Our Research Members

Hong-Shuo Sun
Sun, Hong-Shuo
MD, MSc, PhD
U Of T Appointments

Associate Professor, PhD Supervisor
Department of Surgery, Division of Anatomy; Institute of Medical Science; Department of Physiology; Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology; Heart and Stroke Richard Lewar Centre of Excellence; Collaborative Program in Neuroscience (CPIN); Cardiovascular Sciences Collaborative Program (CSCP); Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Contact Information
Medical Sciences Building
1 King's College Circle
Toronto, ON M5S 1A8
Phone: 416-946-5506
hss.sun@utoronto.ca
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Research interest is in studying the role of ion channels (K(ATP) and TRPM2, etc.) in diabetes and stroke in diabetes, neuroprotection, and drug development, using in-vivo animal models of human diseases in combination with genomic analyses, advanced imaging, electrophysiology, and functional and behavioral assessments.

Publication related to diabetes research: Cerebrovascular safety of sulfonylureas: the role of K(ATP) channels in neuroprotection and the risk of stroke in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 2016, 65(9): 2795-2809

Hoon-Ki Sung
Sung, Hoon-Ki
MD, PhD
U Of T Appointments

Assistant Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Other Appointments

Scientist, Physiology & Experimental Medicine, Hospital For Sick Children

Contact Information
Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning
686 Bay Street, Room 10.9710
Toronto, ON M5G 0A4
Phone: 416-813-7654
hoon-ki.sung@sickkids.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My lab is studying Obesity, Metabolism and Diabetes at The Hospital for Sick Children. Our research focus includes:
1) patho-physiology of adipose tissue expansion and its causal role in metabolic defect and diabetes
2) identification of adipocyte precursor cells and its metabolic function by using mouse model

Walter Swardfager
Swardfager, Walter
PhD
U Of T Appointments

Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, and School of Graduate Studies

Other Appointments

Scientist, Sunnybrook Research Institute

Contact Information
Sunnybrook Health Science Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, M6 174
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5
Phone: 416-480-6100 x85409
w.swardfager@utoronto.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My research examines neuroendorcrine contributions to mood and cognitive symptoms in type 2 diabetes. My lab conducts clinial studies, primarily of people with type 2 diabetes undertaking exercise-based rehabilitation and education interventions. We have a particular interest in the roles of cerebrovascular disease (including stroke and microagniopathy) in the effects of type 2 diabetes on the brain. We use neuroimaging, metabolomic and neurocognitive techniques.

Derek van der Kooy
van der Kooy, Derek
PhD
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics

Contact Information
Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research
160 College Street, Room 1102
Toronto, ON M5S 3E1
Phone: 416-978-1960
Fax: 416-978-2666
derek.van.der.kooy@utoronto.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

The search for putative precursor cells within the pancreas has been a focus of extensive research. Adult mouse Pancreas-derived Multipotent Precursor (PMP) cells, possessing the intriguing capacity to generate cross-germ layer progeny in the pancreatic and neural lineages, have been identified. Here, genetic lineage-labelling was used to exclude the neural crest as the developmental source of PMPs. Notably, we demonstrate that the PMP cell expresses insulin in vivo, providing reconciliation with reports that new adult b cells are formed exclusively by self-replication. Further, PMP cells were shown to exist within adult human islet tissue, each capable of extensive proliferation, self-renewal, and generation of multiple differentiated pancreatic and neural cell types. Finally, the newly generated human b cell progeny were found to display regulated insulin secretion. These findings demonstrate that the adult mammalian pancreas contains a population of insulin+ multipotent stem cells, capable of contributing to the neural and pancreatic lineages.

