BSc (Molecular Genetics), University of Alberta, 2007
MSc (Molecular Biology), University of Alberta, 2010
PhD (Medical Genetics), University of British Columbia, 2016
Postdoctoral Fellowship (Beta cell biology, Diabetes), University of California San Francisco, 2020
Assistant Professor (Physiology & Pathophysiology), University of Manitoba, 2020-present
Research Program: Pancreatic Beta cells, extracellular vesicles and the pathogenesis of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a chronic metabolic disease that results when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing Beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is an essential hormone for metabolism. People with T1D are insulin deficient and therefore must take insulin by injection or pump in order to survive. Unfortunately, while Insulin administration can manage T1D, it does not cure the disease and people with T1D are still at high risk for many other health complications. T1D is most common in children and adolescents but also occurs in young adults, affecting millions of people worldwide. The incidence of T1D in children and young people is increasing globally from year to year and we still don’t understand the fundamental mechanisms that cause this disease, nor do we have a way to prevent or cure it.
Research Focus #1: Role of Beta cell stress responses in T1D
T1D is generally viewed as a disease of the immune system, where Beta cells are simply ‘sitting ducks’ that are destroyed due to the phenomenon of autoimmunity (self-targeted immunity). Under this paradigm, the vast majority of clinical trials have focused on ways to prevent or cure T1D by re-establishing a functional immune system or blunting the autoimmune response. But what about the Beta cells? Are they merely passive victims? Our work investigates how stress responses in Beta cells and their interactions with the immune system contribute to the T1D onset and progression.
Research Focus #2: Secreted extracellular vesicles in T1D
Virtually all kinds of cells can package and export a subset of their DNA, RNA and/or proteins into small nanoscale ‘life-rafts’ collectively termed secreted extracellular vesicles (or EVs for short). EVs can be isolated from culture supernatants, blood or other bodily fluids and are emerging as a particularly attractive target for developing new disease biomarkers as well as engineering a means to specifically target the delivery of therapeutics to cells of interest in the body. Our work investigates EV cargo to understand how EVs communicate signals between beta cells and immune cells during T1D. We also aim to identify EV-based biomarkers.
Experimental Approaches and Goals:
In my lab we utilize a variety of traditional and innovative cutting-edge molecular and cellular techniques and physiological studies in cell culture, animal models and human donor specimens. These models and tools equip us to address fundamental biological questions and discover mechanisms contributing to T1D pathogenesis. Our long-term goal is to ultimately translate these findings into therapeutic approaches to prevent and treat T1D.
Dr. Thompson is always interested to hear from curious and talented prospective undergrad summer students, postdocs, grad students and research assistants or technicians.
The following positions are currently open for 2020:
Lab Technician: Dr. Thompson is currently seeking to recruit a Lab Technician to start Spring 2020
Graduate Students: Dr. Thompson is currently seeking to recruit graduate students for Fall/Winter 2020.
For more information about these positions and joining the lab, please visit the lab website here.
Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology
655A John Buhler Research Centre
Children's Hospital Research Institute Manitoba
715 McDermot Avenue
Winnipeg MB R3E 3P4