Facebook Pixel Code
Banner image
About the Institute

Profile of Yigal Dror

Staff profile photo
Dr. Yigal Dror

Dr. Yigal Dror, MD, FRCP(C)

  • Senior Scientist, Genetics & Genome Biology
  • Head, Haematology Section, Division of Haematology/Oncology
  • Director, Marrow Failure and Myelodysplasia program
  • Associate Professor,Paediatrics, University of Toronto

1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?
I am originally from Israel. I did my medical studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and completed my paediatrics training at a hospital that was affiliated with that University. In 1995, I came to Toronto for a fellowship in paediatric haematology/oncology here at SickKids. After a one year break, I came back and joined the staff here.            

2. What are you researching right now?
I am mainly interested in bone marrow failure conditions. These are life threatening conditions, and children are either born with low blood counts or develop the problem later on during childhood. In addition, many of the people with bone marrow failure have a high risk of leukemia and other types of cancers. A large number of bone marrow failure conditions are genetic, and many of the causes of bone marrow failure remain unknown. In our research, we use patient material to identify genes that are mutated in inherited bone marrow failure syndromes. Some of the conditions that we study have not been well characterized so knowing the genes behind them will help us to better understand these conditions.

We are also working to understand the mechanism of bone marrow failure. For this research, we use induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells – stem cells generated from patients. We try to model the disease using these human cells and are working to understand why patients don’t form enough blood cells.

The third line of research that we are doing is trying to understand why patients develop leukemia. As I mentioned, patients with bone marrow failure conditions have a higher risk of leukemia. We are trying to identify genetic alterations in the bone marrows of these patients that we can use as markers for early diagnosis and also to understand why and how these patients develop leukemia.  

3. Who is your all-time favourite scientist and why?
There are so many scientists whom I admire, but obviously one of them is Albert Einstein.  He made a huge contribution to science in general and his way of thinking and generating theories was completely innovative. This is inspiring to all of us.   

4. What in your opinion is the most important scientific breakthrough and why?
There are so many amazing breakthroughs that I can think of, but I will choose two that are close to my research. The knowledge of the whole human genome is so important. This gives us an incredible opportunity to understand causes of genetic diseases, and how genetic and acquired disorders develop.

The second example is generating of stem cells from mature human cells – the induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells. In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka in Japan developed this ability to generate iPS cells from skin fibroblasts of healthy individuals. He received the Nobel Prize for this work. We use this cell technology in my lab so we can definitely see firsthand the impact of this breakthrough on understanding how diseases develop and hopefully to discover new treatments.       

5. What are your major interests outside the lab?
In the little spare time that I have, I like to be with my family – my wife and my three kids. My oldest son is 25, my second son is 22 and we have a 14 year old daughter as well. I also really enjoy music and I play the piano and the guitar.

6. Why science?
As clinicians we use discoveries that have been made in the past to treat a wide variety of conditions. However, there are still many patients who suffer from diseases that cause much suffering and lack cures. Science for me is developing tools to help children in the future.

7. Why SickKids?
SickKids is one of the best medical centres in the world. The quality of the care that we provide is amazing and the facilities are incredible. We train physicians and researchers from all over the world and they are able to take what they learned at SickKids and apply it in their home country. I am also able to participate in very high level research here at SickKids.

8. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
In terms of bone marrow failure, many people have found different abnormalities in various diseases and different functions of the same gene in a specific disease. Quite a lot is known about the function of these genes and the observations of abnormalities within the patients, but we really don’t know the cause of the bone marrow failure, what eventually leads to very low blood cell counts and life threatening symptoms like infections, bleeding, fatigue and cancer.   

9. What are you reading right now?
Most of my reading is related to my current work as a clinician and as a scientist. It is related to the diseases that I treat as well as the research that I am doing. Although it is a struggle because of time constraints, it is always very interesting to read about topics that are distant from the work I do, either related to other medical fields or related to other fields like physics, chemistry etc. The last non-medical book that I read was the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?
My first piece of advice is to be patient. It takes months or even years to achieve meaningful results. Sometimes you get to a certain discovery but you have to validate and study the applications of this discovery so patience is definitely a key. At the same time you have to be very persistent. If you identify something and don’t take it to completion then there is no use to this discovery. The other thing is to think outside of the box and be innovative.  

11. What does the SickKids Centre for Research and Learning mean to you?
I think the advantage of the new building is the ability to have all scientists at SickKids together in one place. This will improve the collaboration between the scientists and allow easy exchange of ideas, leading to more discoveries and better science. The ultimate goal of the building is to create a better future for children suffering from diseases or to prevent diseases in the first place.

August 2013

View scientific profile »»