The award-winning UHN scientist on mapping the thousands of cells within the liver, and how her research is helping scientists understand more about liver disease

Air Date: November 12, 2020 | Length: 42:52

Dr. Sonya MacParland

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About the Episode

What attracted Dr. Sonya MacParland to the world of science was the possibility of making a discovery no one else has ever made. It's exactly what she went on to do – the award-winning scientist at UHN's Toronto General Hospital Research Institute developed the world’s first transcriptomic map of the liver, triggering a paradigm shift in liver research and therapy.

On this episode of Behind the Breakthrough, Dr. MacParland takes the listener through the intricacies of the only organ in the human body with the ability to regenerate itself - the liver. She explains how she and her team mapped the thousands of cells within it, and why they felt it was integral to keep the research open-access for scientists around the world to use as a guide. Dr. MacParland also dives into the personal side of her success as a scientist, sharing how she deals with the failures and pressures of her work and the role mentorship plays in a successful career.

"Being able to do science and discover together on a daily basis is a gift," says Dr. MacParland. "The fact that I'm able to do this and work with brilliant students, brilliant scientists and wonderful patients is just so fulfilling."

About Dr. MacParland

Sonya MacParland as child 

Dr. Sonya MacParland, PhD, is a Scientist and Immunologist in the Toronto General Hospital's Ajmera Transplant Centre and the Schwartz Reisman Liver Research Centre at the University Health Network. She is also an Assistant Professor in the University of Toronto's (UofT) department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and the department of Immunology. In partnership with Dr. Ian McGilvray, transplant surgeon in the Ajmera Transplant Centre and Dr. Gary Bader, computational biologist at UofT, Dr. MacParland's research program is focused on translating fundamental knowledge about the immune biology of the liver into clinical applications. As part of the Human Cell Atlas Initiative and the Medicine by Design program, Dr. MacParland and her research team are using advanced genomics including single cell RNA sequencing to describe the microenvironment of the healthy and diseased human liver. Her team recently developed the first transcriptomic map of the human liver as a platform to examine how immune dysregulation drives liver diseases. Her team is also examining how the liver immune environment can be therapeutically targeted and manipulated using nanoparticles to slow or reverse ongoing damage.

Produced By: Emma King | Host: Christian Cote | Audio Editing and Mixing: 217 Audio​
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