Dr. Marc Jeschke

Dr. Marc Jeschke, principal investigator
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Saeid Amini Nik

Saeid Amini Nik, junior scientist

Dr. Amini Nik leads the stem cell and skin regeneration group. After his medical training in Iran, he did cardiovascular research in a World Health Organization-supported field study aimed at determining the demographics of hypertension in Iran. Later, he started a master’s degree in clinical genetics under the supervision of professor Jean-Jacques Cassiman in Belgium, which led to a PhD in cancer genetics and cancer biology.

In 2006, he moved to SickKids hospital in Toronto for postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Benjamin Alman. The first part of his postdoc was aimed at characterizing the molecular pathways involved in skin healing and skin regeneration. Later, the group aimed to find new sources of stem cells that contribute to skin healing.

Dr. Amini-Nik is a junior scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute and an assistant professor in the department of surgery at the University of Toronto.


Xiaojing (Jean) Dai, lab manager

Xiaojing (Jean) Dai received her MD and PhD in immunology and gastroenterology in China. She has extensive clinical experience through her prior medical practice as a physician. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the department of immunology at the University of Toronto and SickKids. She later became a research project manager in cardiovascular research. Jean is the lab manager in the Jeschke lab.


Nazihah Bakhtyar, research technician

Nazihah Bakhtyar completed her honours B.Sc. in life sciences at McMaster University. She also completed an M.Sc. in medical science in the department of cancer and genetics at McMaster University. Her thesis was titled, The role of periostin in promoting the progression of clear cell renal cell carcinomas (ccRCC). Nazihah studied the critical role of periostin in mediating the co-evolving process between ccRCC and its stroma during ccRCC pathogenesis. In 2013, she authored and published this study in the European Journal of Cancer.

In the Jeschke lab, Nazihah is responsible for the processing and bio-banking of skin, adipose tissue and blood from the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook. She also performs the isolation and primary culture of human fibroblasts and keratinocytes from skin and mesenchymal stem cells from human umbilical cords.

Nazihah is investigating a project on the utilization of Wharton's jelly from umbilical cords to enhance skin wound healing. She also assists with the development and optimization of a 3-D bilayer skin printer with Dr. Axel Guenther's engineering team from the University of Toronto.

Andrea-Kaye Datu

Andrea-Kaye Datu, research technician

Andrea-Kaye Datu completed her undergraduate honours degree in molecular biology and genetics at the University of Guelph. She also completed her M.Sc. and thesis titled, “Regulation of poly (A)-binding protein expression in response to heat shock and recovery in the same department.” Andrea studied the mechanisms of proteins involved in messanger RNA translational machinery in response to heat stress. In 2013 she published an article in PLoS One.

Andrea’s role in the lab includes assisting the stem cell group with their studies, overseeing animal maintenance and general lab coordination.

Alexa Parousis

Alexa Parousis, research technician

Alexa Parousis completed her M.Sc. in health sciences at York University. Her previous research foci have included stem cell and muscle biology, autophagy and mitochondrial bioenergetics. She is assisting the immunometabolism group in dissecting the mechanisms of metabolic alterations in post-burn patients. In the future, she plans to pursue an active health care role.

Nan Cheng

Nan Cheng, postdoctoral fellow

Nan Cheng received her PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Ottawa. Her research focused on investigating the control of surface chemistry using photosensitive molecules in order to regulate cell adhesion. She also completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences and conducted research on polymeric hollow spheres for drug delivery. Nan joined the Jeschke lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2016. She is co-supervised by Dr. Saeid Amini-Nik. As a member of the stem cell group, her research interest is on skin regeneration, specifically the development of novel skin substitutes for wound healing.

Christopher Auger

Dr. Christopher Auger, postdoctoral fellow

Dr. Christopher Auger is a PhD graduate from Laurentian University in Sudbury, ON. He has several years of experience studying cellular bioenergetics in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic models. Utilizing a functional proteomic approach, he has helped uncover novel roles for enzymes and elucidate metabolic networks employed by biological systems to adapt to external stressors and environmental changes. Christopher is particularly interested in changes to mitochondrial form and function, and its association with chronic disease or injury.

Ali Sheikholesam

Dr. Ali Sheikholesam, postdoctoral fellow

Dr. Ali Sheikholesam received his PhD in chemical engineering (nanotechnology) from the University of Waterloo in 2015. During his research he worked on self-assembling peptides and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and employed them to fabricate a mediatorless electrochemical biosensor. He also made hybrid hydrogels using peptides and CNTs, and used them for tissue engineering and 3-D cancer tumour modelling. He joined Sunnybrook Research Institute in fall 2015. He is interested in skin tissue engineering and will benefit from the group’s focus on novel biomaterials and techniques, as well as unique stem cells characterized in Dr. Jeschke’s lab. Ali is a member of the stem cell group, co-supervised by Dr. Jeschke and Dr. Amini Nik.

Abdikarim Abdullahi

Abdikarim Abdullahi, PhD student

Abdikarim Abdullahi is a recipient of a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He completed his masters of science degree at York University in the Muscle Health Research Centre. He studied the mechanisms that regulate the proliferation and differentiation of myoblasts (muscle cells). His motivation as a researcher has always been the clinical application of his work and as such, he moved into the world of translational research at Sunnybrook Research Institute.

