Dr. John MacDonald

Scientific Director of Robarts Research Institute at The University of Western Ontario
Researcher of the month: 
Dec 2008

The Legacy Lives On. John MacDonald represents the next phase of Robarts’ focus on cerebrovascular disease

Robarts Research Institute at The University of Western Ontario recently welcomed Dr. John MacDonald – one of Canada’s preeminent stroke researchers – as its new Scientific Director.

Dr. MacDonald, who was Chair of the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto prior to his appointment at Robarts, runs a research lab that investigates the cellular basis of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and stroke.

It was at the urging of Toronto Western neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Tymianski that he first entered into basic investigations of stroke. Together, the pair discovered when brain cells are injured and starved of oxygen and vital nutrients, they flick a cellular switch that unleashes an outpouring of toxic chemicals that kill the surrounding cells in the following minutes and hours. According to Dr. MacDonald, it is this built-in cellular mechanism that causes more damage to the brain than the initial stroke or trauma.

Dr. MacDonald and Dr. Tymianski pinpointed a compound that jams this cellular switch and prevents the outpouring of toxins, thereby enabling brain cells to survive more than three hours after their supply of oxygen and food is cut off.

Dr. MacDonald’s current research could lead to the development of medications that, if injected into patients shortly after a stroke, could prevent the death of brain cells.

With his expertise in stroke research, Dr. MacDonald compliments an already robust stroke research program at Robarts and continues the legacy of the Institute’s Founding Scientific Director Dr. Henry Barnett, who is a celebrated stroke researcher in his own right.

Dr. MacDonald holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia and has trained at the University of St. Andrews, McGill University, and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He is also an active member of the Canadian Stroke Network, as well as a founding member of NoNO Inc., a biotechnology company that develops stroke and pain therapies.

As new Scientific Director at Robarts, Dr. MacDonald is keen to build on the existing strengths of the Institute’s scientists to develop promising new therapies for some today’s most debilitating diseases.

For further information, please contact Dr. John MacDonald using the Email contact form or by phone at 519-663-3850