Subodh Verma
Verma, Subodh
MD, PhD, FRCSC
U Of T Appointments

Professor of Surgery
Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Other Appointments

Staff Cardciac Surgeon, St. Michael’s Hospital
Chair, CardioLink Clinical Trials Platform, St. Michael’s Hospital
Member, Ryerson University-St Michael’s Hospital, Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Science Technology (iBEST)

Contact Information
St. Michael's Hospital
30 Bond Street
Toronto, ON M5B 1W8
Phone: 416-864-5997
vermasu@smh.ca
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My research program focuses on cardiometabolic disease and diabetes-related co-morbidities. As the Chair of the CardioLink Clinical Trials platform, I am conducting a number of clinical trials in diabetes and its complications. The first of these trials, EMPA-Heart, seeks to uncover the mechanism underlying the cardioprotective effects of the SGLT2 inhibitor, empagliflozin, that was reported in the EMPA-REG Outcome study. This trial is in the late stages of recruitment and will report primary outcomes in 2018. The NEWTON CABG trial will assess whether blockade of the PCSK9 receptor in individuals will diabetes can reduce the risk of future cardiac events after bypass surgery. In the ENABLE-Chiropody trial, persons with diabetes undergoing hemodialysis will undergo a chiropody-based intensive, structured, and evidence-based care program with the aim of lowering the incidence and progression of diabetic foot ulcers and amputations. This initiative is fully supported by a partnership with Diabetes Action Canada which is part of the CIHR-SPOR network. In addition, I oversee a dynamic research lab in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital which has a special interest in the role of SGLT2 inhibitors as a potential modulator of endothelial function and atherosclerotic vascular disease. Finally, I am a national lead/steering committee member on three SGLT2 inhibitor trials that are evaluating the impact of this class of drugs on heart failure.

Vladimir Vuksan
Vuksan, Vladimir
PhD
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

Other Appointments

Research Scientist II, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital
Associate Director, Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital
Manager, Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital

Contact Information
193 Yonge Street, 7th Floor
Toronto, ON M5B 1M4
Phone: 416-864-5525
v.vuksan@utoronto.ca
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Viscous Dietary Fiber Blend

This blend maximizes viscosity as a driver of physiological effectiveness in the management of diabetes and reduction of blood lipids. Dr. Vuksan holds Canadian & USA patents for this discovery. His research on fiber blend has attracted the attention of the food industry, and the product is now commercially available worldwide.

Salvia Hispanica L.

The consumption of this ancient Aztec seeds high omega-3/fiber rich, improved conventional and novel risk factors for cardiovascular disease in those with diabetes. Dr. Vuksan’s studies were the first to demonstrate health benefits of these seeds in humans, gaining the attention internationally of the research community and popular press. Economic analysis on exports by main producers of Salvia Hispanica, Mexico, Argentina and Australia, show a major surge in export of the seeds coinciding with his publications in 2007/2010. His research has thus ignited significant economic benefits to countries producing the seeds and the local farmers have led to increased human consumption worldwide.

Ginseng

Ginseng was hardly known for its metabolic benefits in humans until Dr. Vuksan’s studies in early 2000. His group was the first to demonstrate potential hypoglycaemic efficacy and safety of ginseng. His investigations of the potential of medicinal herbs and ginseng in particular have received international recognitions.

Xiao-Yan Wen
Wen, Xiao-Yan
MD, PhD
U Of T Appointments

Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine

Other Appointments

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, ON M5B 1W8
Phone: 416-864-6060 x3120
Fax: 416-416-864547
x.wen@utoronto.ca
View website
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.

Carol A. Westall
Westall, Carol A.
PhD
U Of T Appointments

Professor of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences

Other Appointments

Director of Visual Electrophysiology, Ophthalmology; Senior Associate Scientist, Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute

Contact Information
Hospital For Sick Children
555 University Ave
Toronto, ON M5G 1X8
Phone: 416-813-6516
carol@sickkids.ca
View website
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.

Michael B. Wheeler
Wheeler, Michael B.
PhD
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Departments of Medicine and Physiology

Other Appointments

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: 416-978-6737
michael.wheeler@utoronto.ca
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Our research is focused 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 understanding the roles of membrane bound proteins like transporters, ion channels and receptors on pancreatic islet function. We also explore the therapeutic effects of prescription drugs and their metabolites to enhance pancreatic regeneration and treat diabetes. Another major thrust of our research involves utilizing high throughput metabolomics and lipidomics approaches to uncover the underlying pathophysiology of Gestational Diabetes and its transition to Type 2 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 the University of Toronto and the Banting & Best Diabetes Centre, University of Toronto. 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.

