Veronica Astro

Research Scientists

Research Scientist



Veronica Astro joined Prof. Adamo’s laboratory at KAUST University in 2016 to work as a postdoctoral fellow on the optimization of genome editing techniques and developing protocols for the efficient differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into glucose-sensitive cells derivatives. During her previous research experience, while working in the field of cancer biology she gained expertise in a wide range of cellular and molecular biology techniques, including advanced microscope methods for live-cell imaging at high-resolution through fruitful collaborations. In particular, she spent a period at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore in 2012 and at the MPI Max Planck Institute of Dresden in 2014. Veronica produced results of interest and impact for the field of biology in a relatively short time and was awarded a short- and long-term fellowship from the prestigious European EMBO and Italian Foundation for Cancer Research (FIRC). She is deeply committed to science and when she obtained the Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine in 2013 from University Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan (Italy) she was already an author of several research articles in peer-reviewed international journals. She majored in 2007 in Molecular Biotechnology at Milan University (Italy), where she also earned her Bachelor in Medical Biotechnology in 2005. During her career, Veronica has also been teaching younger scientists and leading them through the intricate paths of scientific discoveries.

Research Interest

My area of investigation is focused on epigenetic processes required for the in vitro differentiation of human embryonic and patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells into glucose-sensitive cell types, such as hepatocytes, cardiomyocytes, and pancreatic beta-cells. In particular, I am currently generating genetically engineered cellular models of histone demethylases to assess their involvement in the onset of metabolic disorders, by using next-generation sequencing techniques and computational bioinformatics analysis.

Selected Publications

1. Alam T*, Alazmi M*, Naser R*, Huser F*, Momin AA*, Astro V, Hong SB, Walkiewicz KW, Canlas CG , Huser RG, Ali AJ, Merzaban J, Adamo A, Jaremko M, Jaremko L, Bajic VB, Gao X, Arold ST.
‘Proteome-level assessment of origin, prevalence and function of Leucine-Aspartic Acid (LD) motifs’
Bioinformatics. 2020 Feb 15;36(4):1121-1128.* Co-authors

2. Astro V and Adamo A
‘Epigenetic control of endocrine pancreas differentiation in vitro: current knowledge and future perspectives.’
Front Cell Dev Biol. 2018 Oct 25;6:141. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2018.00141. eCollection 2018. Review.

3. Franchi SA, Macco R, Astro V, Tonoli D, Savino E, Valtorta F, Sala K, Botta M, de Curtis I.
‘A Method to Culture GABAergic Interneurons Derived from the Medial Ganglionic Eminence.’
Front Cell Neurosci. 2018 Jan 8;11:423.

4. Franchi SA*, Astro V*, Macco R, Tonoli D, Barnier JV, Botta M, de Curtis I.
‘Identification of a Protein Network Driving Neuritogenesis of MGE-Derived GABAergic Interneurons.’
Front Cell Neurosci. 2016 Dec 21;10:289. * Co-authors

5. Astro V, Tonoli D, Chiaretti S, Badanai S, Sala K, Zerial M, de Curtis I.
‘Liprin-α1 and ERC1 control cell edge dynamics by promoting focal adhesion turnover.’
Sci Rep. 2016 Sep 23;6:33653.

6. Chiaretti S*, Astro V*, Chiricozzi E and de Curtis I.
‘Effects of the scaffold proteins liprin-α1, β1 and β2 on invasion by breast cancer cells.’
Biol Cell. 2016 Mar;108(3):65-75.* Co-authors

7. Pennucci R*, Talpo F*, Astro V, Montinaro V, Morè L, Cursi M, Castoldi V, Chiaretti S, Bianchi V, Marenna S, Cambiaghi M, Tonoli D, Leocani L, Biella G, D'Adamo P, de Curtis I.
‘Loss of Either Rac1 or Rac3 GTPase Differentially Affects the Behavior of Mutant Mice and the Development of Functional GABAergic Networks.’
Cereb Cortex. 2016 Feb;26(2):873-90. * Co-authors