He is a PhD student in the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. In the Jeschke lab, he studies the adverse metabolic alterations that occur in the liver and adipose (fat) tissue after a burn injury. His studies in the liver focus on how the endoplasmic reticulum stress and unfolded protein response mediates liver dysfunction following a burn injury. In the adipose tissue, his focus is on the browning of white adipose tissue. He is investigating what regulates this phenomenon and how it exacerbates the hypermetabolic response to burn injury. These studies have broad implications not only for the field of burn research, but also for the fields of immunology, cancer, obesity and other metabolism-related diseases.

Michael Diao

Michael Li Diao, PhD student

Michael Li Diao is a PhD student in the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. Before coming to Canada he was a burn surgeon and, for a period, worked as a doctor in an international medical assistance company. His research is focused on post-burn stress response and metabolism.

Mile Stanojcic, PhD student

Mile Stanojcic is a third-year PhD student in the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. He did his undergraduate degree at York University in health sciences, and master’s degree in neuroscience at McMaster University, where his research focus was investigating the proliferative capacity of the brain using a rodent model of central nervous system lupus.

He is part of the immune-metabolism group in the Jeschke lab and is investigating the role of the NLRP3 inflammasome following a burn injury using a two-hit model of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.

Amin Noorbakhsh

Amin Noorbakhsh, MD, M.Sc. candidate

Amin Noorbakhsh is a M.Sc. candidate in the Institute of Medical Science at the, University of Toronto. He moved to Canada after graduating with an MD from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran.

He studies various signalling pathways involved in skin wound healing and scar formation including Serotonin (5HT) signalling through its multiple receptors. The goal is to find an effective remedy for hypertrophic scarring after burn, which is a common complication.

In addition, he is studying how adult stem cells can be utilized to promote skin healing after burn injury and to generate keratinocytes for use in an engineered skin substitute. He is interested in discovering novel strategies to improve the integration of this cellularized skin substitute in wound healing.

Ali Sadri

Ali Sadri, M.Sc. student

Macrophages are part of the myeloid lineage and exist in a spectrum of states that depend on their environment. They are abundant during all stages of tissue repair and have an important influence on the progress and resolution of tissue damage. Ali’s work focuses on the role of myeloid lineage cells and Wnt/B-catenin signalling on liver injury and repair after a severe burn. He is also working to elucidate the underlying mechanisms involved in liver regeneration after a 70% partial hepatectomy, a surgical resection of the liver. Outside of the lab, he is a big fight fan and enjoys watching and participating in boxing matches, going for runs and rooting for the Raptors.

Reinhard Dolp

Reinhard Dolp, graduate student

Reinhard Dolp received his medical degree from Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany in 2012. He completed two post-graduate years in general surgery at Ulm University in Germany before taking a research sabbatical to attend the University of Toronto.

In While studying in Germany, he conducted neurological and neurosurgical research at the Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research. He investigated pathomechanisms of secondary brain damage after traumatic brain injury.

Concurrently, Reinhard has joined the Institute of Medical Sciences as a master’s student where he conducts stem cell and clinical research under the supervision of Dr. Marc Jeschke at Sunnybrook Research Institute. His interest is in helping severely burned patients by developing novel stem cell-based therapies as well as by investigating clinical outcome predictors.

Massive skin loss in burns leaves the patient exposed to lethal infections and dehydration. To date, there is no ideal skin substitute for burned skin. Reinhard´s project addresses this problem by optimizing artificial skin substitutes via incorporation of stem cells from different sources to create an artificial graft that contains the components of human skin.

Reinhard Dolp

Osai Samadi, graduate student

Osai Samadi is a master’s student in the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto. She completed a specialist in the neuroscience co-operative program with a double minor in biology and psychology at the University of Toronto. During her undergraduate program, she worked at the Princess Margaret and Toronto General Hospitals as a research assistant examining the quality of life changes in patients with cancer. In her last year, she completed a thesis examining neuroanatomical correlates of behaviour. She has joined the Jeschke lab to learn more about the metabolic changes that affect patients after severe burn injury.

Yosef Yousuf

Yusef Yousuf, graduate student

Yusef Yousuf graduated from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) with a double major in biology and psychology. At UTM, he had the opportunity to work in the social neuroscience laboratory under Dr. Melissa Holmes. He completed his thesis project studying neurogenesis in the naked mole-rat, a rodent that can live up to 28 years and is resistant to cancer. His master’s thesis will focus on stem cell and skin regeneration. Outside of the lab, he is interested in computer hardware, video games and watching NBA basketball. Yusef is also a member of the stem cell group, co-supervised by Dr. Jeschke and Dr. Amini Nik.

Thibacg Sivayoganath

Thibacg Sivayoganathan, graduate student

Thibacg Sivayoganathan is a first-year master's student in the Institute of Medical Sciences graduate program at U of T and is part of the immunometabolism group within the Jeschke lab. He completed his B.Sc. degree at U of T in life sciences. During the summer of his third year of undergraduate studies he undertook a project that involved identifying antigens capable of activating a specific population of cells found in the immune system. As a master’s student he is investigating the alterations to lipid metabolism that occur during the hypermetabolic response that occurs in post-burn patients and animals. His goal is to establish a career in health care. He is interested in the possible clinical applications of research.