Diane K. Wherrett
Wherrett, Diane K.
MD, FRCPC
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Department of Paediatrics, Division of Endocrinology

Contact Information
Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M5G 1X8
Phone: 416-813-8159
Fax: 416-813-6304
diane.wherrett@sickkids.ca
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
  • 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)
  • Hydroxychloroquine for Prevention of Abnormal Glucose Tolerance and Diabetes in Individuals At-Risk for Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

TrialNet has 11 clinical centres across Canada

Dan Winer
Winer, Dan
MD, FRCPC
U Of T Appointments

Assistant Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Other Appointments

Scientist, Division of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Toronto General Research Institute
Endocrine Pathologist, Department of Pathology, University Health Network

Contact Information
Department of Pathology, 11th floor, 11E-424A
200 Elizabeth Street
Toronto, ON M5G 2C4
Phone: 416-340-3190
Fax: 416-340-5517
dan.winer@uhn.ca
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Our primary research focus is to elucidate immune mediated pathways governing obesity related insulin resistance. Obesity and its major complications, including insulin resistance, are a major global cause of morbidity and mortality, and have reached epidemic proportions. Evidence is mounting that a significant contributing cause of insulin resistance is chronic inflammation in visceral adipose tissue (VAT). This inflammation was initially thought to be driven solely by macrophages of the innate immune system attracted to dying adipocytes in fat. Recently, in collaboration with the Hospital for Sick Children, and StanfordUniversity, we have demonstrated that the adaptive immune system, including T cells, B cells and the antibodies they produce, play a significant and active role in regulating this process. This work has introduced a new “autoimmune” component to obesity related insulin resistance, and has led to new ways in thinking about metabolic disease. We continue to investigate immune mediated mechanisms in obesity and diabetes with the aim of translating our findings to help the many people afflicted by these diseases.

J. Martin Wojtowicz
Wojtowicz, J. Martin
PhD
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Department of Physiology

Contact Information
Medical Sciences Building, Room 3214
1 Kings College Circle
Toronto, ON M5S 1A8
Phone: 416-978-2899
martin.wojtowicz@utoronto.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Research involves studies of pathological changes in the brain related to learning and memory. Specifically, diabetes can cause reduction in rate of neurogenesis in adult brain, which in turn, can lead to impaired learning and memory. Specific signals leading to impairment of neurogenesis and ways of preventing or compensating for impaired memory are under investigation.

Minna Woo
Woo, Minna
MD, FRCPC, PhD
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Departments of Medicine, IMS, Immunology, and Faculty of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Other Appointments

Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University Health Network/Mount Sinai Hospital
Senior Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network

Contact Information
Toronto Medical Discovery Tower, Room 10-353
101 College Street
Toronto, ON M5G 1L7
Phone: 416-340-4125
mwoo@uhnresearch.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

The major research focus in the Woo laboratory is to elucidate molecular mechanisms that determine pathogenesis of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and related diseases including atherosclerosis and NAFLD.  We are interested in many of the fundamental genes involved in cell survival and differentiation such as caspases, tumour suppressors and oncogenes. Many of these fundamental genes have unique physiological roles in metabolic tissues such as liver, muscle, adipose tissue, and the pancreatic islets. Using genetic or pharmacologic approaches, we examine the whole body physiology as well as take biological, biochemical and molecular approaches to define molecular physiological roles in specific tissues, in addition to defining its potential pathogenic roles in diabetes and related diseases. 

Jeff Wrana
Wrana, Jeff
PhD
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics

Other Appointments

Senior Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital

Contact Information
Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute
600 University Ave., Room 1078
Toronto, ON M5S 1X5
Phone: 416-586-4800 x2791
wrana@lunenfeld.ca
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Study of mechanisms underlying complications of diabetes, in particular kidney fibrosis.

