Meet Our Researchers
Dr. Rangarajan Sambathkumar
Dr. Kirsten Ward Hartstonge
Dr. Yi-Chun Chen
Dr. Suheda Erener
Dr. Jayne Danska
Dr. Jayne Danska holds The Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair in Molecular Medicine. She is a professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and a senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children. Her research addresses the idea that the dramatic increase in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases over the past 50 years results, in part, from changes in our exposure to microbes. She is studying the role of the community of microbes that inhabit the human intestine (the microbiome) in altering risk for, and the progression of, type 1 diabetes. The ultimate objective of her work is to identify new therapeutics to prevent the disease.
Dr. Timothy Kieffer
Dr. Timothy Kieffer is a professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences and the Department of Surgery at the University of British Columbia. He is manipulating stem cells into glucose-responsive insulin-producing cells that can then be transplanted into people with type 1 diabetes. This procedure could one day reduce or eliminate the need for daily insulin injections.
Dr. Gregory Korbutt
Dr. Gregory Korbutt is a professor of surgery at the University of Alberta. He is using different techniques to safeguard cells with the goal of developing a more accessible source of insulin-producing tissue for transplantation into patients with type 1 diabetes. Dr. Korbutt and his team are using their new 3D ‘scaffolding’ technology to make islet transplants more widely available and functional.The scaffolding technology can help improve blood flow and oxygen to the transplant site, as well as allow incorporation of proteins into the scaffolds that will help keep the cells healthy. Find out more about Dr. Korbutt’s research.
Dr. Megan Levings
Dr. Megan Levings is an investigator at British Columbia's Children's Hospital and a professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of British Columbia. She is developing a test to monitor the health of T regulatory cells, which help control the type 1 diabetes autoimmune attack.
Dr. Farid Mahmud
Dr. Farid Mahmud is a staff physician in the Department of Endocrinology at The Hospital for Sick Children and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto. He is identifying young people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at high risk of developing kidney and heart complications, and assessing whether medications for lowering cholesterol and treating high blood pressure can serve as deterrents. Dr. Mahmud is also screening people with T1D for celiac disease, and evaluating whether a gluten-free diet improves diabetes management.
Dr. Maria Cristina Nostro
Dr. Maria Cristina Nostro is a scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute and an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. She is also a principal investigator at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and holds the Harry Rosen Chair in Diabetes and Regenerative Medicine Research. By combining expertise in stem cells and developmental biology, she is pioneering novel transplantation approaches aimed at creating an ideal environment for the survival of stem cell-derived insulin-producing cells.
Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret
Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret is an endocrinologist and supervisor of the external artificial pancreas research project at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute where he is testing this device for patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Two configurations of the artificial pancreas are being assessed: one that infuses insulin, and another that infuses insulin and glucagon (a hormone that can help raise blood sugar and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia). The artificial pancreas could help people with T1D reach target blood sugar range, thereby decreasing the risk of chronic complications and simultaneously reducing the risk of hypoglycemia, which remains the most common adverse effect of insulin therapy.
Dr. James Shapiro
Dr. James Shapiro, a multi-organ transplant surgeon at the University of Alberta, led the team that introduced the Edmonton Protocol, which optimized the medication given with islet transplants. Currently, he is conducting a phase I clinical trial on transplants using a product containing pancreatic progenitor cells (the precursors of stem cells) housed inside a device that protects them from being destroyed by the immune system. Dr. Shapiro is also leading clinical trials to switch off autoimmunity and repair injured beta cells at the time of diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. These promising tools could one day elminate the need for insulin injections.
Dr. Bruce Perkins
Dr. Bruce Perkins is a Professor of Medicine and a clinician-scientist at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on cohort studies and clinical trials in diabetes complications and methods to improve blood sugar control in type 1 diabetes, including adjunct-to-insulin therapies and closed loop systems.
Dr. Gillian Booth
Dr. Gillian Booth is a scientist at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions (C-UHS) within the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. She is also an adjunct scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, and a practicing endocrinologist. Dr. Booth’s research focuses on how socioeconomic, environmental and health care factors influence the risk of diabetes and its complications.
