BBDC Member Profile

Hoon-Ki Sung photoHoon-Ki Sung, MD, PhD

Dr. Sung received his MD from South Korea where he was born and raised. He obtained his PhD in the Department of Clinical Oriented Anatomy and Functional Histology at the University of Yeungnam. Following his PhD, he did his research training at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in the laboratory of Dr. Gou Young Koh. In 2006, he moved to Toronto to begin his postdoctoral fellowship at the laboratory of Dr. Andras Nagy in the Tanenbaum-Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital. In 2014, he established his research laboratory in the Translational Medicine Program at the SickKids Research Institute. His main research interests include metabolic function of adipose tissue, adipose tissue remodelling, angiogenesis, and stem cells.

Growing up reading books by Thomas Edison and Jean-Henri Fabre, Dr. Sung was inquisitive, with a spark towards invention and science. This spark was fanned by his professors at medical school. Upon completing his medical degree, Dr. Sung deferred working in a hospital, and returned to school to start his career in science and scientific research.

Currently Dr. Sung’s lab is delving into the metabolic functions of fat, in an attempt to reduce the overwhelming burden that obesity and type 2 diabetes pose on the global health care system.  Obesity is defined as an excess of whole body fat mass (adipose tissue). Adipose tissue is characterized by its ability for lifelong growth and almost unlimited expansion. As in other tissues, fat tissue expansion also requires concomitant new vessel formation (angiogenesis) to meet its increased demand for oxygen and nutrients. Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF) is an endothelial-specific potent angiogenic factor and is highly expressed in growing tissues including adipose tissue. Dr. Sung previously demonstrated that adipose-VEGF exerts metabolic benefits by reducing adipose tissue hypoxia and inflammation through enhanced angiogenesis. In addition, adipose-VEGF induces ‘brown-like’ adipocyte (beige adipocytes) formation in white adipose tissue which provides additional metabolic benefits. However, the underlying mechanism for VEGF-induced browning and their cellular origin are still unclear. Therefore, in a future study, Dr. Sung’s group will investigate the molecular mechanism of VEGF-mediated beige cell formation and identify the cellular origin of VEGF-induced beige adipocytes.

Recently, Dr. Sung’s team found adipose-VEGF may have the potential to regulate trans-endothelial nutrient transportation in white adipose tissue, which might be one of the key processes for whole body lipid partitioning and metabolic homeostasis. Taken together, Dr. Sung’s research suggests that adipose-VEGF may contribute to whole body metabolism through its angiogenic as well as non-angiogenic (browning and lipid transportation) function, which will point to the therapeutic potential of adipose-VEGF for the treatment and prevention of obesity and metabolic diseases.

When Dr. Sung is not undertaking his research at The Hospital for Sick Children, he can be found at home playing guitar and drums with his lovely wife, and four children (he has two sets of twins!).