Sara Xapelli

Sara Xapelli

Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

Sara Xapelli


Sara Xapelli is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa and leads the group ”Control of neurogenesis and postnatal”. Sara graduated in Biology from the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC) in 2003 and received her PhD from the same Institution in 2008. For her PhD Sara studied the neuroprotective and antiepileptic role of neuropeptide Y and performed the work at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) (Portugal), at the University of Southern Denmark (Denmark) and at the University of Alberta (Canada). Next, she did her first postdoc at CNC, complemented by an internship at the University of Southern Denmark. Subsequently, she pursued a second postdoc at Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes (iMM), where she pioneered advancements in the research field of neural stem cells.

Her research group investigates modulators of neural stem cells to boost adult neurogenesis and oligodendrogenesis as a strategy for brain functional repair and aims to exploit them as a novel therapeutic platform to counteract brain pathologies such as Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy and Major Depressive Disorder. Sara is actively involved in various scientific roles, serving as the Vice-President of the Portuguese Society for Neuroscience, member of the Fiscal Council of the Portuguese Society of Stem Cells and Cell Therapy, and Managing Committee Member of a COST Action. She has also played a pivotal role in organizing scientific events and has received awards such as the International Society for Neurochemistry Career Development Grant and the IBRO Early Career Award.

Description of the general focus of the symposium "Exploring New Drugs for Brain Therapy"

This symposium aims to provide an overview of the latest advancements in the dynamic field of neuropharmacology. Focusing on the development and potential applications of novel drugs for brain therapy, the goal of this symposium is to bring together an invited speaker and early-stage career researchers working in this field. Topics covered include novel drug development, emerging therapeutic strategies, and the impact of neuropharmacology on different brain disorders. The invited speaker is an expert in cannabinoids, focusing on their role as modulators of neural stem cells to enhance adult neurogenesis, serving as a strategy for brain functional repair. During this symposium, the speaker will emphasize the use of cannabinoids and physical exercise as an innovative therapeutic framework to address brain pathologies, including Major Depressive Disorder. Early-stage career researchers will present their work on this topic, facilitating discussions on the potential applications of neuropharmacological research in both clinical and experimental settings. Thus, this symposium will provide a platform for interdisciplinary exchange, encouraging collaboration between attendees to advance the understanding and treatment options for brain disorders.

Talk: "Decoding Antidepressant Paths: from Cannabinoids to Physical Exercise via Postnatal Neurogenesis Regulation"

Chronic stress poses a significant risk for neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) has emerged as a promising target for alleviating stress-related disorders. Recent research highlights the interplay between cannabinoids and neurotrophic factors in regulating AHN, influencing cognitive plasticity and emotional flexibility. This study explores the synergistic effects of modulating cannabinoid type 2 receptors (CB2R), devoid of psychotropic effects, and physical exercise (PE) in chronically stressed animals. Contrary to CB2R activation, CB2R inhibition combined with PE improves stress-induced emotional and cognitive changes. This combined approach enhances AHN dynamics and induces an overall reduction in neuroinflammation. The findings underscore CB2Rs as critical regulators, revealing a potential therapeutic framework for countering chronic stress effects through lifestyle interventions coupled with endocannabinoid pharmacomodulation. 

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