U of T Engineering researchers have developed a new method of injecting healthy cells into damaged eyes. The technique could point the way toward new treatments with the potential to reverse forms of vision loss that are currently incurable.
Around the world, millions of people live with vision loss due to conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or retinitis pigmentosa. Both are caused by the death of cells in the retina, at the back of the eye.
“The cells that are responsible for vision are the photoreceptors, which have an intimate relationship with another type of cell known as retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) cells,” says University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, BME), whose lab is located in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research… Continue reading.
University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s most prestigious recognitions. The new appointees, which also include University Professor Michael Sefton (IBBME), were announced today by Governor General Julie Payette (ECE MASc 9T0).
“Professor Shoichet’s multidisciplinary research is addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges in human health, and she has been an exceptional ambassador for the Canadian science and engineering community,” said Cristina Amon, dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto. “On behalf of the Faculty, I extend my warmest congratulations to her on this richly deserved honour.”
As the Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering, Molly Shoichet is pursuing solutions to a critical issue in medicine: treating damage to nerve tissues. Shoichet and her team design and implement novel strategies to promote tissue regeneration after traumatic spinal cord injury and stroke. Her lab is known for its use of materials called hydrogels, which surround and protect stem cells when they are injected in the body. These hydrogels help stem cells survive and integrate into tissues, including tissue damaged by stroke, macular degeneration or other diseases… Continue reading.
University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) has been appointed Ontario’s Chief Scientist.
“[Shoichet] is one of the top biomedical scientists in the country, with in-depth knowledge of Ontario’s research community,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “As Chief Scientist, she will help us continue a proud tradition of science and research excellence through evidence-based decision making and will open the world to the incredible innovative talent and technologies Ontario has to offer.”
Shoichet, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and the Institute for Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, is the first person to hold the new position. Her responsibilities will include working with research hospitals, universities and research institutes to champion high quality science in government and education, help the government make decisions on science-based policy issues and advise the government on how to support future research and innovation projects. Continue reading.
A U of T Engineering team has designed a simpler way to keep therapeutic proteins where they are needed for long periods of time. The discovery is a potential game-changer for the treatment of chronic illnesses or injuries that often require multiple injections or daily pills.
For decades, biomedical engineers have been painstakingly encapsulating proteins in nanoparticles to control their release. Now, a research team led by University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) has shown that proteins can be released over several weeks, even months, without ever being encapsulated. In this case the team looked specifically at therapeutic proteins relevant to tissue regeneration after stroke and spinal cord injury.
“It was such a surprising and unexpected discovery,” said co-lead author Dr. Irja Elliott Donaghue (ChemE/IBBME PhD 1T6), who first found that the therapeutic protein NT3, a factor that promotes the growth of nerve cells, was slowly released when just mixed into a Jello-like substance that also contained nanoparticles. “Our first thought was, ‘What could be happening to cause this?’”
Proteins hold enormous promise to treat chronic conditions and irreversible injuries — for example, human growth hormone is encapsulated in these tiny polymeric particles, and used to treat children with stunted growth. In order to avoid repeated injections or daily pills, researchers use complicated strategies both to deliver proteins to their site of action, and to ensure they’re released over a long enough period of time to have a beneficial effect.
University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and University Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Hinton (Computer Science) of the Faculty of Arts & Science have both been elected as Foreign Members of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE).
Founded in 1964, the NAE provides engineering leadership in service to the United States and globally. Members of the NAE rank among the world’s most accomplished engineers. Shoichet and Hinton are among only four Canadians inducted to the academy this year.
An internationally recognized expert in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, Shoichet holds the Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering. Her research focuses on using stem cells, biocompatible polymers and lab-grown tissues to develop new treatments for cancer, blindness, stroke and other degenerative conditions. Her research has resulted more than 400 papers, 32 patents and three spin-off companies.
Shoichet is the only person to be elected a fellow of Canada’s three national academies: the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and an International Fellow of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. In 2015 she was named the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science North American laureate and listed as one of Chatelaine Magazine’s Women of the Year.
Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) and Natalie Panek (AeroE MASc 0T9) were among the inspiring roster of speakers and performers at this year’s TEDxToronto conference, held October 22.
Shoichet’s talk focused on her research into regenerative medicine and it’s potential to be a game-changer in the treatment of disease. “When I look back on medical treatments [from the past] I’m really happy to be living today,” she said. “But I can’t help but wonder how we will look back on today’s medical treatments. What will we laugh at and ask why?”
Shoichet described her work in three areas — cancer, blindness and stroke — and how her team is going beyond the treatment of the symptoms toward stopping and even reversing these conditions. Her complete talk is now available online:
University of Toronto engineering professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) has received the 2015 Fleming Medal and Citation from the Royal Canadian Institute in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the public understanding of science.
Shoichet joins the prestigious ranks of other distinguished recipients, including environmental activist David Suzuki, U of T chemistry professor and Nobel Prize winner John C. Polanyi and astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Among her many science outreach activities, in May Shoichet founded the groundbreaking initiative Research2Reality (R2R), which uses digital media to communicate cutting-edge research performed in Canada and spark nationwide awareness. R2R hosts more than 70 short videos featuring some of the country’s top research scientists and engineers describing their work in accessible terms. The initiative has garnered more than 1,000 social media followers in five months.
A select group of high-achieving high school science students had the opportunity to spend their morning last Saturday with one of the world’s leading experts in biomedical engineering.
