Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha will receive a 2017 CAN Young Investigator Award

Mike Sapieha
Mike Sapieha

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) is proud to announce that Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, from Université de Montréal, will be 2017 CAN Young Investigator Award at the upcoming 11th Annual Canadian Neuroscience Meeting in Montréal, on May 30th 2017.

Mike Sapieha: A leader in the fight against blindness.

“Mike Sapieha has contributed significantly to the field of retinal cell biology by publishing a series of high impact studies, licensing out proprietary inhibitors of retinal vascular permeability to industry and founding a company to facilitate translating his basic retinal research to the clinics.”
Martin Friedlander, MD, PhD, Professor at the Scripps Research Institute and Chief of retina services at the Scripps Clinic.

In his young career, Mike Sapieha has already made impactful discoveries about the mechanisms underlying age and diabetes related loss of vision. His studies have shed light on the working of the eye, and specifically how age and conditions like diabetes affect blood vessels in the retina, which is the membrane in the eye which detects light signals and transforms them into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain. Vascular defects in the retina, both age and diabetes related, are the leading cause of vision loss in developed countries. Dr Sapieha’s research is especially timely in Canada as loss of vision is increasing exponentially with the rapidly aging population, and the increased prevalence of diabetes.

Both age-related cell deterioration (senescence) and high glucose levels in the blood (as seen in uncontrolled diabetes) can lead to degeneration of the small blood vessels of the retina leading to ischemic injury, in which part of the retina suffers from a lack of nutrients and oxygen. In an elegant series of studies, Dr. Sapieha has deciphered many of the factors leading from this injury to loss of vision. His work has shown that stressed neurons can influence immune response in the retina by generating a series of classical neuron guidance cues, and lead to a deleterious inflammatory response.

The identification of the different molecular players, and of the sequence of events leading to vision loss, has allowed Dr. Sapieha to identify intervention strategies to prevent, or at least slow down the progression of diabetic retinopathy. The demonstration by Sapieha’s team that a specific neuronal guidance protein called semaphoring 3A can increase the permeability of blood vessel thereby contributing to diabetic macular edema have led to the filing of five patents and the launch of a biotech company named SemaThera, of which Sapieha is Chief Scientific Officer.

More recently, Dr. Sapieha has published a study that has gathered much public interest showing that microbes of the gut (the microbiota) influences pathological blood vessel formation in obesity driven retinal degeneration. As epidemiological studies show that abdominal obesity is the second most important risk factor for the progression of late age-related macular degeneration for men, this finding suggests that modifying the microbiota could provide a minimally intrusive and cost-effective way to prevent or delay age related macular degeneration.

Dr. Sapieha has distinguished himself by his scientific productivity, with over 70 peer-reviewed publications in very prestigious journals such as Cell metabolism, Nature Medicine, Science Translational Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation. His important contributions are recognized by his colleagues internationally:

Dr. Sapieha holds the Wolfe Professorship in translational research and a Canada Research Chair in retinal cell biology. He is one of the few young investigators to have received one of the prestigious CIHR foundation grants in the first rounds of competition, in addition to funding from the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Foundation to Fight Blindness, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada. The awards and distinctions he has received include the Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator Award (an international prize in ophthalmology), the André Dupont Award (Top achievement for an investigator in Quebec, within 10 years of appointment) and the Young Investigator Award from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Dr. Sapieha’s very important contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying retinal disease, that have led to new avenue of treatment to prevent blindness, have made him a leader in his field, and an exceptional young neuroscientist. The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is proud to present Przemyslaw Sapieha with a 2017 Young Investigator Award.

Top 5 scientific publications:

Oubaha M, Miloudi K, Dejda A, Guber V, Mawambo G, Germain MA, Bourdel G, Popovic N, Rezende FA, Kaufman RJ, Mallette FA, Sapieha P. Senescence-associated secretory phenotype contributes to pathological angiogenesis in retinopathy. Sci Transl Med. 2016 Oct 26;8(362):362ra144.

Miloudi K, Binet F, Wilson A, Cerani A, Oubaha M, Menard C, Henriques S, Mawambo G, Dejda A, Nguyen PT, Rezende FA, Bourgault S, Kennedy TE, Sapieha P. Truncated netrin-1 contributes to pathological vascular permeability in diabetic retinopathy. J Clin Invest. 2016 Aug 1;126(8):3006-22. doi: 10.1172/JCI84767. Epub 2016 Jul 11.

Dejda A, Mawambo G, Cerani A, Miloudi K, Shao Z, Daudelin JF, Boulet S, Oubaha M, Beaudoin F, Akla N, Henriques S, Menard C, Stahl A, Delisle JS, Rezende FA, Labrecque N, Sapieha P. Neuropilin-1 mediates myeloid cell chemoattraction and influences retinal neuroimmune crosstalk. J Clin Invest. 2014 Nov;124(11):4807-22. doi: 10.1172/JCI76492. Epub 2014 Oct 1.

Cerani A, Tetreault N, Menard C, Lapalme E, Patel C, Sitaras N, Beaudoin F, Leboeuf D, De Guire V, Binet F, Dejda A, Rezende FA, Miloudi K, Sapieha P. Neuron-derived semaphorin 3A is an early inducer of vascular permeability in diabetic retinopathy via neuropilin-1. Cell Metab. 2013 Oct 1;18(4):505-18. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.09.003.

Binet F, Mawambo G, Sitaras N, Tetreault N, Lapalme E, Favret S, Cerani A, Leboeuf D, Tremblay S, Rezende F, Juan AM, Stahl A, Joyal JS, Milot E, Kaufman RJ, Guimond M, Kennedy TE, Sapieha P. Neuronal ER stress impedes myeloid-cell-induced vascular regeneration through IRE1α degradation of netrin-1. Cell Metab. 2013 Mar 5;17(3):353-71. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.02.003.

Learn more about Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha

Profile at the Centre de Recherche – Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont: