Mark D. Ungrin, PhD
Office: 320 Heritage Medical Research Bldg.
Mail: University of Calgary, Calgary AB T2N 1N4
Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Biology & Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary (Foothills campus).
Current Research Activities
The central theme of Dr. Ungrin’s research program is the assembly of cells into tissues and organs – how it occurs in nature, and how it may be induced for the purposes of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. For example, how do endodermal cells of the gut tube self-organize to form the pancreas and the endocrine cells within it, and to what extent does that self-organizational capacity reside in individual islet cells of the mature pancreas? His underlying philosophy is to identify areas where research is limited by available technology, develop the necessary tools and techniques, and then apply them to pursue important research questions that would not otherwise be accessible. Breaking new ground in this way enhances the interest and impact of the research, and leads to collaborations with high-profile international researchers.
As a McEwen Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Zandstra at the University of Toronto, working towards the production of pancreatic beta cells for the treatment of Type I diabetes, Dr. Ungrin developed new approaches to the production of definitive endoderm cells from human pluripotent stem cells (PSC) based on quantitative investigations of the underlying cellular mechanisms of differentiation. His investigations into controlled cellular aggregation generated a new model system for the investigation of tissue assembly in peri-implantation development, and resulted in a novel technology for the formation of cellular aggregates, now a successful commercial product under the “AggreWell” name, as well as numerous publications. Previous to this, he obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, and worked in the pharmaceutical industry at the Merck-Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research in Montreal, investigating telomere and prostanoid-receptor biology respectively.