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Department of Molecular Life Sciences

Dr. Ambra Villani

Ambra Villani

Research Associate

Ambra Villani

Office Y13-K-36

Phone (office): +41 44 635 31 88

Phone (lab): +41 44 635 44 39


Ambra was born in Milan, Italy. She studied medical biotechnology at the University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy) and completed her Master’s thesis at Yale University (USA), where she continued working as a Postgraduate Associate. At Yale, she investigated the molecular mechanisms of the pathogenesis of different genetic cholangiopathies by combining approaches utilizing primary cultures in vitro with in vivo pharmacology in mice. In 2015, Ambra started her PhD at EMBL Heidelberg (Germany). She specialized in molecular biology and in vivo microscopy, employing the transparent zebrafish embryo as her model system of choice. By studying the clearance of apoptotic neurons by microglia in the developing brain, she uncovered the existence of the gastrosome, a new compartment in the phagocytic pathway. In December 2018, she moved to the University of Zürich (Switzerland), where she keeps investigating microglial dynamics in contexts of development and disease. In 2020, as a senior scientist, Ambra started working on the setup of a new model system to investigate the role of the gastrosome in human iPSc-derived microglia, and in 2021 she became a member of the iPSZürich Organising Committee.
Besides being passionate about research, Ambra strives to build and maintain a solid connection between science and the general public. In 2020 she co-founded Facts&Reasons: a science education and communication project aimed at fighting scientific misinformation.
In her free time, Ambra enjoys cooking, hanging out with friends and travelling.



  • Möller K, Brambach M, Villani A, Gallo E, Gilmour D, Peri F (2022) A role for the centrosome in regulating the rate of neuronal efferocytosis by microglia in vivo. Doi: 10.1101/2022.08.12.503784
  • Villani A, Benjaminsen J, Moritz C, Henke K, Hartmann J, Norlin N, Richter K, Schieber NL, Franke T, Schwab Y, Peri F. (2019) Clearance by Microglia Depends on Packaging of Phagosomes into a Unique Cellular Compartment. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2019.02.014  PubMed
  • Villani A, Peri F. (2018) Microglia: Picky Brain Eaters. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2018.12.013 PubMed
  • Spirli C, Mariotti V, Villani A, Fabris L, Fiorotto R, Strazzabosco M. (2017) Adenylyl cyclase 5 links changes in calcium homeostasis to cAMP-dependent cyst growth in polycystic liver disease. Journal of Hepatology 66, 571–580 PubMed
  • Spirli C, Villani A, Mariotti V, Fabris L, Fiorotto R, Strazzabosco M. (2015) Posttranslational regulation of polycystin-2 protein expression as a novel mechanism of cholangiocyte reaction and repair from biliary damage. Hepatology 62, 1828–1839 PubMed
  • Fiorotto R, Villani A, Kourtidis A, Scirpo R, Ameduni M, Geibel PJ, Cadamuro M, Spirli C, Anastasiadis PZ, Strazzabosco M. (2016) The Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator Controls Biliary Epithelial Inflammation and Permeability by Regulating Src Tyrosine Kinase Activity. Hepatology 64, 2118–2134 PubMed
  • Scirpo R, Fiorotto R, Villani A, Ameduni M, Spirli C, Strazzabosco M. (2015) Stimulation of Nuclear Receptor Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptor-g Limits NF-kB-Dependent Inflammation in Mouse Cystic Fibrosis Biliary Epithelium. Hepatology 62, 1551–1562 PubMed

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