Dr. Xiao Yu (Shirley) Wu
Dr. Xiao Yu (Shirley) Wu is a full professor of advanced pharmaceutics and drug delivery at the University of Toronto. She is an internationally recognized expert and leader in controlled release dosage forms, and novel drug delivery strategies and delivery systems. Her current research, funded by JDRF, focuses on the development of a glucose-responsive microneedle patch that regulates the release of therapeutic hormones and has the potential to prevent hypoglycemia.
Dr. James (Jim) Johnson
Dr. James (Jim) Johnson is professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, and the Department of Surgery at the University of British Columbia. A world-leader in the fundamental biology of pancreatic islets, insulin action, diabetes and related conditions, he is a renowned author and the editor-in-chief of the journal, Islets. In 2016, Dr. Johnson co-founded the Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition in Vancouver – a non-profit organization dedicated to research, clinical care, and advocacy for people living with diabetes.
Dr. Despoina Manousaki
Dr. Despoina Manousaki is a PhD student in human genetics at McGill University and a researcher at the Jewish General Hospital (Lady Davis Institute) in Montreal. Her current study explores whether low levels of Vitamin D in the blood increase the likelihood of type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Gerald J. Prud’homme
Dr. Gerald J. Prud’homme is a professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto and a clinician-scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science (St. Michael's Hospital). He holds an M.D. degree and is a specialist in pathology. Dr. Prud'homme is a member of the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre in Toronto. His research interests are in the areas of diabetes and autoimmune diseases, with recent work focused on the development of new therapies for the regeneration of human beta cells.
Dr. Heather Denroche is a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on the link between islet inflammation and diabetes. She is currently examining a hormone called islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP), produced by pancreatic beta cells and released in response to elevated glucose, in order to better understand the role it plays in the loss of beta cells leading to type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Kathy McCoy is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, a member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, and director of the International Microbiome Center at the University of Calgary. She is interested in the dynamic interplay between the gut microbiota and the innate and adaptive immune systems at mucosal and systemic sites. Her research aims to understand how exposure to intestinal microbes, particularly during early life, educates and regulates the immune system and how this can affect susceptibility to diseases, such as allergy, autoimmunity and autism.
Dr. Purushothaman Kuppan is a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. He is working on the development of a new, modifiable scaffold device designed to increase islet graft survival and function among people with type 1 diabetes, which would improve transplantation outcomes.
Dr. Rangarajan Sambathkumar completed his PhD at the University of KU (Leuven, Belgium) where he developed an interest in molecular stem cell biology, developmental biology and cell fate specification related to endoderm and endocrine pancreatic beta cells.
Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow at the University Health Network’s (UHN) McEwen Stem Cell Institute in Toronto and is working on how to improve the glucose responsiveness of human pluripotent stem cell-derived beta cells by inducing maturation in vitro using novel genome engineering strategies. These stem cell-derived mature beta cells could be used for disease modelling and the development of cell therapies to treat type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Kirsten Ward Hartstonge is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on the role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in human diseases such as type 1 diabetes. She is investigating how Treg number and function may be used as a biomarker to predict if a patient is going to respond to a treatment or not.
Dr. Yi-Chun Chen earned her Bachelor of Science in medical laboratory science at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, her Master of Science in cell biology at the University of Connecticut and her PhD in cellular and integrative physiology from Indiana University School of Medicine in the United States. She has received numerous honours, including the Stier Award and the Erica Daniel Kepner Award for Scientific Achievement from the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Virendra B. Mahesh Award of Excellence in Endocrinology from the American Physiology Society.
Dr. Suheda Erener is a research associate in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. Her study focuses on developing biomarkers that can predict the development of type 1 diabetes. She is also investigating the role of non-coding RNAs in beta cell demise during T1D pathogenesis to unravel signaling pathways to stop beta cell destruction and/or enhance beta cell survival and function.