Robert H. BlellochPrincipal Investigator
Stem cells exist both in the developing embryo and in many organs of the adult organism. Differentiation of these cells is tightly regulated so that their progeny become increasingly specialized and lose the potential to revert or transform into other cell types. This regulation is very important both to maintain organ function and to avoid the possibility of uncontrolled cell growth, the basis of cancer. Our laboratory is interested in determining the molecular mechanisms that direct and stabilize cellular differentiation with the focus on post-transcriptional regulation and epigenetics. The goal is to control the differentiation and de-differentiation of cells in order to regenerate tissues for replacement therapies as well as develop novel means for treating cancer.
Cassandra is currently a Researcher at UCSF studying the role of microRNAs in prostate cancer progression and their use as diagnostic markers. She began studying different aspects of cancer biology after her graduation from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1990 first by working as a technician at Cornell University in the laboratory of eminent biochemist Dr. Efraim Racker. She studied the earliest steps of bladder carcinogenesis under the mentorship of Dr. Catherine Reznikoff at the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she obtained her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Toxicology. She moved on to a post-doctoral project aimed at understanding the toxicology of dioxins, a prominent pollutant in the Great Lakes waterways, on developing organisms using the zebrafish as a model under the mentorship of Drs. Warren Heideman and Richard Peterson, also at UW Madison. There she discovered the beauty of development through watching the fertilized egg morph into a fully functioning fish in just 3 days. She accepted a position as instructor/scientist in the HHMI laboratory of Dr. Leonord Zon at Harvard Children’s Hospital, Boston. While in the Zon lab, Cassandra managed the operations of the 5000 tank zebrafish facility and studied liver carcinogenesis using a cell cycle mutant that had been isolated in the lab.
Finally she moved to UCSF in 2005 as an Assistant Researcher within the Blelloch Lab. Within the lab she has many roles but her primary focus is on understanding prostate cancer progression. She established a mouse model to study the roles of microRNAs in prostate cancer by combining a recently published model of prostate cancer, the PB-cre conditional PTEN deletion model with the conditional DGCR8 deletion model established by Robert. Her more recent interests are moving into the area of prognostic biomarkers and learning the bioinformatics tools to uncover serum microRNAs that will add value to the current UCSF nomograms.
Outside of lab Cassandra volunteers in many capacities at her children's schools. With her family, she enjoys the fact that San Francisco has a climate conducive to year-round outdoor activities from hiking, biking and sailing locally to camping, hiking and skiing in the mountains.
Brian DeVealePost-Doctoral Fellow
I grew up a mediocre hockey player in Toronto, although in retrospect, I think advanced metrics would be kind to my contribution. I did my undergraduate studies in Life Sciences at Queen's University (Seroude lab) and then went on to do a PhD in Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto (van der Kooy lab). For my graduate work, I studied lineage specification and genomic imprinting in early embryos. My current research interest is to genetically dissect the relationship between the establishment of phasic transcription and lineage specification during development. My studies were supported by a CIHR fellowship (2014-17), since 2017 I have been supported by an NIH R21. When I am not in lab I enjoy spending time with my family especially outdoors.
Carolyn SangokoyaPost-Doctoral Fellow
Carolyn is a post-doctoral fellow in the Blelloch Lab and a clinical instructor and research fellow in the UCSF Pathology Physician-Scientist Program pathway. She completed her undergraduate studies at Stanford University studying Human Biology with a concentration in molecular genetics. She then went on to earn both her MD and PhD through the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke University School of Medicine.
For her graduate work, she trained in the lab of Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi in the Duke Program for Genetics and Genomics, gaining expertise in RNA biology, genomic approaches to the discovery and functional analysis of microRNAs, and the elucidation of biological roles for microRNAs in human biology and disease. For her graduate thesis she developed methods for isolation and characterization of microRNA expression in human erythrocytes (red blood cells) and studied cellular stress response in erythrocytes in sickle cell anemia, with findings contributing to the biological basis for clinical trials for new treatments.
At UCSF, Carolyn has completed her residency and fellowship training in anatomic and surgical pathology with a focus on liver/gastrointestinal disease and has returned to the lab to focus on her interest in stem cell biology and mapping post-transcriptional RNA-binding regulatory networks in dynamic cell states, specifically within the embryonic stem cell fate transition.
Deniz GoekbugetPost-Doctoral Fellow
Deniz grew up in Frankfurt, Germany. He studied biochemistry at Goethe University Frankfurt, performing his graduate work on biochemical and biophysical properties of Channelrhodopsin-2 at the Max-Planck Institute of Biophysics. He then joined Ueli Suter’s lab at ETH Zurich in Switzerland to obtain his Ph.D. working on the role of the microRNA pathway in myelination of peripheral nerves. In the Blelloch lab, he is focused on molecular mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of embryonic stem cell differentiation. Outside lab he enjoys being in the mountains for hiking and skiing. Deniz is a fellow of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
Mauro PoggioPost-doctoral Fellow
Mauro joined the lab in the winter of 2017.
Bryan MarshGraduate Student, DSCB
Bryan Marsh is a DSCB graduate student who joined the lab in the Summer of 2017.
As an undergraduate at Wesleyan University I became enchanted by videos of epiboly and gastrulation and found a home in the lab of Dr. Ann Burke exploring hox gene patterning during cell migration in limb development. After graduation I joined the lab of Dr. Carla Kim at Boston Children’s Hospital exploring the role of histone methyltransferases in the behavior and differentiation of tumor propagating cells in mouse models of lung adenocarcinoma. Now in the Blelloch lab I am investigating the development of the placenta across several species. I am particularly interested in how changes in gene regulatory networks between species have contributed to the incredible diversity of tissue architecture and cell types in such a short evolutionary timespan. Outside the lab I am an avid runner and can be found in Golden Gate Park or trying desperately not to get poison oak on the trails above Stinson Beach.
Ryan BoileauGraduate Student, DSCB
As an undergraduate at the University of Oregon Ryan developed a passion for science by conducting research in a couple of labs: First studying human muscle metabolism in Hans Dreyer’s lab and then investigating mechanisms of asymmetric cell division in the lab of Ken Prehoda. After graduation he moved to the Bay Area to work as a technician with David Bilder at UC Berkeley exploring the intersection of cell polarity and epithelial tumorigenesis in Drosophila. Now as a member of the DSCB graduate program and the Blelloch Lab Ryan is interested in the mechanisms of transcriptional regulation that govern cell fate transitions. Outside of lab he enjoys running, climbing, reading, concert(ing), chips&salsa, and being from Portland OR before it was cool.
Brandon ChuJunior Specialist
Brandon first joined the lab as a volunteer working with Raga to understand how FoxD3 regulates ES cells. After graduation, he joined Cassie on the prostate cancer biomarker project. He is also working with TJ and Mauro to understand the role of exosomes in cancer.
Jennifer Swindlehurst ChanJunior Specialist
Jennifer joined the Blelloch Lab as a Junior Specialist in 2019. She is working with Brian to study cell cycle regulated gene expression in development.