(Toronto, ON – December 17, 2010) Two of Australia’s leading research centres are being visited by one of Canada’s top stem cell biologists, as Dr. Andras Nagy travels to Sydney, Australia. During the year-long sabbatical, Dr. Nagy will be hosted by the Children’s Medical Research Institute and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney.
Dr. Nagy, a Senior Investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, is world-renowned for his pioneering work in generating Canada’s first human embryonic stem cell lines as well as an innovative, non-viral method to reprogram skin cells. He and his wife Kristina Nagy, as well as other colleagues in their research lab, have produced some of Canada’s most innovative work in stem cell biology.
Dr. Nagy and his team are currently working on a project to explore the process of changing fully mature cells of the body (known as somatic cells) into a pluripotent state (i.e., cells that can develop into most other cell types), and understand the molecular and genetic changes that occur during the cells’ reprogramming. The project will generate a vast library of data that will require sophisticated means to organize and interpret the findings.
And that’s where ‘bioinformatics’ takes centre stage. The term refers to the application of computational tools and approaches for expanding the use and understanding of biological data. Bioinformatics includesidentifying all the genes in the genome and associating them with specific functions, predicting the structure of the proteins for which they code, and comparing the roles of certain genes with those of other species.
Dr. Nagy’s studies in Sydney will focus on these tools and how they can be applied to stem cell biology.
“Bioinformatics is a research area that is becoming increasingly important for all fields in biology,” says Dr. Nagy. “The vast amount of data that is now available can only be effectively utilized with a solid understanding of its interpretation. Our studies in Australia will be crucial for keeping the lab at the frontline of stem cell research.”
Dr. Nagy notes that researchers in Australia, as well as Korea and Japan, are on the leading edge of bioinformatics and computational biology, and have strong research hubs in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
“We hope to build longer-term collaborations with researchers at institutes in Australia to further our knowledge of both stem cell biology as well as the most efficient and powerful ways to interpret our findings,” says Dr. Nagy.
Dr. Nagy says he looks forward to bringing his new-found expertise in this area back to the Lunenfeld later next year. And while in Australia, he will keep his lab at the Lunenfeld updated on his new knowledge, through bi-weekly tutorials via Skype.
“I’ve assured my team that I’ll be a virtual presence in the lab 24-7!”
The embryonic stem cell facility directed by Dr. Nagy lab will expand its research facilities early next year, when the fourth floor at 25 Orde Street is transformed into a new centre for Lunenfeld research into stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. The Nagy lab will share the new space with Dr. Marc Grynpas’ team, allowing for new collaborations and research into bone-related diseases and their possible treatments.