I was very fortunate to receive PSI grants as a resident working in the laboratory of Subodh Verma at St. Michael’s Hospital. At the time, we proposed to look at the role of a novel tumor suppressor gene in cardiac remodeling. It was an ambitious project that unfortunately turned into a dead end. This is the unavoidable reality of life science research and one must remain ready to fail and pick oneself up again, ready for the next challenge. A quick change of direction was needed so we switched gears and turned our attention to study the role of a key microRNA as an important upstream regulator of bone morphogenetic protein-2, a central biological checkpoint in aortic stenosis (Yanagawa B et al. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2012;144:256-62). We also described the human fingerprint of autophagy activation pathways in ischemia and reperfusion injury in human heart samples (Krishna KK, Yanagawa B, et al, J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2014;147:1065).
I am currently completing a surgical fellowship at the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York and will re-join the Division of Cardiac Surgery this year as a Surgeon-Scientist and Assistant Professor. We will pick up where we left off to interrogate human tissues to shed much needed light on the pathogenesis of common human valvular heart diseases. We are focusing on congenital bicuspid and calcific aortic stenosis as well as degenerative and rheumatic mitral valvulopathy, diseases for which the only definitive treatment is surgical.
The Canadian cardiovascular community is very fortunate to have strong national funding agencies such as Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. However, there is a gap in funding for smaller initiatives and innovative projects spearheaded by medical residents and young investigators that don’t quite encompass the depth and breadth of a full grant. I believe that PSI facilitates the coming together of such innovative research teams to perform outside-the-box research and to generate enough data to then move on to full grant funding. For our team and indeed for my career, PSI has provided much needed support that we used as a catapult to move into exciting new directions. It is a jewel for young investigators in Ontario and I hope that they continue to embrace and support young scientists.
Bobby Yanagawa completed a PhD at the University of British Columbia, MD at the University of Toronto as well as Post-Doctoral Fellowships at the University of Wales College of Medicine (Cardiff, UK), National Cardiovascular Center (Osaka, Japan) and St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto, Canada). He is currently a Clinical Instructor at Mt Sinai Hospital (NYC, New York) and will be joining the staff at St. Michael’s Hospital in July 2015. His clinical focus is minimally-invasive valve surgery and off-pump surgical revascularization. His research interests are the pathogenesis of valvulopathy and arrhythmias. He has contributed to the publication of over 40 original research articles, 13 reviews and 9 book chapters in such journals as Nature Medicine, Nature Communications, Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Circulation Research and Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.