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About Zia Khan

Dr. Zia Khan is a cell biologist researching how vascular stem cells differentiate and create blood vessels (angiogenesis) in normal and abnormal situations, as in people with diabetes or hemangiomas, to develop better treatment options for people with chronic diseases.



Research in our laboratory focuses on understanding how blood vessels form and how this process is disrupted in diseases.  The goal of our research is to apply the knowledge gained in the laboratory and help patients with diseases that are dependent on blood vessels, such as diabetes and cancer.  In these serious diseases, the body loses control over blood vessels that grow either excessively or insufficiently.  Our research teams’ vision is to use the ability of the patients’ own cells to manipulate blood vessels as an effective treatment option.

1. Role of Vascular Stem Cells in Diabetic Complications
Long standing diabetes leads to structural and functional alterations in both micro- and macro-vasculature.  Endothelial cells represent the primary target of hyperglycemia-induced adverse effects.  A major focus of our lab is to understand the cellular dysfunction and inadequate vascular repair mechanisms in diabetes.  

Our working hypothesis is that diabetes leads to cytotoxic changes and reduced number of vascular regenerative stem cells and the complications of diabetes represent an impaired repair mechanism.
 
Projects:
  1. Understand the alteration of vascular regenerative stem cells in diabetes.
  2. Investigate the vasculogenic potential of stem cells isolated from diabetic patients.

2. Pathogenesis of Infantile Hemangioma
Infantile hemangioma (IH) is the most common tumour of infancy and arises in 1 out of 100 newborns. These tumours grow rapidly during the first year of postnatal life and then spontaneously regress.  We are investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that lead to hemangioma formation, unregulated growth, and spontaneous regression.  More specifically, we are studying the mechanisms which lead to aberrant expansion of stem cells, and differentiation of these stem cells into an atypical endothelial cells during the proliferative phase and adipocytes during the later involutive phase.

Projects:
  1. Understanding the cellular origin of IH.
  2. Studying the mechanism of hemangioma endothelial differentiation.
  3. Elucidating the mechanisms of IH regression.

3. Other Research Interests
Research activities in our laboratory also include fundamental cellular biology. understanding cancer pathogenesis
 
Projects:
  1. Understand ovarian cancer development and response to chemotherapy.
  2. Identify the cellular and molecular basis of oral lesions.
  3. Identify therapeutic targets for metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.


Keywords: vascular stem cells, vasculogenesis, angiogenesis, endothelial cells, perivascular cells, diabetes, cancer, extracellular matrix

Description of Research Activities
Our research focuses on the mechanisms of vascular stem cell (VSC) differentiation and postnatal blood vessel formation in physiological and pathological conditions. We are studying chronic diabetes and infantile hemangioma as model systems to understand the mechanisms of VSC differentiation, proliferation, and regression. These model systems represent extremes in a continuum of VSC activity ranging from impaired (chronic diabetes) to unregulated (hemangioma) vasculogenesis. Elucidating the signals that regulate the VSC number, the differentiation of these stem cells into functionally-mature vascular cells, and the regression will allow us to develop better treatment options for pro- and anti-angiogenic therapies.


Research Interest Area: Cardiovascular and vascular health
Research Overview: Vascular stem cells; Diabetes; Tumour angiogenesis; Endothelial cells; Blood vessels; Matrix biology; Vascular disorders


Our research focuses on the mechanisms of vascular stem cell differentiation and postnatal blood vessel formation in physiological and pathological conditions.  We are studying chronic diabetes and infantile hemangioma as model systems to understand the mechanisms of adult vascular stem cell differentiation.  These model systems represent extremes in a continuum of vascular stem cell activity ranging from impaired (chronic diabetes) to unregulated (hemangioma) vasculogenesis.  Uncovering the signals that regulate vascular stem cell number and differentiation will allow us to develop better treatment options for pro- and anti-angiogenic therapies. Our specific projects include:
  1. Understanding the origin of endothelial and mesenchymal cells.
  2. Delineating the mechanisms that regulate hemangioma stem cell differentiation into functional vascular endothelial cells.
  3. Understanding the mechanisms of infantile hemangioma regression.
  4. Understanding the alteration of vascular stem cells in chronic diabetes.
  5. Investigating the vasculogenic potential of stem cells isolated from diabetic patients.

Positions

Present Associate Professor, Western University Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
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Present Associate Scientist, Lawson Health Research Institute ‐ Children's Health Research Institute (CHRI)
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Disciplines



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