Human Islet Research Network

Investigator Profile: Patrick MacDonald

University of Alberta
Consortium: HPAC

Project: Linking Islet Cell Function and Identity from in vitro to in situ









Where are you from originally, and where did you go to school?

Originally from London, Canada. Attended the University of Western Ontario and then did my PhD at the University of
Toronto before pursuing postdoctoral studies in Lund, Sweden and then Oxford, UK.

►What is your current position?

I am currently Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

►Why did you decide to become a researcher?

I’ve always enjoyed problem solving and had a general interest in the natural world and human physiology. An
undergraduate experience in endocrinology research was critical in my decision to pursue work in the area of

►What is the “Big Picture” of what you study?

Our lab studies how hormone-secreting cells work. In particular we are interested to learn how the machinery within pancreatic islet cells controls insulin and glucagon release into the blood, and how these processes can become disturbed in diabetes. To do this, we often measure the electrical properties of these cells which, like muscle cells and nerves, are electrically excitable. 

Since we are interested to study islet cells in human health and diabetes, we also run a human tissue biobank that supports many other research groups across the world. We collect pancreas from organ donors across Canada and isolate the islet cells for study. In this respect, we are very interested in research on human tissue processing and storage so that we might improve our own islet biology research and contribute to better quality and reproducibility in the field in general.

► What groups are you involved with?

Professionally, I’m involved on many journal editorial boards and committees. I’m an Associate Editor at the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. I belong to the Royal Society of Canada and other professional groups (APS, Diabetes Canada, ADA). Through our work on human islet isolation I’m fortunate to interact with ~90 labs as part of our islet recipient network.

►When not in the lab what are your favorite hobbies/activities?

Hobbies outside the lab include ice hockey, running, and walking the dog. I also coach kid’s ice hockey.