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About the Institute

Profile of Khosrow Adeli

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Dr. Khosrow Adeli

Dr. Khosrow Adeli, PhD, FCACB, DACBCC, FACB

  • Senior Associate Scientist, Molecular Medicine
  • Division Head, Clinical Biochemistry, Department of Paediatric Laboratory Medicine (DPLM)
  • Professor, Departments of Biochemistry, Laboratory Medicine & Pathology

1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?
I am originally from Iran and I came to Canada in 1979. I moved to Toronto and then to Ottawa where I completed my Master’s and PhD at the University of Ottawa, followed by postdoctoral work at the National Research Center (NRC) in protein biotechnology. Afterwards, I came back to Toronto to complete my post-doctorate training in the field of clinical chemistry.

I landed my first job was as a professor at the University of Windsor in the chemistry and biochemistry department and I worked there for ten years. I was recruited to SickKids in 1998 and I have been here ever since.

2. What are you researching right now?
I wear both a clinical hat and a research hat. Under my clinical hat, I oversee the biochemistry division in the Department of Paediatric Laboratory Medicine. With my research hat, I have a large and very busy basic research laboratory within the Molecular Medicine research program.

On the clinical side, I have a number of research studies in collaboration with clinicians in various clinical programs at SickKids. Among these studies, the most important is a research project called CALIPER (The Canadian Laboratory Initiative on Paediatric Reference Intervals). Through this multi-centre project we are developing a major diagnostic tool that will directly contribute to improved diagnosis and assessment of children and youth with medical concerns. We aim to establish a current and accurate database of reference intervals (normal values) that represent Canada’s children and youth. Age, gender and ethnicity can profoundly influence levels of biochemical markers necessitating the development of a comprehensive database. 

We hope this new database of healthy Canadian children and youth will help improve diagnosis and treatment for a variety of medical conditions. Since treatment can depend upon lab test results, and treatment efficacy is also usually monitored by doing these tests, accurate interpretation of these test results is critically important. The first major report from this study was recently published. In this study, nearly 2,200 participants were recruited through community outreach initiatives and provided blood samples and information that were used to determine reference values for 40 serum biochemical markers. The CALIPER database is already being used by paediatricians across Canada and elsewhere in the world to assist in diagnosis and monitoring of paediatric diseases.

In my basic science lab, we study the strong link between diabetes and heart disease. This is an important area of study since 80 per cent of death in diabetics is caused by cardiovascular disease. We study lipids, like cholesterol and fat, triglycerides, and some of the proteins involved in lipid metabolism because changes in cholesterol and triglyceride levels eventually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

I have four major ongoing projects in my lab, one supported by CIHR, two supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundations of Ontario and Canada and one supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). All four projects focus on the Apolipoprotein B or the ApoB protein. The ApoB protein is made in the liver and the intestine and it’s important in regulating how much cholesterol we have and how much fat accumulates in our blood and in our liver. We are interested in the mechanisms by which the ApoB protein is made and how it is controlled. Insulin is one factor that controls the ApoB protein by regulating how much of this protein is made. We also study the metabolism of this protein in diabetic models.

3. Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
In my area of research, I would definitely say Drs. Joseph Goldstein and Michael Brown have made the biggest contribution. They are the Nobel Prize winners in cholesterol metabolism. Goldstein and Brown discovered that a genetic cause of high cholesterol in children is due to a mutation in the LDL receptor gene that is critical in cholesterol clearance from the circulation. They developed some of the fundamental concepts in the field of lipid metabolism and were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Even after their Nobel Prize win, Goldstein and Brown have continued to make many more important contributions to the field and continue to be active to this day.

4. What in your opinion is the single most important scientific breakthrough, and why?
I think the most important recent discovery is RNA interference or microRNA. This discovery was made about 10 years ago and has revolutionized the field of molecular biology and gene regulatory networks. A very large proportion of the human genome contains non-protein coding sequences that code for non-coding RNAs. 

It is now widely recognized that these non-coding RNAs and an RNA regulatory network play a critical role in regulation of gene expression, protein synthesis, and many metabolic pathways. They also play important roles in development of many human diseases including cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. MicroRNA therapeutics is now being used as a major drug target by the pharmaceutical industry to treat cancer and other disorders. This major recent discovery is used in many labs across SickKids because it touches many areas of science and medicine.  

5. What are your major interests outside the lab?
I enjoy travelling and spending time with my family. I find the best way to spend quality time with my family is to travel together because I get to spend much more time with them than when we are at home. We just recently went to Morocco together and that was a nice trip.

I also enjoy playing tennis and visiting friends. I like to read; typically I stay on top of international news. Nowadays I do most of my reading online as it is becoming increasing difficult to find time to read newspapers.

6. Why science?
I did my Bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences and during that time I became very interested in biochemistry. Like most young people I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at that point but through the variety of different courses I took in my undergraduate degree, I found biochemistry particularly interesting.  When I came to Canada, I applied to do a Master’s in biochemistry and fortunately I was admitted into the University of Ottawa.

7. Why SickKids?
After about 10 years in Windsor, I was approached because of a vacancy in the SickKids clinical biochemistry program. The former division head was retiring and they were looking for someone who could run the clinical labs and also conduct basic research. In my clinical role, I am responsible to ensure the quality of the laboratory testing offered by the clinical laboratory and I act as the link between the clinical lab and SickKids clinicians. I assist clinicians in the interpretation of test results, help them access tests that are not available at SickKids and assist in development of new tests.

Coming to SickKids allowed me to fully use my training and expertise and be able to perform  clinical service as well as maintain a research lab. Being in a larger academic centre has allowed me to further develop my skills, expand research collaborations, and increase our research activities and impact.

8. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
There is controversy around whether or not we should measure the blood concentration of the ApoB protein in patients. Evidence shows that measuring this protein in blood is a much better indicator or marker of heart disease risk than measuring cholesterol. However, the controversy remains because this test is not readily available and there is a lack of understanding and information about the ApoB protein.

9. What are you reading right now?
I enjoy reading history books. I love reading about history from around the world from ancient Roman and Greek history, to Persian history since I’m originally from Iran, as well as Chinese and Egyptian history.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?
I think young people should be given the opportunity to try research as a career. However, they should quickly determine whether they really want to work in basic research and have the interest and dedication to develop a research career. While carrying out original research or leading a research program can be very interesting and very rewarding, and in my opinion, one of the best jobs you can have, it is also very challenging. It requires a huge time commitment and true dedication.

11. What does the Research & Learning Tower mean to you?
I think this is one of the best moves that SickKids has made in the last few decades. I strongly believe in infrastructure investment. Well-planned investment in infrastructure always pays off in the long run and this is definitely a well-planned investment. We have so many successful research groups scattered throughout several buildings. This new building will bring everyone together and there will be opportunities for interactions and collaborations between labs and that will be good for our trainees, students, fellows and the faculty. I’m all for it and I think it is a major accomplishment.

July 2012

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