Profiles of BBDC Members Primarily Involved In Diabetes Research

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Wells, Greg - PhD

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Assistant Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education
Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesia, Faculty of Medicine

Other Appointment(s): Associate Scientist, Physiology and Experimental Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children
Staff Scientist, Department of Anesthesia, The Toronto General Hospital

Contact Information:
55 Harbord Street
Toronto, ON   M5S 2W6

Phone: 416-978-3244

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My research focuses on improving health and performance under extreme conditions such as respiratory and muscle diseases including cystic fibrosis, metabolic syndrome, and cancer in a pediatric population. We use advanced magnetic resonance imaging/spectroscopy techniques to help elucidate pathophysiologies of exercise intolerance in chronic disease. Recently I was involved in a project that evaluated Turner Syndrome (TS) in female adolescences. TS is associated with an increased lifetime risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and we compared cardiometabolic risk factors and measures of subcutaneous, visceral adipose tissue and intra-myocellular lipid between those with TS and healthy controls. In this study we concluded that adolescent TS girls exhibit more cardiometabolic risk factors and reduced beta cell function compared with controls.
I am interested in further exploring how the presence of type 2 diabetes might contribute to exercise intolerance/reduced physical function in other chronic diseases. My research team is working to elucidate the pathophysiology of exercise intolerance in children following bone marrow transplant (BMT) – a population who is at a high risk of developing metabolic syndrome/type 2 diabetes. We plan to determine how the presence of metabolic syndrome/type 2 diabetes might influence cardiac and muscle metabolism in children post-BMT.

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Wen, Xiao-Yan - MD, PhD

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine

Other Appointment(s): Scientist, Keenan Research Centre, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital
Director, Zebrafish Centre for Advanced Drug Discovery, St. Michael's Hospital

Contact Information:

St. Michael's Hospital
30 Bond Street
Room 8-019, Queen Wing
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5B 1W8

Phone: 416-864-6060 x3120;
Fax: 416-416-864-5476

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

The zebrafish has emerged as an important vertebrate model organism for annotation of gene function, modeling human disease and drug discovery. My lab is developing a few projects to: (1) create fluorescent zebrafish models to genetically label pancreatic beta and alpha cells, and then perform lineage specific cell ablation and study their regeneration and relationship; (2) generate novel zebrafish models for anti-diabetic compound screen. We are currently creating a reporter zebrafish strain for monitoring Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxykinase (PEPCK) activity, a rate-limiting enzyme in gluconeogenesis. Compounds modulating PEPCK activities in zebrafish and may be developed as novel potent anti-diabetic drugs.

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Westall, Carol A. - PhD

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Professor of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences

Other Appointment(s): Director of Visual Electrophysiology, Ophthalmology; Senior Associate Scientist, Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute

Contact Information:
Sick Kids Hospital, room M293
555 University Ave
Toronto, ON   M5G 1X8

Phone: 416-813-6516

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

One of the changes commonly observed in patients with type I Diabetes, is impaired vision. As Director of a world class pediatric visual Electrophysiology unit I have the tools to describe visual processing using the latest technologies for objective neuro-retinal assessment. My lab has made significant contributions to investigations defining the earliest neuro-marker of visual and ocular dysfunction in adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). We found that chromatic mechanisms are disrupted at puberty in children with T1D (Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2005). Later we identified that short-wavelength retinal processing was disrupted in adolescence with T1D: McFarlane, et al. (2012), Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 53(2): 741-748.  In later disease diabetes presents clinically as retinal lesions in isolated areas; therefore we focused our studies to early signs of damage in distinct retinal areas.  Using multifocal electroretinography we found deficits in localized retinal processing: Lakhani, et al., (2010) “Insufficient long-term glycaemia control is associated with multifocal ERG defects in adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes”. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 51(10):5297-303.  Recently we reported specific patterns of retinal deficits:  Tan, et al., (Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014) “Localizing Functional Damage in the Neural Retina of Adolescents and Young Adults with Type 1 Diabetes,” Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci.. 44 (4): 2432-41 We are currently the first to report localized functional disturbance on the integrity of cone photoreceptors in children with T1D using multi-model adaptive optics imaging: Tan, W., et al., Functional and Structural Cone Abnormalities in Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes, IOVS 2012; 53: ARVO E-Abstract 371.

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Wheeler, Michael B. - PhD

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Professor, Departments of Medicine and Physiology

Other Appointment(s): Senior Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Heath Network

Contact Information:

University of Toronto
Medical Sciences Building, Room 3352
1 King's College Circle
Toronto, ON M5S 1A8

Phone: University of Toronto Office: 416-978-6737 / TMDT Office: 416-581-8462

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Our research is focussed on developing novel strategies to treat Type1 and Type 2 diabetes using multidisciplinary approaches, which combine information gained from genetic models of diabetes, genomics/proteomics, molecular biology and cell biology. Defects in pancreatic endocrine function are central factors in the pathology of diabetes. As such, we are currently investigating several avenues of research that explore pancreatic islet function in both healthy and diseased states. These include the role oxidative stress, reactive oxygen species and uncoupling proteins in the development of diabetes. We also explore the roles of membrane bound proteins like transporter, ion channels and receptors on pancreatic islet function. Another major thrust of our research is to work closely with stem cell biologists in Toronto to produce and characterize stem cell-derived beta cells for potential use in treating Type 1 diabetes.

Members of the Wheeler lab have access to state-of-art facilities at both the University of Toronto and the University Health Network at TMDT and have forged collaborations with world-class research teams working in the diabetes field. The laboratory is affiliated with the Endocrinology and Diabetes Research Group in the Department of Physiology at U of Toronto and the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre at UHN. As such the Wheeler lab is an excellent training environment for undergraduates, M.Sc. and Ph.D. candidate as well as post-doctoral fellows and residents interested in diabetes.

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Wherrett, Diane K. - MD, FRCPC

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Associate Professor, Department of Paediatrics, Division of Endocrinology; Program Director, Paediatric Endocrinology Training Program

Contact Information:
Toronto, ON

Phone: 416-813-8159
Fax: 416-813-6304

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My research focuses on clinical studies of the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes and prevention of beta cell loss prior to the development of type 1 diabetes and at onset. I am the principal investigator for the Canadian Clinical Centre of Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, a NIH sponsored international trial group. Our site is currently involved in multiple TrialNet studies:

  • Pathway to Prevention;  Natural History Study Of the Development Of Type 1 Diabetes
  • Oral Insulin For Prevention Of Diabetes In Relatives At Risk For Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
  • CTLA-4 Ig (Abatacept) for Prevention of Abnormal Glucose Tolerance and Diabetes in Relatives At-Risk for Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
  • Long-Term Investigative Follow-Up Study in TrialNet (LIFT)

TrialNet has 11 clinical centres across Canada.

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