UHN thoracic surgeon Dr. Tom Waddell led the first session of “Regen Med in the Clinic” with University of Toronto researcher Alison McGuigan, talking to fellows about a respiratory condition from surgical and engineering perspectives. (Photo: UHN Foundation/Regina Garcia).
It was chance that led to the collaboration of Drs. Tom Waddell and Alison McGuigan.
When Dr. McGuigan started her lab at the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, she remembered Dr. Waddell as a rigorous external advisor she had been linked with when finishing her PhD.
His challenging questions made an impression on her. She decided to contact him to see if there was a way they could work together.
For his part, Dr. Waddell, a surgeon at UHN’s Ajmera Transplant Centre and Sprott Department of Surgery and the Richard and Heather Thomson Chair in Thoracic Translational Research at UHN, was interested in Dr. McGuigan’s research involving cilia – hair-like structures on the outside of cells that sense the environment around them.
They formed a collaboration to look from two different perspectives at cilia in the lung that is not functioning properly, which contributes to health issues including a respiratory condition called primary ciliary dyskinesia. Dr. Waddell brings clinical and surgical knowledge; Dr. McGuigan engineering expertise.
It’s a collaboration that has yielded interesting research from Drs. Waddell and McGuigan, who are both Medicine by Design-funded investigators. Medicine by Design brings together more than 150 principal investigators at UHN, the University of Toronto and its affiliated hospitals to advance regenerative medicine discoveries and accelerate them toward impact. It builds on decades of made-in-Canada excellence in regenerative medicine dating back to the discovery of stem cells in the early 1960s by UHN researchers Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch.
Linking clinical side and emerging science and technologies
In August, they led a discussion on their experience as collaborators as part of “Regen Med in the Clinic,” a new partnership between the Ajmera Transplant Centre and Medicine by Design. This partnership will continue to provide training and networking opportunities through seminars, lunch and learns and speed collaboration events.
These events will provide a forum for clinical fellows at the Ajmera Transplant Centre and trainees in Medicine by Design-funded labs to exchange perspectives.
“We want to create linkages between the clinical side and emerging science and technologies, and also bring multiple disciplines together,” says Dr. Atul Humar, Director of the Ajmera Transplant Centre and the R. Fraser Elliott Chair in Transplantation Research at UHN.
“The program is especially targeted to the Ajmera Transplant Centre’s clinical fellows. It’s very translational, because clinical fellows are going to be future leaders who are performing transplants but also doing the science.
“We want to expose them to regenerative medicine early in their training.”
As regenerative medicine therapies become more available to patients, there is an increasing need for clinicians who understand and can deliver these new treatments. Engineers and scientists must also be knowledgeable about clinical concerns to ensure their technologies and strategies are meeting patients’ needs.