Xiao Yu (Shirley) Wu
Wu, Xiao Yu (Shirley)
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy

Other Appointments

Advanced Pharmaceutics & Drug Delivery Laboratory

Contact Information
Leslie Dan Pharmacy Building, Room 1103
144 College Street
Toronto, ON M5S 3M2
Phone: 416-978-5272
Fax: 416-978-8511
xywu@phm.utoronto.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Advanced pharmaceutics and drug delivery. Our research interests and activities related to diabetes treatment include microencapsulation of enzymes, formulation and stabilization of therapeutic hormones and polypeptides; artificial islet cells; ROS-attenuating systems; “intelligent” drug delivery systems for self-regulated drug delivery; nanotechnology-enabled glucose-responsive closed-loop insulin delivery implants for diabetic research animals and for clinical treatment; and glucose-responsive glucagon delivery via composite microneedle patch for prevention of hypoglycemia in diabetes.

Christopher M. Yip
Yip, Christopher M.
PhD, PEng
U Of T Appointments

Full Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry; Department of Biochemistry; Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering
Dean, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research

Contact Information
Dean, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
Decanal Chair in Innovation
44 St. George Street
Toronto, ON M5S 2E4
Phone: 416-978-7853
christopher.yip@utoronto.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Our primary focus is in single molecule biophysics and specifically the interaction between biomolecules, including membrane receptors. Our primary research tools are single molecule microscopies (confocal / TIRF / atomic force) coupled with high-resolution infrared and fluorescence spectroscopies. We are motivated by a keen interest in the functional integration of these techniques to enable single molecule imaging in live cells. Our past efforts have included direct imaging of isolated insulin receptors in model membranes, single molecule force spectroscopy of insulin self-association, and mapping of glucacon fibril formation, and characterization of insulin crystallization by atomic force microscopy.

Catherine Yu
Yu, Catherine
U Of T Appointments

Associate Scientist and Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine and Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Other Appointments

Staff Endocrinologist, Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism, St. Michael’s Hospital
Adjunct Scientist, Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital

Contact Information
St. Michael's Hospital
61 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON M5C 2T2
Phone: 416-360-4000
yuca@smh.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My research interests lie in the role of patient and clinician behaviour change in knowledge translation. I am particularly interested in the development of innovative strategies for continuing professional development and patient education in chronic disease management, specifically diabetes care. My projects include the role of interactive self-management websites, order sets, computer-based simulators and interprofessional workshops on knowledge, behavior change, clinical and psychological outcomes. My additional research specialties include endocrinology and medical education. 

Darren Yuen
Yuen, Darren
MD, PhD
U Of T Appointments

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine

Other Appointments

Staff Physician, Division of Nephrology, St. Michael’s Hospital
Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute

Contact Information
St. Michael's Hospital, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute
209 Victoria St., Room 509, 5th Floor
Toronto, ON M5B 1T8
Phone: 416-864-6060 x77366
Fax: 416-867-3654
darren.yuen@utoronto.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:
My research program is focussed on the development of novel therapies targeting the fibrosis and endothelial injury that occurs in the diabetic kidney. As a nephrology clinician scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, my research involves the use of both cell biology and animal models of diabetic injury. Current work in the lab is devoted to understanding: (1) mechanisms of diabetic endothelial injury, including both the early glomerular angiogenesis and the later capillary rarefaction that occurs in diabetes, (2) novel mechanisms of fibroblast activation in diabetes, including the relevance of fibroblast cytoskeletal rearrangements in this process, and (3) the effects of diabetes on podocyte structure and function.
Bernard Zinman
Zinman, Bernard
CM, MD, FRCPC, FACP
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Department of Medicine

Other Appointments

Senior Scientist, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute,
Mount Sinai Hospital  

Contact Information
Mount Sinai Hospital
60 Murray Street, Room L5-028, Mail Box 17
Toronto, ON M5T 3L9
Phone: 416-586-8747
Fax: 416-586-4740
zinman@lunenfeld.ca
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Studies evaluating metabolic and pharmacologic interventions to prevent diabetes complications.
Diabetes in aboriginal communities.
Evaluation of new therapies for Type 1 and 2 Diabetes

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