Minna Woo

Picture of Dr. Minna Woo


University of Toronto

MaRS Centre, TMDT
101 College St, 10th floor, room 10-363
Toronto, ON, Canada M5G 1L7

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Administrative Assistant:
Jonelle Martineau
Email Jonelle Martineau
Phone: (416) 634-8732

At A Glance:

  • In vivo and in vitro studies using genetic approaches in genetically engineered mice to assess metabolism and related disease including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers
  • Physiologic and pathogenic roles of tumour suppressors and oncogenes in metabolic tissues
  • Molecular mechanisms of autophagy in pancreatic islet homeostasis and diabetogenesis
  • Caspase biology and its novel roles in necroptosis and inflammation in metabolic tissues
  • Metabolic role of JAK/STAT pathway in diabetes, atherogenesis and some cancers


Short Bio:

Dr. Woo is currently Professor of Medicine and Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, and Canada Research Chair in Diabetes Pathogenesis. She is a clinician scientist and Head of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at University Health Network and Health Sinai Systems.

Dr. Woo received her MD at University of Toronto followed by training in Internal Medicine and subspecialty in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Toronto. She then pursued a molecular research and completed a PhD in the Department of Immunology at University of Toronto.

Dr. Woo leads a vibrant research group of talented trainees at all levels in both MD and PhD streams and is an active member nationally in the CIHR and Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) as well as locally as executive in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Her research is recognized in the Department as an Eaton Scholar, nationally with 2011 CDA and CSEM Young Scientist Awards, and internationally a member elect of the American Society of Clinical Investigation.


Major Contributions:

The major research focus in the Woo laboratory is to elucidate molecular mechanisms that determine the pathogenesis of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We focus on major signal transduction pathways including PI3K and JAK-STAT in metabolic tissues that contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes using tissue specific genetic engineering techniques in mice. We investigate many of the fundamental genes that are involved in cell survival and apoptosis, as well as tumour suppressors and oncogenes, including caspases, PTEN, DJ-1 and JAK/STAT. We examine the fundamental physiological roles of these genes and pathways in metabolic tissues including the liver, muscle, adipose tissue, and the pancreatic islets to uncover the highly context dependent and tissue-specific functions. Whole body metabolism as well as biological and molecular approaches are used in primary tissues and cell lines to define mechanistic physiological and pathogenic roles. We also study the role of metabolism in cancer and cardiovascular disease. We collaborate widely both locally and internationally.


List of Key Publications:

Link to Pubmed Publications

  • SY Shi*, SY Lu, T Sivasubramaniyam*, XS Revelo, EP Cai*, CT Luk*, SA Schroer, P Patel, RH Kim, E Bombardier, J Quadrilatero, AR Tupling, TW Mak, DA Winer, M Woo. DJ-1 links muscle ROS production with metabolic reprogramming and systemic energy homeostasis in mice. Nature Communications. 2015 Jun; 16(6): 7415

  • H Luck, S Tsai, J Chung, X Clemente-Casares, M Ghazarian, X Revelo, H Lei, CT Luk*, SY Shi*, A Surendra, JK Copeland, J Ahn, D Prescott, BA Rasmussen, MH Chng, EG Engleman, SE Girardin, TK Lam, K Croitoru, S Dunn, DJ Philpott, D Guttman, M Woo, S Winer, DA Winer. (2015). Regulation of obesity-related insulin resistance with gut anti-inflammatory agents. Cell Metabolism 2015 Apr; 21(4): 527-42.

  • L Wang*, CT Luk*, E Cai*, SA Schroer, E Allister, M Wheeler, H Gaisano, M Woo. PTEN Deletion in Pancreatic α Cells Protects Against High Fat Diet-induced Hyperglucagonemia and Insulin Resistance. Diabetes. 2015 Jan; 64(1): 147-57

  • L Wang*, D Opland, S Tsai, MB Allison, A Elia, S Schroer, C Furlonger, C Luk*, A Suzuki, C Paige, TW Mak, D Winer, MG Myers Jr, M Woo. Pten deletion in RIP-Cre neurons protects against type 2 diabetes by activating the anti-inflammatory reflex. Nature Medicine. 2014 May; 20(5): 484-92

  • Cai EP*, Wu X*, Schroer SA*, Elia AJ, Nostro MC, Zacksenhaus E, Woo M. Retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein in pancreatic progenitors controls α- and β-cell fate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2013 Sep; 110(36): 14723-8

  • Zhu D, Zhang Y, Lam PP, Dolai S, Liu Y, Cai EP*, Choi D*, Schroer SA, Kang Y, Allister EM, Qin T, Wheeler MB, Wang CC, Hong WJ, Woo M, Gaisano HY. Dual role of VAMP8 in regulating insulin exocytosis and islet β cell growth. Cell Metab. 2012 Aug 8;16(2):238-49

  • Cai EP*, Casimir M, Schroer SA*, Luk CT*, Shi SY*, Choi D*, Dai XQ, Hajmrle C, Spigelman AF, Zhu D, Gaisano HY, Macdonald PE, Woo M. In Vivo Role of Focal Adhesion Kinase in Regulating Pancreatic β-Cell Mass and Function Through Insulin Signaling, Actin Dynamics, and Granule Trafficking. Diabetes. 2012 Jul; 61(7): 1708-18

  • Choi D*, Schroer SA*, Lu SY*, Wang L*, Wu X, Liu Y, Zhang Y, Gaisano HY, Wagner KU, Wu H, Retnakaran R, Woo M. Erythropoietin protects against diabetes through direct effects on pancreatic beta cells. The Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2010 Dec; 207(13): 2831-42

* Trainees from the Woo Lab