As the director of a busy research lab in Curitiba, Brazil, Bruno Dallagiovanna, PhD has spent four years leading a team of graduate students, postdocs, and other scientists working together to unlock mysteries of stem cell differentiation. The Laboratory of Basic Stem Cell Biology is based in the Instituto Carlos Chagas, a center affiliated with the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), a research and development arm of the Brazilian Ministry of Health.
A molecular biologist by training, Dallagiovanna is particularly interested in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. Recently, he has turned his attention to non-coding RNAs in stem cells and in the differentiation of cardiac stem cells. As a part of the national health ministry, he has also teamed up with medical groups focused on transplants and cell therapy.
While Dallagiovanna found being a director of the center rewarding, the administrative duties of a senior scientist pulled him away from hands-on research. With his term ending, he was eager for a return to his roots. “I was ready to get back to the bench,” says Dallagiovanna. “I thought it would be a way to practice my techniques, relearn protocols, and get reenergized. A sabbatical seemed like a good way to do that.”
At the time, Dallagiovanna and his team were investigating a gene involved in the initial stages of stem cell development. In his research, he came across a study led by ISCRM faculty member and associate director Hannele Ruohola-Baker, PhD. Recognizing a potential opportunity for collaboration, Dallagiovanna reached out to Ruohola-Baker. The connection proved fruitful.
In 2019, Ruohola-Baker, who was in Brazil for a conference in Rio de Janeiro, accepted an invitation to visit Dallagiovanna’s lab in Curitiba, and to give a seminar. The two researchers attended a meeting of Brazilian stem cell scientists and made a plan for collaborations. Soon, Ruohola-Baker invited Dallagiovanna to spend a year as a visiting scholar in her lab in Seattle. He accepted – and began his sabbatical in early 2022.
As a visiting scholar in the Ruohola Baker Lab, Dallagiovanna joined the ongoing effort to develop and test designed protein binders – computer-engineered tools that researchers at ISCRM and the Institute for Protein Design (IPD) believe can revolutionize treatments for cancer, COVID-19, and other diseases impacting people around the world. In this case, the investigators were studying how inhibiting the FGF2 receptor impacted the differentiation of IPSCs cells into stromal cells.
Dallagiovanna is excited about the results the team has seen over the last year and hopes to continue the partnership when he returns to Brazil. “I’ll leave with excellent memories. The lab has been very welcoming. It’s a habitat of ideas and collaboration. Going back to science has been very refreshing. I’d recommend all my students do research here.”