Arrow / HCC PhD scholarship awarded to Natalia Pinello
We are pleased to award Arrow / HCC scholarship funding to Natalia Pinello from The Centenary Institute, providing approximately $13,000 per year towards her PhD project until 2021.
Natalia wrote: The DNA in all of the cells in our body control what each cell looks like and all of its specific functions. This is because DNA provides the genetic blueprint for the production of RNA, which is like the instruction manual for the manufacture of proteins, or the physical components of our cells. This process is called “gene expression”.
Chemical decorations on our cell’s DNA play a key role in regulating gene expression by changing which RNA get produced, and therefore which proteins are manufactured. Previous studies have reported mechanisms and roles of some of these DNA decorations in controlling gene expression in both normal development and disease. This has led to the development of drugs to treat diseases in which the patterns of these DNA decorations are abnormal.
Recently, chemical decorations have also been found in RNA, but their functions and how they might affect gene expression are yet unknown.
My PhD project focuses on understanding the role of RNA decorations in normal blood cell development and cancer, so that this understanding can help contribute to the discovery of new treatments for blood cancers.
Natalia has had a long-standing passion for RNA biology. After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, she joined the Genetics Department at the Clemente Estable Biological Research Institute where she studied microRNA synthesis pathways in cancer. Since then, she has been fascinated by the complexity of transcriptional regulation. In 2012 she joined the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program at the Centenary Institute, Sydney, led by Professor John Rasko. There she worked as a research assistant for Dr. Justin Wong, where she contributed to seminal work on alternative splicing and gene expression regulation, published in numerous prestigious scientific journals including Cell, Nature Communications, Nucleic Acids Research and Genome Biology. This year, she started her PhD studies under the supervision of Dr. Wong at the Epigenetics and RNA Biology Program at the Centenary Institute. Her PhD aims to characterise the role of RNA modifications in haemopoiesis and leukaemia.