More than 70 top students from schools across the Toronto area gathered at the Faculty’s Young Women in Engineering Symposium (YWIES). The event began with a keynote address by Professor Molly Shoichet (IBBME, ChemE), who shared first-hand how she became a researcher, her cutting-edge work at the interface of engineering and medicine — and why she hopes they, too, will pursue a career in engineering.
“People ask me, ‘Why do you care if women go into science?’” said Shoichet, a University Professor and part of the University of Toronto’s groundbreaking Medicine by Design program. “The reason I care is that we are trying to solve some really big problems, and we cannot rely on just half the population to do that. That’s why it’s really important for women to come into this field — because women are going to bring a different approach, different creativity and different ideas.”
Now in its second year, YWIES is part of the Faculty’s strategy to recruit top female students to its undergraduate programs. In 2014–2015, nearly one-third of first-year U of T Engineering students were women, the highest proportion of any entering engineering class in Canada. The Faculty is building on this achievement through events such as YWIES, as well as Girls Leadership in Engineering Experience (GLEE), a weekend in the spring for female high school students who have been offered admission to U of T Engineering, and pre-university outreach programs such as Girls Jr. Deep.
More than 50 researchers and clinicians at the University of Toronto and its partner hospitals are participating in Medicine By Design, the new centre for regenerative medicine announced on July 28, 2015.
The centre, which builds on decades of U of T research dating back to the demonstration of the existence of stem cells by James Till and Ernest McCulloch, will design and manufacture cells, tissues and organs to treat degenerative disease.
Among its experts are Professor Peter Zandstra (IBBME), one of the key leaders, and Professor Molly Shoichet (IBBME, ChemE) of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Both Shoichet and Zandstra work with stem cells, which have the ability to become any type of cell in the human body, and could one day be used to repair or replace damaged tissues.
“The bar is very high, but if you’re going to dedicate yourself to something, you might as well shoot for the stars,” Shoichet says.
Writer Tyler Irving spoke with Shoichet and Zandstra about how Medicine by Design will change lives.
Toronto scientists and engineers have made a breakthrough in cell transplantation using a gel-like biomaterial that keeps cells alive and helps them integrate better into tissue. In two early lab trials, this has already shown to partially reverse blindness and help the brain recover from stroke.
Led by University of Toronto professors Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) and Derek van der Kooy, together with Professor Cindi Morshead, the team encased stem cells in a hydrogel that boosted their healing abilities when transplanted into both the eye and the brain. These findings are part of an ongoing effort to develop new therapies to repair nerve damage caused by a disease or injury.
Conducted through the U of T’s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, their research was published in today’s issue of Stem Cell Reports, the official scientific journal of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
Stem cells hold great therapeutic promise because of their ability to turn into any cell type in the body, including their potential to generate replacement tissues and organs. While scientists are adept at growing stem cells in a lab dish, once these cells are on their own—transplanted into a desired spot in the body—they have trouble thriving. The new environment is complex and poorly understood, and implanted stem cells often die or don’t integrate properly into the surrounding tissue.
This month, 20 top researchers from across Canada get the opportunity to polish their communication and leadership skills at the University of Toronto’s 2015 Science Leadership Program (SLP)—an intensive two-day experience that equips participants with the tools to promote the importance of their research to the public, the media and government decision-makers.
Directed by University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME), Senior Advisor to the President on Science & Engineering Engagement, the program welcomes invited scientists from research-intensive institutions—including the universities of Calgary, Waterloo, McGill, Ottawa, Manitoba, York, as well as U of T—to take part in a series of hands-on training sessions, discussion panels and interactive opportunities. Now in its third year, the program is sponsored by Science & Engineering Engagement at U of T and the Connaught Fund.
“The program is designed to give professors, in a diversity of science and engineering fields, the opportunity to hone their leadership and communication skills,” says Shoichet, a recipient of this year’s prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award. “We are bringing in experts from around the world to lead several interactive workshops, while at the same time we’re giving professors the chance to test their skills on expert communicators.”
The program, from April 22-24, is intense. Participants will take part in practical training sessions on outreach, leadership and communications. Nancy Houfek, formerly from the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University, will teach participants how to best use their voice and body. A session by The Barefoot Company will teach them how to articulate ideas most effectively and how to lead a research team of different personalities.
University of Toronto biomedical engineering professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME) has been named the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science North American laureate for 2015.
Already the only person ever elected to all three of Canada’s science academies, Shoichet is the innovative mind behind breakthroughs ranging from ‘space suits’ for fragile stem cells to polymer-based ‘vehicles’ that could let cancer drugs ‘drive’ to affected areas.
The award—which involves a $140,000 prize—recognizes accomplished women researchers and encourages more young women to enter science and technology careers. (A recent report from Engineers Canada revealed that only 18.3 per cent of undergrad engineering degrees in the country were awarded to women in 2013—an area U of T is changing with record-high female enrolment for 2014.)
“Since I can remember, my Mom encouraged me to have a profession,” says Shoichet. “I did well in math and science in high school and was lucky to be able to dream about what I could contribute. Now I’m following that dream for a living.”
Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME), the world-renowned expert in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, is the U of T President Meric Gertler’s new senior advisor on science and engineering engagement.
Shoichet, who says she has been fascinated by science since she was six years old, hopes to motivate the next generation to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
“It is the ‘geeks’ who change the world,” said Shoichet, about the message she wants to tell young people. “Embrace the geek in you, make a difference and tell people about it.”