Where Ideas Grow

i3S secures yet another Fulbright grant

Researcher Ana Rita Matos recently received a grant from the Fulbright Foundation to finance a six-month stay in Boston (USA), where she will acquire new skills and experience that will allow her to create at the i3S the first biobank of induced pluripotent cells (cells produced in the laboratory that are capable of generating other cells or tissues) designed to find new genetic defects or therapies for families suffering from Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer syndrome (HDGC).

As a student of the Doctoral Program in Molecular and Cellular Biotechnology applied to Health Sciences (BiotechHealth), Ana Rita Matos will then have the opportunity to spend six months at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Boston University, in a group led by her co-advisor Gustavo Mostoslavsky. The work plan is part of a project recently financed by FCT and coordinated by her advisor, Carla Oliveira, leader of the Expression Regulation in Cancer group, and called “Estimates of lifetime risk and genetic modifiers in Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer”.

“During this six-month period in which I will be in the United States, I will gain experience in the derivation, manipulation and culture of pluripotent cells induced from lymphocytes, as well as in the derivation of breast and stomach organoids from these cells”, explains Ana Rita Matos.

Based on the knowledge acquired, researcher Carla Oliveira adds, the plan is to “establish the first biobank of induced pluripotent cells at the i3S and Centro Hospitalar Universitário de São João (CHUSJ) for families suffering from Diffuse Hereditary Gastric Cancer”. This biobank opens up the possibility of recreating mini-organs (stomach and breast, which are the organs affected in this syndrome), from material from the patients. This approach will allow the exploration of new causes of the disease and eventually the testing of therapies that may arise for Diffuse Hereditary Gastric Cancer, a very aggressive form of stomach cancer that has a high mortality rate.

In addition to the Expression Regulation in Cancer” group, the project also has the support of teams from the Genetics Service of the Centro Hospitalar Universitário de São João (CHUSJ). “Interinstitutional cooperation was essential to prepare this project and win this Fulbright Scholarship”, underlines Ana Rita Matos, about an achievement that “undoubtedly represents a great stimulus for my scientific career and for the development of this work”.

The benefits of this scholarship consist in the offer of complementary health and accident insurance during the scholarship period, the issuance of the documents required for the visa and its exemption from payment. In addition, Ana Rita Matos will become part of the worldwide network of Fulbright scholarship holders, with orientation before departing to the USA, support during the stay from the Fulbright Commission and the Institute of International Education, as well as the opportunity to participate in seminars and other cultural and scientific activities organized by the Fulbright Program.

Ana Rita Matos has a master's degree in Molecular Medicine and Oncology from the Faculty of Medicine of the U.Porto (FMUP) and by 2018 she had already won an “ESHG National Fellowship” Scholarship from the Portuguese Society of Human Genetics (SPGH).