I am the I in IWK – Dr. Francesca Di Cara, IWK Researcher

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“It probably sounds a bit odd for someone originally from Italy to say, but I miss the snow of Alberta,” Dr. Francesca Di Cara, IWK Department of Pediatrics researcher says. “But Halifax is a very pretty city and I look forward to getting to know it more.”

Di Cara started at the IWK in October 2018. Her research focuses on how the immune system can work in fighting viruses, bacteria and cancer. She uses the fruit fly as a model for her research due to the fact 75 per cent of its genes are similar to humans and it has a short and simple reproduction cycle.

Upon completion of her undergrad, masters and PhD in Italy, Di Cara worked in Edinburgh, Scotland for almost three years doing her post-doc in cell biology. Yearning for a change, Di Cara took a position with the University of Alberta.

“I was fortunate enough to work with Richard Rachubinski an international recognized leader in peroxisomes biology” Di Cara says. “In my lab there, I discovered there is a relationship between peroxisome metabolites and immune responses. Macrophages, large white blood cells that find, swallow and destroy invaders are important players in the innate immune response. We discovered that structures inside macrophages, known as peroxisomes, play a crucial role in allowing the macrophage to consume invaders. The structures are essential to the innate immune response,” she says. “They are like an on-off switch for the system.”

Since her arrival, Di Cara has been in grant-writing-mode, and is grateful to Research Services for their support in helping her to meet deadlines.

Di Cara’s husband, also a researcher originally from Alberta has moved to Nova Scotia with her. The couple is looking forward to learning more about their new city.