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About the Institute

Profile of Jason Maynes

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Dr. Jason Maynes

 By: Hannah Sunderani

Dr. Jason Maynes, MD, PhD

  • Scientist-Track Investigator, Molecular Medicine
  • Head of Research and Staff Anesthesiologist, Anesthesia & Pain Medicine
  • Adjunct Professor, Biochemistry, University of Toronto

1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?
I am originally from Calgary and that’s where I did my undergraduate degree in biophysics at the University of Calgary. From there, I went to the University of Alberta to do my PhD, which was partially through the University of Alberta and partially through the University of California, Berkley. After that I really wanted to do some practical physics research and so I went into medicine.

I studied medicine at the University of Alberta, and then did a post-doctoral research fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico. I moved to Washington University in St. Louis for another research fellowship followed by my clinical residencies in Paediatrics and Anesthesia at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. About 20 months ago, I came to SickKids and joined the Department of Anesthesia & Pain Medicine. Now, I’m the director of Anesthesia Research, which is a lot of fun. It’s an excellent clinical department and I really like the collaborative environment. We see the toughest of the tough in terms of clinical paediatric anesthesia.  

2. What are you researching right now?
Most of my research is on anesthetic toxicity. It’s a small research field and there aren’t that many trained in this area. Our research focuses on children under four, who receive repeated administrations of anesthesia and have long-term and prominent cognitive and behavioural deficits. We look at the mechanisms of anesthetic neurotoxicity, and other mechanisms of anesthetic toxicity that may not be directly related to neurotoxicity, but may affect other perioperative outcomes like wound-healing, cardiovascular stability and length of stay. This type of research is pretty new, and a lot of the things that we investigate are really fundamental in the field. We are only one of three or four labs that can investigate this at the level that we do.

In more general terms, we study drug toxicity, mitochondrial function and the use of stem cells as models to predict adverse drug effects.

3. Who is your all-time favourite scientist and why?
Richard Feynman!  He was a famous physicist who won the Nobel Prize for quantum electro dynamics. He is a very good scientist, but he was also very well rounded – I think that’s why I like him so much. He played music, wrote books and sat on government committees. He’s been my idol since high school, which is when I started reading his books. I identify with him a little bit.

4. What in your opinion is the most important scientific breakthrough and why?
I think the ability to transcend different fields is a very important breakthrough in science. The scientists who are able to cross fields, and not get cornered are the ones who make the largest contribution. I think that concept of transcending fields is the most important thing we are discovering in science. For example, Feynman did some very important biological research even though he was a pure physicist. The ability to cross fields and spot similarities that others might not be able to see is how we come up with innovative ideas and really change the way things are done in medicine and all research areas. I try to practice this in my research.

5. What are your major interests outside the lab?
I like playing electric guitar; I’ve been playing for about 15 years. I recently went to a Rolling Stones concert. I love the Stones and I love to play their music; they have a nice beat. Keith Richards has some great stuff too!

I’m also into hockey; I’ve played since I was six.

6. Why science?
I think my train of thought fits well into science – I’m very logical. There are not many areas where you can try to understand things that can impact people in a broad sense, especially on a systematic level. The ability to make the next discovery and to have an impact on the way medicine is done is why I like science and medical research.

7. Why SickKids?
SickKids is a great mesh between my clinical and research interests. Clinically, we have an excellent anesthesiology group. The complexity of surgeries we do is outstanding. I know that every time I go into the operating room I’m part of an interesting and challenging case, and I look forward to it.

On the research side of things I work with a group that is collaborative, cross-disciplinary and interested in paediatric medicine, which is my underlying passion. There are few places in the world where you can go and get that sort of environment, especially in paediatric research. The reason why I came back to Canada was because of the push towards translational medicine.

8. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
I would say anesthetic neurotoxicity. A lot of questions arise about the surgeries we perform on kids under four. Obviously a significant amount of the surgeries have to be done for life saving measures, or for significant quality of life measures. The question of whether the anesthesia is going to produce permanent cognitive or behavoural deficits in those kids becomes a big question.

9. What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Bringing up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel. It’s a historical fiction about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell and the changing of the church in England. I’d highly recommend it, but read Wolf Hall first- it’s the prequel to the book. They’re both terrific!

10. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?
There are a lot of smart people out there, but the one thing you can’t replace is effort.

11. What does the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning mean to you?
This building will give us a chance to do collaborative, cross-disciplinary research that can improve paediatric care and general medicine care in a realistic time frame.

September 2013

Scientific profile