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 Home / About Us > Dr. Dusica Maysinger > Personal account of my career
Personal account of my career

I grew up in a beautiful natural environment with my parents who taught me how to appreciate wildlife and art. Throughout my life I have lived in many linguistically diverse environments. By the time I graduated from Zagreb University in 1971, I was fluent in three languages, aside from Croatian, which facilitated my future research studies in Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria, France and Spain. My facility with languages, and winning the Rector's Prize at graduation, contributed to my obtaining a Fulbright Fellowship which supported my postgraduate studies at the University of Southern California (USC) from 1972 to 1977. USC had an excellent reputation in Radiochemistry and Medicinal Chemistry and Medicine, which were the fields of my PhD research. The excitement of these subjects still remains with me, and was the main determinant of my career ambition, to understand the abnormal chemical reactions that underlie disease, and thereby to help design chemical therapies to treat them.

In 1977, as a young Assistant Professor at Zagreb University I worked on structure-function relationships of drugs and drug delivery systems. I received a Fellowship from the Norwegian Academy of Science and from the Polish Academy of Science and visited universities in Oslo and Krakow. In 1981 I was awarded a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, which was later renewed in 1991 and 1994. This began my postdoctoral training, and future sabbatical research residencies, all of which directly or indirectly contributed to my present activities in the field of neuroscience and diabetes.

During 1981 and 1982, I studied opioid peptides dynorphin and alpha-neo endorphin in the nervous system (human brain) at the Max Planck Institute (Neurochemistry) in Munich, under the guidance of Professor Dr. Albert Herz and Dr. Bernd Seizinger. Supported in part by a Fellowship of the European Training Program, I worked on hormone release as part of a joint project between MPI and University of Amsterdam. This project was my first scientific collaborative experience and I greatly enjoyed being a team player. Ever since then I have greatly enjoyed collaborative projects and look forward to the collaborations made possible by the JDRF Beta Center.

In 1983 I joined Dr. Cuello at Oxford University as a Research Associate in the Department of Pharmacology, working on the central cholinergic system. I moved to my present University, McGill, beginning as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Pharmacology in 1985, continuing collaborative research with Dr. Cuello. I was subsequently appointed as an Assistant Professor in 1987 and then Associate Professor 1992.

During my years at McGill I have continued to strengthen my research approaches by visiting selected laboratories. These included the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm in 1992 where I learned the techniques of microdialysis from Dr. Urban Ungerstedt, which were applied to the study of the release of neurotransmitters in animals transplanted with genetically engineered cells. In 1994 I began to establish the approaches I needed for my developing interest in cell signaling and cell differentiation through research in the laboratory of Dr. Klaus Unsicker, at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Together we investigated the role of trophic factors (BDNF, NGF, IGFs) in the PNS and CNS functions. I extended my research in this field to the study of cell death mechanisms, in Dr. Mauro Piacentini's Laboratory of Cell Biology Cell at the University of Rome, Italy in 1995. Finally, in 1996, I made an important research contribution through collaboration with Dr Alan Saltiel in the Signal Transduction Laboratory of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Not only was I introduced to front-line problems of signaling in cell survival, and especially to the roles of MAP kinases, but by working at the center of an industrial hot-house environment, I began to learn how to handle the complex but important interactions between academic and industrial science.

My current research unites different but importantly related scientific fields. These are 1) mechanisms of cell survival; 2) drug delivery; 3) intracellular signaling pathways; and 4) the biochemical targets of the diabetic disease process, including those underlying diabetic neuropathy. For me, this latter field is the ultimate objective and is the area of convergence of the former two. My present activities focus on cell survival mechanisms in islets (in collaboration with Dr. Rosenberg and Dr. Prentki) and the peripheral nervous system. Important stimuli to these studies came from an opportunity to examine islet cell death, made possible by a Canadian MRC Visiting Scientist award (Canada-Italy academic exchange; cell biology). To prevent or reduce cell death, drugs need to be delivered at the appropriate rate and site. This is being explored by employing nano-delivery systems. The collaboration with Dr. Eisenberg from the Chemistry Department at McGill University allowed us to develop and test micelles and vesicles to be employed in diabetes. Aside from the synthesis of block-copolymers at McGill, my collaboration with Université de Montreal with Dr. JC Laroux and Dr. F. Winnik greatly expanded the repertoire of biocompatible polymers that can be employed in delivering therapeutics for diabetes.

 

 

Montreal Diabetes Research Center 2008
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