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Profile of Jayne Danska

Dr. Jayne Danska
Dr. Jayne Danska

Dr. Jayne Danska, PhD

  • Senior Scientist, Genetics & Genome Biology
  • Professor, Immunology, University of Toronto

Where are you from and where did you study?
I am from New York City, born and raised. I did my undergraduate studies at Kenyon College in Ohio and my graduate studies at Cornell University Medical School and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. I then went on to Stanford University for a post-doctoral fellowship.

What are you researching right now?
I work on the genetic mechanisms underlying two major diseases of childhood: Type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Both diseases are caused by inherited or acquired genetic variations that subvert normal growth and function of cell in the immune system. We are trying to understand the specific genetic changes that drive these disease pathways, and how the genes are influenced by specific environmental factors.

Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
Barbara McClintock (1902-1992). Working on her own, she made fundamental discoveries of chromosome dynamics, and mobile genetic elements and their effects on gene expression decades before her colleagues grasped their significance or rewarded her outstanding work with a suitable academic position. She persevered in genetic research driven by her love of the science. Based on her discoveries, she and other groups demonstrated that mobile genes were fundamental to drug resistance in bacteria and the creation of “oncogenes” underlying cancer. She received the Nobel Prize in 1983.

I had the privilege to discuss genetics with her during my PhD research at Cold Spring Harbor Labs – she was an inspiration, full of life and endless questions.

What in your opinion is the single most important scientific breakthrough, and why?
All breakthroughs are part of a continuum emerging from the groundwork laid by prior discoveries, often in diverse fields. The critical transition was societal acceptance that scientific inquiry is a powerful means to understand the physical and biological world, and that it must be practiced unfettered by religious or political control.

Why science?
The scientific process offers a glimpse of truth and beauty more fundamental than any human construction.

Why SickKids?
SickKids has provided a supportive, collaborative research environment with excellent opportunities for fundamental research and to translate our discoveries into improved health care for children.

What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
Whether identification of the inherited and acquired genetic variations that underlie complex, common diseases will translate into highly specific, effective means to predict, prevent and treat them, sometimes called "personalized medicine:"

November 2008

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