Behind the Breakthrough
Dr. Shaf Keshavjee has transformed lung transplant worldwide with his medical discoveries

Dr. Shaf Keshavjee has transformed lung transplant worldwide with his medical discoveries

December 9, 2022

Renowned UHN surgeon scientist Dr Shaf Keshavjee sits down with Behind the Breakthrough podcast Host Christian Cote’ and takes listeners on a behind-the-scenes journey of his ground breaking medical discoveries – two of which have had a profound impact on lung transplant around the world. For his Master’s thesis in the late 1980’s he developed a lung preservation solution – LDP – which is now the standard for lung preservation worldwide. Twenty years later he followed that up with the invention of a lung perfusion machine that preserves and treats damaged donor lungs outside the body – or ex vivo. The Toronto Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion System has doubled the number of lungs available for transplant and is now in use around the world. Today the system is being tested to treat other damaged organs including the liver, kidney, and heart. In this wide-ranging and revealing conversation Sprott Department of Surgery’s Dr. Keshavjee speaks to the importance of mentorship, the qualities necessary to be a successful scientist, and, the importance of scientists learning about patenting and commercializing their work.

Pioneering the use of virtual reality devices to restore vision

Pioneering the use of virtual reality devices to restore vision

December 2, 2022

Restoring vision for the visually impaired has been a dream of scientists and clinicians for centuries. Neurodegenerative eye diseases like glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration affect visual information processing.  But the visual system in humans is smart–it can compensate for a loss in connectivity caused by disease.

The potential for virtual reality cognitive retraining may improve the quality of life in visually impaired individuals. These retraining devices are effortlessly portable; therefore, protocols can be completed from the comfort of someone’s home.

Dr. Rama Khokha on her breakthrough to map the biology of pancreatic cancer

Dr. Rama Khokha on her breakthrough to map the biology of pancreatic cancer

November 30, 2022

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive disease with poor survival rates. Huge contributors to this dire outcome are the fact it is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage, has limited treatments, and no cure. This is what makes the discovery of Dr. Rama Khokha and her lab so profound. In this episode of Behind the Breakthrough podcast the senior scientist at UHN's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre walks us through her world first discovery - mapping the biology of a pancreatic cancer tumor. Dr. Khokha found three distinct tumor microenvironments [TME’s] for pancreatic cancer – Resistant; Deserted; and Intermediate. The Resistant TME was found to be the most aggressive, while the Deserted MTE was found to resist - and grow  - during chemotherapy. Dr. Khokha’s mapping discovery now gives researchers a clear understanding of the behavior of pancreatic cancer. It has the potential of far reaching impact – contributing to research for new and improved treatments, the potential for earlier diagnosis, as well applying her mapping technique to other cancers such as colorectal and lung cancer.  

Promising new treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

Promising new treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

November 21, 2022

Dr. Lorraine Kalia’s research looks at testing different compounds in C. Elegans and how it can lead to a better understanding of Parkinson’s disease and new therapeutic targets. The best part: some of these compounds are already approved for use in humans. Through Dr. Kalia’s research we may be able to repurpose these compounds for the neurodegenerative condition.

Dr. Eleanor Fish pioneers research using Interferons to treat virus outbreaks

Dr. Eleanor Fish pioneers research using Interferons to treat virus outbreaks

November 16, 2022

In this episode of Behind the Breakthrough, Dr. Eleanor Fish dives into her groundbreaking research of treating viruses by harnessing a naturally occurring antiviral protein in our body called Interferons. Dr. Fish, an Emerita Scientist at Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, is a world leading immunology researcher and a passionate about the importance of Interferons in fighting pandemics and virus outbreaks such as COVID-19, SARS, and Ebola.

Dr. Jonathan Irish pioneers Augmented Reality in Cancer Surgery

Dr. Jonathan Irish pioneers Augmented Reality in Cancer Surgery

November 4, 2022
Dr Jonathan Irish was on a path to competing for Canada at the Olympics in the sport of canoeing before he decided helping patients conquer cancer was his chosen path. He reflects on his years as a pioneering researcher and head and neck surgeon, and explains how AI helps surgeons get better results. But, he emphasizes, nothing will ever replace the surgeon.
 
 
Pioneering a Diagnosis for CTE

Pioneering a Diagnosis for CTE

November 2, 2022

Each year over 20,000 Canadians are sustain a traumatic brain injury, which affects an individuals personality, well-being and those around them. In this episode of Behind the Breakthrough, we sit down with Dr. Carmela Tartaglia at UHN's Krembil Brain Institute to discuss her research. The goal: to better understand concussion, their effects and eventually develop diagnostic tools for conditions like Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. 

A new toolkit for LTC to help care of residents during an outbreak

A new toolkit for LTC to help care of residents during an outbreak

October 26, 2022

Being in lockdown is hard. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that. But for long-term care (LTC) homes – where resources were limited, and public health measures failed to take into account the needs of patients with dementia – lockdown was even harder.  

This is what prompted Dr. Andrea Iaboni, a geriatric psychiatrist and clinical researcher at UHN’s Toronto Rehab and Medical Lead of the Specialized Dementia Unit, to develop the Dementia Isolation Toolkit (DIT), a comprehensive guide to caring for long-term care patients amid the pandemic. Her motivation behind it? A commitment to delivering compassionate care to patients with dementia, while also upholding government mandated infection prevention and control measures. Since launching in 2020, the DIT has been downloaded more than 9,000 times across 94 different countries, helping LTC staff care for adults with dementia on a global scale. 

Dr.Gordon Keller on his ground breaking research to advance stem cell based therapies

Dr.Gordon Keller on his ground breaking research to advance stem cell based therapies

October 13, 2022

In this episode of Behind the Breakthrough Dr. Gordon Keller talks about his staggering legacy of advancing the field of regenerative medicine, including his lab’s world-first discovery of the hemangioblast. The hemangioblast is the precursor cell that goes on to form blood vessels and other blood cells in the body. That 1997 discovery led to the next step in Dr. Keller's research – successfully ‘differentiating’ or coaxing precursor cells into becoming a specific cell type that could potentially replace or regrow damaged parts of the body. This seminal work laid the foundation for the research he oversees today at UHN’s McEwen Stem Cell Institute harnessing stem cells to repair damaged organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas.

Dr. Andrea Furlan on groundbreaking new treatments for chronic pain

Dr. Andrea Furlan on groundbreaking new treatments for chronic pain

October 7, 2022

We all have a pain system that sets off alarm bells when something is wrong. But what happens when those bells won’t stop ringing? How do you treat a malfunctioning pain system – also known as chronic pain – without automatically resorting to opioids? These are the questions that Dr. Andrea Furlan has dedicated her career to answering since her early days of medical school in São Paulo, Brazil.

Dr. Furlan’s work centers around rewriting the narrative surrounding the treatment of chronic pain. Using what she refers to as the five M’s – movement, mind-body therapy, manual therapies, modalities and medication – she explores the notion of deprescribing opioids and alternative treatments. More than that, she brings joy back to her patients’ lives. Her commitment to accessibility and teaching, including physician education and a YouTube channel with over 400,000 subscribers, is part of her mission to demystify treating chronic pain, day-by-day.

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