Nadia Carlesso, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Medical and Molecular Genetics
Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research
Indiana University School of Medicine
1044 W. Walnut, Bldg. R4-Room 166
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Dr. Nadia Carlesso is an associate professor of Pediatrics Medical and Molecular Genetics at the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research Indiana University School of Medicine. She has been working in the field of hematology and stem cell research for 22 years, and has been an ISEH member for 14 of those years. She has served on the ISEH Board of Directors since 2010 and is a member of the ISEH Membership and Marketing Task Force.
Dr. Carlesso kindly answered some questions for ISEH.
How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?
It wasn’t a straight line. I started research when I was in Medical School (in Torino, Italy) and I spent the first two years studying the Dictyostelium Discoideum. A summer internship in the Department of Pathology at the University of Berlin introduced me to Hematology, but it was the subsequent internship in the Hematology Department at the University of Torino – that was determinant for my future path. There, under the guidance of Dr. Dario Ferrero (the “Maestro”), I learnt the bases of normal and malignant hematopoietic cell biology and I got completely hooked by the complexity of the hematopoietic system.
How were you introduced to ISEH?
It was in 1991. ISEH was in Parma, Italy. I had just concluded my first work on AML cells in vitro response to retinoic acid and I submitted it to the conference. It was my first international meeting.
Who was your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?
David Scadden. I worked close to him for 10 years. During my training with him I learn principles that I keep as constant reminder in my work: - to think outside the box and about the big picture - never be satisfied with what you know and always push the bar higher.
How would you describe your lab environment:
I am working in the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana. I have a core group of 6 people: 3 postdoctoral fellows, 1 PhD student, 1 clinical fellow and one technician; plus 3-6 rotating graduate and undergraduate students during the year.
How are you helping to mentor new investigators in your lab?
Mentoring is not only about the personal advice or guidance you provide to your mentees: you are mentoring by example. I hope to be a good example, by having a positive outlook at things, accepting constructive criticism, being open minded and determined. I am trying to show them the rewards of doing research, not only the challenges.
There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting?
The distinct role of specific cell microenvironments in the regulation of hematopoietic stem cells and progenitors. Our expanding knowledge on the superimposing layers of gene regulation by epigenetic mechanisms and non-coding RNAs. The new gene-editing tools like CRISPR, which will allow faster generation of new animal models.
What is the most exciting study or project happening in your lab?
We have recently discovered a molecular link between Notch signaling, microRNA miR155 and NF-kB regulation. We are currently studying how Notch signaling regulates the inflammatory tone in the bone marrow microenvironment and how this impact normal and malignant hematopoiesis.
Given your experience in the field, how have you seen the field change in the last five years?
There has been an amazing progress in several areas, such as genomic and epigenetics, non-coding RNAs, iPS, the tumor microenvironment and the return of immunotherapy. A better understanding of cellular contexts and specific alterations in hematopoietic malignancies has also driven the development of several new drugs and targeted therapeutic approaches.
It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years?
I predict that there will be a steady progress in understanding the relation between individual genetic make-up, disease and response to therapies, and that “personalized medicine” and more effective targeted therapies will move fast-forward. We will have increased ability to generate experimental disease models, through animal models and iPS technology and there will be more progress toward tissue and organ regeneration. I also think that the technological advances made in the past few years lay the premises for a new conceptual breakthrough, of which we may have only glimpses at this moment.
What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?
The recent advances in technology has allowed us to gather an enormous amount of information- Think for example, about our ability to define whole gene expression at a single cell level, in individual patients, in different tissues and disease contexts. I think the biggest challenge for the researchers will be to interpret these data, to distinguish the “critical” from the “marginal” at the light of a specific question. I think the generation of new algorithms and analytical tools and the thinking process characterizing “System Biology” will help us in this challenge.
Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future?
We are planning to continue to investigate how the bone marrow niche regulates the hematopoietic stem cell/progenitor differentiation during acute infections and how the inflamed bone marrow microenvironment contributes to hematopoietic malignancies.
How would you describe the funding climate for your specific type of research?
Climate: there have been several harsh winters – we are looking forward to spring.
What advice do you have for new investigators entering this scientific field?
Do not take anything for granted –do not slide into dogmatism (it is easier than you think) - keep being curious. Always.
What do you find most valuable about ISEH?
Since its start ISEH has created a tight community of hematologists from different parts of the world and a great forum to discuss new ideas in the field.
Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?
I like the size and the organization of it: they are ideal to foster collaborations and interactions among senior scientists and trainees. I like the many opportunities and the ideal forum created for students and postdoc to discuss science and career.
What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?
My favorite ISEH meeting is without doubt Parma 1991. At this meeting I meet who will become my life companion/husband, Angelo Cardoso. There, I also met who will become my first US mentor, Jim Griffin. I followed him closely at the meeting, until I got him to see my poster and ask him: can I work in your lab? The following year I moved to Boston, into his lab, and I have being in the States ever since. ISEH Parma 1991 had also the best food I had in a meeting, “ever”.
Why did you decide to become part of the Editorial Board of ExpHem and the Membership & Marketing Task Force task force ?
I like this society, I wanted to feel more a part of it and help in sustaining it, in some ways.
What are your hobbies?
No yet time for hobbies
If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Jules Verne. I read all his novels as a kid, but I am still fascinated by his stories, his imagination and by his accurate prediction of different technologies: many of his imaginary things became real 100 years later. I would be curious to know what he will imagine if he would live in our days…..