, Zanetta P, Azzimonti B. Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer and the Cutaneous Microbiota Network. Biol Med (Aligarh) 2020:12:473. doi: 10.35248/0974-8369.20.12.473

Chiesa A, Sorrentino R, Squarzanti DF, Cochis A, Rimondini L, Azzimonti B. In vitro reconstructed human epithelial models for microbial infection research: why do we need them? EC Microbiology 2017:8.2: 92-96


Communications to congresses:

June 15-16th, 2022: International Conference on Probiotics and Prebiotics. Virtual Oral Presentation: Lactobacillus johnsonii LJO02 cell-free supernatants inhibit the growth and virulence of pathogenic methicillin (oxacillin)- resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

October 1st-2nd, 2021: XIX Congresso della commissione nazionale dei corsi di studi in igiene dentale, Novara, Italy. Poster: Il surnatante di Lactobacillus johnsonii LJO02 coltivato in un terreno vegetale contrasta la virulenza del patogeno opportunista Staphylococcus aureus. Best poster prize

September 22nd-25th, 2021: 50th Annual ESDR Meeting (virtual). E-poster: Role of specific probiotics in skin diseases: new insights from in vitro investigation.

September 12nd-14th, 2021: 11th Probiotics, Prebiotics & New Foods, Nutraceuticals and Botanicals for Nutrition & Human and Microbiota Health conference, Rome, Italy. E-poster: 1H NMR-based metabolomics to investigate the effect of probiotics on human phenotype.

January 17th, 2020: Interdisciplinary Research Center of Autoimmune Diseases (IRCAD) day, Novara, Italy. Poster: Implications on pathogenesis and risk of oral lichen planus neoplastic transformation: an ex-vivo retrospective immunohistochemical study.

November 10th, 2018: IRCAD day, Novara, Italy. Poster: A retrospective study on the implications oral lichen planus pathogenesis and risk of neoplastic transformation: an immunohistochemical analysis.

December 2017: IRCAD day, Novara, Italy. Poster: Immunophenotype of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma: Foxp3, IL-22 and TREM-1 expression in the tumoral environment.

May 2017: The Interplay Between Viruses and Their Hosts Through Molecular Recognition, Establishment of Infection and Cellular Response, Barga, Lucca, Italy. Poster: In vitro 3D epithelial models to investigate the DNA damage response of Human Papillomavirus 16 infected keratinocytes.

February 2017: NC3Rs Workshop: Human tissue model for cancer research, London (UK). Poster: In vitro 3D epithelial models to investigate the ubiquitin-based modifications regulating the DNA damage response of Human Papillomavirus infected keratinocytes; 3D advanced human melanoma models.

May 2014: 8° Meeting of Young Researchers in Physiology, Firenze, Italy. Oral presentation: Vitamin D protects human endothelial cells from oxidative stress through the autophagic and survival pathways.



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