Our Research Members

Mladen Vranic
Vranic, Mladen
O.C., O.Ont, MD, DSc, FRSC, FRCP(C), FCAHS
U Of T Appointments

Professor Emeritus, Departments of Physiology and Medicine

Other Appointments
  • Adjunct Professor, Karolinska Institute and University of Zagreb
  • Laureate, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame
  • Corresponding Member, Croatian Academic of Arts and Sciences
  • Honorary President International Academy of Sportology (Japan)
  • Canadian Diabetes Association Inaugural Life-Time Achievement Award for leadership in diabetes research and contribution to the Canadian diabetes community
  • Albert Renold Award of the American Diabetes Association for a distinguished career in the training of diabetes research scientists and facilitation of research (the only Canadian to receive this award)
  • Banting Medal and Lectureship recipient from the American Diabetes Association
  • Honourary degrees from the Universities of Toronto, Zagreb, Saskatchewan, McMaster and Karolinska Institute.
Contact Information
Medical Sciences Building, Room 3363
1 King's College Circle
Toronto, ON M5S 1A8
Phone: 416-978-4126
Fax: 416-978-4940
mladen.vranic@utoronto.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Dr. Vranic’s discoveries concerning the relationship between exercise, stress and diabetes have had an important impact on individuals suffering from this disease. His ground-breaking studies have opened many doors for diabetics, including participation in Olympic Games. His development of tracer methods revolutionized the field of glucose turnover in physiology and diabetes, paving the way for clinical investigation leading to the translation of basic science to practice. He led the first international symposium on exercise and diabetes, which had a large impact, facilitating the evidence of epidemiologists that exercise can prevent diabetes. His discovery of extrapancreatic glucagon changed existing dogma that pancreatic hormone is synthesized in only one gland, and provided evidence about the importance of glucagon in diabetes. He demonstrated mechanisms whereby the muscle and the liver are protected against hyperglycemia and therefore, against diabetic complications. He pioneered the concept that some stresses are beneficial for diabetes and is currently developing methods to prevent hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes. He has a patent regarding the prevention of hypoglycemia in insulin-treated diabetic patients. This topic is presently researched between four different institutions. He has trained a large number of graduate and post-doctoral students, and has widely collaborated with younger scientists, some of whom are presently world-leaders in diabetes research. Three of his students were Presidents of the Canadian, American, and Japanese Diabetes Associations.

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.

Qinghua Wang
Wang, Qinghua
MD, PhD
U Of T Appointments

Associate Professor, Departments of Physiology and Medicine

Contact Information
St. Michael's Hospital
30 Bond St., Room 7005, Queen Wing
Toronto, ON M5B 1W8
Phone: 416-864-6060 x6767
Fax: 416-864-6043
wangq@smh.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Research in the Wang lab is focused on understanding the biology the pancreatic islet, im particular the regulation of islet cell secretion and function. We are also studying the biology of GLP-1, an incretin hormone released from gut cell in response to feeding. Among patients with diabetes, while the production of insulin is insufficient, release of GLP-1 is reduced. However, glucagon and glucose production is too high. While seeking a means to increase pancreatic insulin production, enhance GLP-1 action, we are also studying the signaling and molecular control of islet cell-cell interactions in regulating islet beta-cell function and glucose homeostasis during the development of diabetes. Our research is fundamental and translational, aiming at developing new therapeutic strategies that could enable patients with diabetes to permanently manage the disease and effectively avoid its associated complications.

Greg Wells
Wells, Greg
PhD
U Of T Appointments

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education
Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesia, Faculty of Medicine

Other Appointments

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, Room 60
Toronto, ON M5S 2W6
Phone: 416-978-3244
greg.wells@utoronto.ca
View website
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.

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
Medical Sciences Building, Room 3352
1 King's College Circle
Toronto, ON M5S 1A8
Phone: 416-978-673741
michael.wheeler@utoronto.ca
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.

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

Associate Professor, Department of Paediatrics, Division of Endocrinology; Program Director, Paediatric Endocrinology Training Program

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
  • 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.

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.

Thomas M. S. Wolever
Wolever, Thomas M. S.
BA, MA, MSc, PhD, DM (Oxon)
U Of T Appointments

Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Department of Medicine
Graduate Coordinator, Department of Nutritional Sciences

Other Appointments

Active Staff Member, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, St. Michael’s Hospital
Scientist, Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital
Member, Consulting Medical Staff, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
President, Glycemic Index Laboratories, Inc., Toronto (www.gilabs.com)

Contact Information
FitzGerald Building, Room 434
150 College St.
Toronto, ON M5S 3E2
Phone: 416-978-5556
Fax: 416-978-5882
thomas.wolever@utoronto.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Carbohydrates in human nutrition, specifically the effects of glycemic index, sugars, starch, and dietary fiber in relation to diabetes, hyperlipidemia and colonic fermentation

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

Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism; and Departments of IMS, Medical Biophysics and Immunology

Other Appointments

Head, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University Health Network/Mount Sinai Hospital
Scientist, Toronto General 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 and type 2 diabetes. Our research interests include elucidating mechanisms of islet apoptosis and survival in physiological and diabetic states. We are interested in many of the fundamental genes involved in cell survival and apoptosis such as caspases, tumour suppressors and oncogenes. Many of these fundamental genes have essential physiological roles in metabolic tissues such as liver, muscle, adipose tissue, and the pancreatic islets. Using genetically engineered mice, we examine the whole body physiology as well as take biological, biochemical and molecular approaches to define physiological roles in specific tissues, in addition to defining its potential pathogenic role in diabetes. These approaches to clarify tissue-specific molecular mechanisms have wide implications for treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

James Woodgett
Woodgett, James
U Of T Appointments

Department of Medical Biophysics

Other Appointments

Director, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital

Contact Information
Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute
600 University Avenue, Room 982
Toronto, ON M5G 1X5
Phone: 416-586-8811
Fax: 416-586-8839
woodgett@lunenfeld.ca
View website
Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Our laboratory is primarily interested in the abrogation of signal transduction pathways in human disease, in particular the phosphatidylinositol 3′ kinase pathway and the Wnt pathway. Both are implicated in cancer and diabetes. We are studying several protein kinase components of these pathways, such as Protein Kinase B (PKB/Akt), Serum and Glucocorticoid-inducible Kinase 3 (SGK3) and Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 (GSK-3). GSK-3 is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, bipolar disorder and type II diabetes. There are two mammalian genes for GSK-3, termed alpha and beta and we have generated both conventional and tissue-specific knockout mice strains of each. For example, we have generated mice that specifically lack GSK-3beta in either skeletal muscle and have characterized the insulin and glucose tolerances of these animals. GSK-3 is inhibited by insulin signalling and thus the knockouts are providing insight into the utility of GSK-3 inhibitors as sensitizers for insulin-resistant patients. We are also identifying novel targets for GSK-3 (and other protein kinases) which will help us understand the molecular mechanisms by which GSK-3 influences blood glucose responses.

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, therapeutic hormones and polypeptides; artificial islet cells; nanomaterials such as bio-inorganic, polymer-metal and polymer-lipid hybrid nanoparticles and nanocomposite membranes; nanoparticulate contrast agents and fluorophores for in vitro/in vivo imaging; ROS-regulating 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.

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

Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry; Department of Biochemistry; Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

Contact Information
164 College Street, Room 404
Toronto, ON M5S 3G9
Phone: 416-978-7853
Fax: 416-978-4317
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

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine and Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Other Appointments

Staff, 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:
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.

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.

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 L5-024, 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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