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About the Institute

Profile of Aleixo Muise

Photo of Dr Aleixo Muise
Dr. Aleixo Muise

Dr. Aleixo Muise, MD, PhD, FRCPC

  • Scientist-Track Investigator, Cell Biology
  • Staff Gastroenterologist, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
  • Assistant Professor, Paediatrics, University of Toronto

1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?
I’m from Antigonish, Nova Scotia. It is a very small town and was a great place to grow up. I completed my undergraduate degree in chemistry at St. Francis Xavier University, which is also in Antigonish. After getting my PhD in Biochemistry at Dalhousie University I went to medical school at the University of Toronto where I met my wife. I did my paediatric residency training and my fellowship in gastroenterology here at SickKids.

2. What are you researching right now?
My main interest clinically and scientifically is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is a bowel disease that affects kids. Twenty-five per cent of patients with the disease develop it in childhood, usually under the age of 18, and it is a lifelong disease. Our research examines the genes that cause IBD and how they function and ultimately lead to disease. We are also looking at very young age groups, essentially kids that are diagnosed under the age of six. These younger patients suffer from a really difficult to treat form of the illness and we believe that they most likely have gene defects that we will are able identify.

3. Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
I think I’d have to go with Frederick Banting. He was a Canadian and I believe he did some training at SickKids. His life story is really remarkable. He started off as a surgeon and became interested, by reading journals, in pancreatic disorders and ended up discovering insulin. The journey of how he made a huge discovery is really interesting and I also admire the fact the he is a Canadian.

4. What in your opinion is the single most important scientific breakthrough, and why?
I think Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA is probably the most important one and it set the framework for a lot of really huge discoveries that followed.

5. What are your major interests outside the lab?
My biggest interests are my two kids. I have a six year old, Joseph and an eighteen month old, Rachel. They keep me very busy. I love travelling with my family. My wife and I and the kids have been able to travel quite a bit. Our favourite trips were to Porto in Portugal and Orvieto in Italy.  

I also play hockey with Dr. Stan Zlotkin.

6. Why science?
I’m not really sure how I got into science. I sort of just fell into it. After my undergraduate degree I did graduate work with some really strong mentors. In fact, I think I chose gastroenterology because of really strong mentors in the division, like Dr. Peter Durie, who is a great clinician-scientist. Also, one of the reasons that I stayed at SickKids is my other mentor, Dr. Daniela Rotin. She’s a scientist in biochemistry who runs an amazing lab. Almost every project she does relates to some aspect of medicine and she does some really amazing science. 

7. Why SickKids?
I think there is really no other place to do research as a clinician-scientist than SickKids. There are an amazing number of high quality scientists here that are great collaborators. We have a great IBD program developed by Dr. Anne Griffiths which really makes my work possible. All the nurses, research assistants and physicians are committed to the patients and their families and that makes it a great place to do research. SickKids is truly one of the few places in the world where I could do this type of work. It is the people and the collaborations here that make SickKids so attractive.

8. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
In the field of the genetics of IBD, the biggest question is, what do all these genes do. Over a hundred genes have been discovered that are linked to susceptibility to IBD, yet most don’t have a clear function. The controversy is how important are these genes and will these discoveries ever lead to new and improved treatments or diagnoses for patients?

9. What are you reading right now?
I just finished The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. It is really a fascinating book about life in India, consisting of eight fictitious letters addressed to the Chinese Premier. The structure is great and it is comical as well as thrilling.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?
The best advice that I got at SickKids was from Dr. Hugh O’Brodovich the former Chief of Paediatrics. He said that during your training it was essential to learn from the best scientists regardless of their field of interest. He led me to Dr. Daniela Rotin, for example. In a place like SickKids, there are so many strong mentors and collaborators that are very willing to help someone starting out.

11. What will the new Research & Learning Tower mean to you?
I think it is very exciting and it will bring together all of the Sickkids scientists in one place. My work is very collaborative and currently involves a number of scientists all over SickKids. To have people all in one place will make these collaborations much easier and will facilitate high quality research.

November 2010

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