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Spotlight on St. Michael’s basic science research: understanding disease and how we can treat it

Toronto, December 27, 2012

By Evelyne Jhung

Less than a century ago, diabetes was a fatal disease. Diabetic patients were simply put on a no-sugar diet as doctors and scientists understood little about the pancreas and the regulation of sugar glucose.

Then, Frederick Banting and Charles Best made one of the biggest discoveries in the history of medicine. The use of insulin has saved millions of lives around the world.

Even though the insulin discovery occurred decades ago, this formula for basic science discovery has not changed appreciably. Scientists and clinician-scientists working together identify clinical problems that stimulate them to focus their basic research work on trying to understand the causes and potential cures of disease.

“Even though we may not know the impact of discoveries in basic research right away, we know they set the stage for important breakthroughs in medical treatments and diagnostic technologies later on,” said Dr. Ori Rotstein, the associate director of basic science research.

Our basic science research is organized into four groups of common and high-burden illnesses: diabetes and kidney disease; cardiovascular disease, including stroke; critical illness encompassing lung injury and trauma; and hematological diseases.

More people around the world are suffering from one or more of these diseases, and at the same time, the diseases are becoming more complex. The mission of basic science research at St. Michael’s is to understand the underlying causes of these diseases and to translate these discoveries into diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Here is a small sample of how some of our basic science researchers are working to make that happen:

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