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About the Institute

Profile of David Douda

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David Douda

David Douda

  • Graduate Student, Translational Medicine

1. Where are you from? /Where did you study?
I am originally from Japan and my family moved to Pickering, Ontario when I was in high school. I did my undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology at the University of Toronto at Scarborough and from there I went to the University of Ottawa to do my Master’s degree in neuroscience. After I graduated, I came back to U of T and I am currently in the third year of my PhD in the Department of Lab Medicine and Pathobiology. I considered many different options for my PhD but one of the main reasons I chose Toronto is because I recently got engaged and my fiancé lives here.

2. What are you researching right now?

My research focuses on molecules called surfactant proteins (SP-A and SP-D) that are present in most of the mucous layers in the body. We are specifically interested in their presence in the lungs. SP-A and SP-D are soluble defense molecules, sort of like antibodies. Antibodies usually recognize proteins but these molecules recognize sugars. It’s neat because bacteria are actually coated with sugars and SP-A and SP-D can recognize those bacterial sugars. They can detect anything that comes into the lungs and facilitate the clearance of those pathogens. 

My specific project focuses on the role of surfactant proteins in relation to the recently discovered neutrophil extracellular traps. Neutrophils are one of the first lines of defense cells that can come into the lungs when there is a bacterial infection. People thought that these cells fought bacteria by engulfing them and killing them inside the cell, but it was recently discovered that these cells can also release their internal contents including their own DNA and bacteria killing proteins to the outside of the cell in a suicidal process. Since DNA is a very sticky molecule it can trap bacteria and kill them.

3. Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
I am going to say Charles Darwin or Isaac Newton. I think that their work demonstrated what it means to be curious and observant. Since their time, all great scientists have adopted those qualities. I think that being curious and observant are two necessary qualities for scientists. Those are the guys I can look up to.

4. What in your opinion is the single most important scientific breakthrough, and why?
For me, it’s definitely the generation of knockout mice. These are genetically engineered mice in which one or more genes have been turned off through a targeted mutation. By having the gene removed you can study the function of the gene product. Scientists can observe what is wrong with the mice when they are missing that particular gene. This is called reverse genetics and this discovery contributed a lot to advance our knowledge in the genetic basis of diseases. The original creators of knockout mice were awarded a Nobel Prize for medicine in 2007.

5. What are your major interests outside the lab?
Since I was little, I have done a lot of karate and now I have a black belt. I first started participating in karate after watching The Karate Kid. I wanted to be just like Daniel. Other than that, I try as much as possible to spend time with my family, my fiancé and my friends.

6. Why science?
I was always that geeky kid who liked gadgets. But, actually when I was little, I wanted to go into physics. In grade 12, however, I had this great biology teacher and I just fell in love with the subject. As I went through my undergrad I discovered that there is more unknown than known in science and that was really intriguing to me. Science is the opportunity to explore the unknown.

7. Why SickKids?
The infrastructure at SickKids is great. There are researchers from all different disciplines who come together with one goal: to help people. There is a lot of clinical research and basic research and the two are often bridged together creating translational research. Everything you want to do is possible here. The support of the core facilities is excellent. The only limit to research at SickKids is your imagination.

8. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
I don’t know if it is a controversial issue but the idea of neutrophilis extracellular traps is a whole new paradigm. There is very little evidence to what they actually do inside your body. A lot of evidence shows that they can trap and kill bacteria but how they are formed in the body and what happens to them afterwards is not really known. This is brand new and we are adding the spin of the surfactant proteins. That makes the research we are doing very edgy.

9. What are you reading right now?
I am reading a book called You Should Have Asked – The Art of Powerful Conversation by Stuart Knight. He is a producer and actor from Toronto. I went to a workshop of his called The Art of Powerful Conversation. His tries to help people get deeper in their conversations by giving examples of what questions to ask and other helpful tools.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?
Just do it! It isn’t for everybody – but you don’t know until you try it. I started research during my undergrad and I loved it so much and I am still here doing it and plan on making a career out of it.

August 2010