Wound repair researcher and cardiovascular tissue engineer receive Canada Research Chairs

Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez

Professor Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez studies cells in fruit fly embryos to gain insight that could lead to new drugs or therapies for faster wound healing. He is one of two IBBME faculty members announced to receive a Canada Research Chair. (Photo: Neil Ta).

June 7, 2017 | By Tyler Irving

Two faculty members from the U of T Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) have earned support from the latest round of Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program announcements.

Professor Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez has been named the Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Cell Biology and Morphogenesis while Professor Milica Radisics CRC in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering has been renewed.

These two chairholders are among 28 University of Toronto CRCs announced this round, the highest number of any Canadian institution. In total, 142 new or renewed CRCs were announced in the latest round.

Launched in 2000, the Canada Research Chair program aims to help the country attract and retain research leaders in engineering and natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences.

Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez, Assistant Professor & Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Cell Biology and Morphogenesis

Helping heal wounds with insight from fruit flies

Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez

When our bodies are injured, groups of cells must communicate and coordinate their actions, working together to form new tissue and close the wound. In developing embryos, wounds repair rapidly, with no inflammation or scarring.

By studying wound repair in fruit fly embryos, Fernandez-Gonzalez and his team aim to understand the chemical and physical mechanisms that underlie cell communication during scarless tissue repair.

Their insights could lead to new drugs or therapies that help wounds heal faster, reducing the time needed to recover from surgery or injury, and offering relief to patients such as diabetics, who often suffer from chronic wounds.

Milica Radisic, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering

Mending broken hearts

Milica Radisic

Radisic and her team create sophisticated systems for growing human cells outside the body.

Their lab-grown constructs include heart tissues that beat realistically and liver tissue that can metabolize certain drugs.

Through the spinoff company TARA Biosystems, Radisic’s creations are already being used to test new drugs for potentially dangerous side effects.

In the future, they could be implanted back into the body to repair organs damaged by disease or injury.

“The University of Toronto is proud of the tremendous globally important research our 15 new and 13 renewed Canada Research Chairs are involved in,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation. “We also appreciate the ongoing support of the Government of Canada in funding this research, which enables U of T to attract and retain some of the top scholars in the world.”

This is the third CRC appointment for IBBME in the 2016-2017 academic year. In December, Professor Penney Gilbert was named the CRC in Endogenous Repair. Her research focuses on deciphering cues that could “wake up” muscle stem cells to inform the development of new drugs, therapies and treatments that restore strength to muscles that are wasting as a result of aging or disease.