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Peter Zandstra, PhD, FRSC

Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering,
Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry

Other U of T Affiliations: Donnelly Centre
for Cellular and Biomolecular Research
R. Samuel McLaughlin Centre for Molecular Medicine

Hospital Affiliation: McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, UHN

I am Originally From: Saskatchewan

Where I Studied:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
PDF in Bioengineering and Environmental Health, 1997 to 1998

University of British Columbia
PhD in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, 1997

McGill University
BEng in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, 1992


My Story:

There are two things that motivate our research into stem cells: our desire to contribute to the health and welfare of Canadians and people all over the world; and, our interest in complex problems that can be explored through bioengineering.

Research in my lab (http://stemcell.ibme.utoronto.ca/) is focused on the generation of functional tissue from adult and embryonic stem cells. Our quantitative, technology-driven approach strives to gain new insight into the fundamental mechanisms that control the fate of stem cells, and to develop robust systems for the controlled generation of clinically relevant numbers of functional stem cells and their derivatives. We are specifically focused on the growth of human blood stem cells and the generation of blood and cardiac cells from embryonic stem cells. The long-term goal would be to generate transplantable blood stem cell and repair damaged tissues such as hearts with stem or progenitor cells.

Stem cells may serve as a renewable source of cells for regenerative medicine. Despite their enormous potential, significant challenges remain in order to translate their demonstrated biological properties into robust and effective therapies. The use of living cells as therapeutics offers an opportunity to tackle medical problems for which small or biological molecule drugs will not suffice such as tissue repair and regeneration, metabolic support, immunomodulation, and gene replacement affecting every organ system. However, despite the huge expectations, there currently exist only a handful of cell therapy products on the market (fibroblasts and keratinocyte-based products for skin burns and ulcerations) as the vast majority of products are in pre-clinical and clinical development. The use of live human cells as a therapeutic modality is by no means a new concept; blood transfusions have been in clinical practice for almost 200 years, the first successful solid-organ transplant (kidney) was performed over 50 years ago, and bone marrow reconstitution following myeloablative conditioning (the only currently available stem cell therapy) was first performed (albeit clinically unsuccessfully) in 1959.

What differentiates this new generation of cellular therapeutics is that investigators are no longer simply processing cells or tissues, but rather designing, engineering and manufacturing cell-based products. Despite these advances, the demand continues to exceed the supply of cell-based products, thereby requiring scalable manufacturing processes. Similarly, controlling the quality of these cell-based products is a recurring problem, thus demanding the design of a system that reproducibly and robustly controls cell fate. The development of novel robust technologies to manufacture cell-based products would address a critical gap between discovery and commercialization. By utilizing engineering-based approaches such as mathematical modeling, molecular engineering and bioreactor design, our research aims to enable stem cell based therapies and technologies, and thus positively impact upon health.

My lab shares space with the van der Kooy and Audet labs, interested in stem cell biology and bioengineering respectively. Members of our labs routinely collaborate, communicate and synergize to solve problems in experiments and proffer advice regarding techniques. Recently we have initiated studies or have interacted with a number of labs in the Donnelly Centre including the Bader, Emili, Blencowe and Chan labs. Being surrounded by other like-minded researchers interested in exploring high-impact applications is very motivating. Excellence can be fostered in such multi-disciplinary environments.

For more information on my work, please e-mail me at peter.zandstra@utoronto.ca



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