8. Astro V and de Curtis I.
‘Plasma membrane–associated platforms: dynamic scaffolds for peripheral signaling’
Sci Signal. 2015 Mar 10;8(367)

9. Astro V, Chiaretti S, Magistrati E, Fivaz ML, de Curtis I.
‘Liprin-a1, ERC1 and LL5 identify a polarized, dynamic compartment implicated in cell migration’
J Cell Sci. 2014 Sep 1;127(Pt 17): 3862-76

10. Totaro A, Astro V, Tonoli D, de Curtis I
‘Identification of two tyrosine residues required for the intramolecular mechanism implicated in GIT1 activation’
PLoS One, 2014 Apr 3;9(4):e93199

11. Asperti C*, Astro V*, Pettinato E, Paris S, de Curtis I
‘Biochemical and functional characterization of the interaction between liprin-α1 and GIT1: implications for the regulation of cell motility’
PLoS One, 2011;6(6):e20757. * Co-authors

12. Astro V, Asperti C, Cangi MG, Doglioni C, de Curtis I
‘Liprin-a1 regulates breast cancer cell invasion by affecting cell motility, invadopodia, and extracellular matrix degradation’
Oncogene, 2011 Apr 14;30(15):1841-9

13. Asperti C, Astro V, Totaro A, Paris S, de Curtis I
‘Liprin-a1 promotes cell spreading on the extracellular matrix by affecting the distribution of activated integrins’
J Cell Sci. 2009 sep 15; 122: 3225-32


  • (2013) PhD in Molecular Medicine, Section of Biology and Biotherapy of cancer Vita-Salute San Raffaele University (Milan, Italy)
  • (2007) Master degree in Medical Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine
    University of Milan (Milan, Italy)
  • (2005) Bachelor degree in Medical Biotechnology
    University of Milan (Milan, Italy)

Professional Profile

2016.04 – current: Senior Postdoctoral Researcher
Institute: KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology)
Lab: Laboratory of Stem Cells and Diseases
Head: Antonio Adamo
Country: Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Subject: Stem Cell biology

2014.01 – 2016.02: Postdoctoral fellow
Institute: Vita-Salute San Raffaele University
Lab: Cell adhesion Unit, Division of Neuroscience
Head: Ivan de Curtis
Country: Milan, Italy
Subject: Tumor Cell biology

2014.03 – 2014.10: EMBO short-term fellow
Institute: Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics
Head: Marino Zerial
Country: Dresden, Germany
Subject: Cell biology

2012.10 – 2012.12: Visiting PhD Student
Institute: DUKE-NUS Medical School, National University of Singapore
Lab: Division of Neuroscience and behavioural disorders
Head: Marc Fivaz
Country: Singapore
Subject: Innovative imaging techniques for cell signalling investigation

2010 – 2013: PhD student in Molecular Medicine
Institute: Vita-Salute San Raffaele University
Lab: Cell adhesion Unit, Division of Neuroscience
Head: Ivan de Curtis
Country: Milan, Italy
Subject: Cell biology

2008 –2010: Predoctoral fellow
Institute: Vita-Salute San Raffaele University
Lab: Cell adhesion Unit, Division of Neuroscience
Head: Ivan de Curtis
Country: Milan, Italy
Subject: Tumor Cell biology

Scientific and Professional Membership

ISSCR (International society of stem cells research)
ABCD Society (Italian Association of Cell Biology and Differentiation)


  • EMBO Short-term fellowship (2014.03 – 2014.10)
  • Italian Foundation for cancer research (FIRC) Long-term fellowship (2010-2013)
  • Winner of the Runner-up poster prize at 1st Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Conference, Manchester (UK) (2010)

KAUST Affiliations

Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division (BESE)

KAUST Environmental Epigenetics Program (KEEP)

Research Interests Keywords

Stem Cells Differentiation Epigenetics Genome Editing Cell Biology