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Mick Bhatia

Mick Bhatia

Director and Senior Scientist

Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Human Stem Cell Biology

Michael G. DeGroote Chair in Stem Cell and Cancer Biology

Contact Information

Location: MDCL 5020


“I’m moved by the notion that in cancer, your own cells are turning on you. I want to understand how that starts and how we can stop it.”

At the core of Dr. Bhatia’s research program is understanding how human cells identify changes. In studying both normal and cancerous [Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)] development in the human blood system, the Bhatia lab seeks to understand why this disease occurs and how to stop it. The program is focused on understanding the molecular processes (signalling, epigenetics and transcriptional changes) that govern somatic and pluripotent human stem cell development.

Throughout his research career, Dr. Bhatia has been pursuing this question from numerous angles and using a variety of model systems. These include the use of embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and most recently through the SCC-RI drug discovery screening platform, reprogramming.

An important component of the program involves drug screening that takes place in our David Braley Human Stem Cell Screening Facility. The drug discovery screening activity is focused on identifying anti-cancer hits for cancers using AML as a gateway disease for breast, colon and brain tumours.

Recently, Dr. Bhatia’s research program has shifted to a greater emphasis on translational, clinical studies. The goal of this translational work is to positively affect human health, and test new ideas and therapeutics for patients whose options are currently limited by standard care. To this end, there are numerous ongoing pre-clinical and clinical activities including initiation of Phase I clinical trials and collaborations with the private sector to support parallel communications that ultimately supports clinical testing.


To develop cell-based tools for use in drug screening of patient-specific stem cells.

To identify novel therapeutics that can target the bone marrow environment to destroy and prevent leukemia. By better understanding the optimal bone marrow conditions needed to support healthy blood stem cells, this study also has the potential to improve stem cell transplantation therapies.

The combination of standard of care chemotherapy, coupled with novel drugs discovered by our group, is hoped to prevent cancer relapse.

The potential to introduce a new therapeutic for AML, a disease which has not seen therapeutic progress in decades.

View All Projects

Lab Team

Picture Name Designation Focus Email More Info
Mohammed Almakadi Mohammed Almakadi Graduate Student
Lili Aslostovar Lili Aslostovar Post-Doctoral Fellow
Allison Boyd Allison Boyd Post-Doctoral Fellow
Kapil Dev Chauhan Kapil Dev Chauhan Technical Staff
Juan Luis Garcia-Rodriguez Juan Luis Garcia-Rodriguez Post-Doctoral Fellow
Diana Golubeva Diana Golubeva Graduate Student
Yeonjoon Kim Yeonjoon Kim Graduate Student
Gena Markous Gena Markous Graduate Student
Mio Nakanishi Mio Nakanishi Post-Doctoral Fellow
Luca Orlando Luca Orlando Post-Doctoral Fellow
Deanna Porras Deanna Porras Graduate Student
Jennifer Reid Jennifer Reid Graduate Student
Jennifer Russell Jennifer Russell Technical Staff
Borko Tanasijevic Borko Tanasijevic Post-Doctoral Fellow
Kinga Vojnits Kinga Vojnits Post-Doctoral Fellow
Dimetri Xenocostas Dimetri Xenocostas Graduate Student
Xueli Zhao Xueli Zhao Graduate Student

Selected Publications

Identification of chemotherapy-induced Leukemic Regenerating Cells reveals a transient vulnerability of human AML recurrence

Allison Boyd*, Lili Aslostovar*, Jennifer Reid, Wendy Ye, Borko Tanasijevic, Deanna Porras, Zoya Shapovalova, Mohammed Almakadi, Ronan Foley, Brian Leber, Anargyros Xenocostas, Mickie Bhatia *indicates co-lead authors

Cancer Cell 2018 Sep 10; 34(3):483-498

This research "takes us to another level of being able to understand leukemia". . . and "opens up the door for us to consider new therapies." - Dr. Ronan Foley

Acute myeloid leukemia disrupts endogenous myelo-erythropoiesis by compromising the adipocyte bone marrow niche

Boyd AL, Reid JC, Salci KR, Aslostovar L, Benoit YD, Shapovalova Z, Nakanishi M, Porras DP, Almakadi M, Campbell CJV, Jackson MF, Ross CA, Foley R, Leber B, Allan DS, Sabloff M, Xenocostas A, Collins TJ, & Bhatia M

Nature Cell Biology. 2017 Nov; 19(11):1336-1347.

Single transcription factor conversion of human blood fate to NPCs with CNS and PNS developmental capacity.

Lee JH, Mitchell RR, McNicol JD, Shapovalova Z, Laronde S, Tanasijevic B, Milsom C, Casado F, Fiebig-Comyn A, Collins TJ, Singh KK, and Bhatia M.

Cell Reports. 2015 Jun 9; 11(9): 1367-76.

“These results enable an understanding of the response of cells to different drugs and different stimulation responses, and allow us to provide individualized or personalized medical therapy for patients suffering with neuropathic pain.” - Dr. Akbar Panju.

Regional localization within the bone marrow influences the functional capacity of human HSCs.

Guezguez B, Campbell CJ, Boyd AL, Karanu F, Casado FL, Di Cresce C, Collins TJ, Shapovalova Z, Xenocostas A, Bhatia M.

Cell Stem Cell. 2013 Aug 1; 13(2):175-89.

"Scientists at Hamilton’s McMaster University have discovered that stem cells located in bone marrow at the ends of bones are superior at regenerating blood cells, including immune system cells, than those found in the shafts of bones." - The Canadian Press

Identification of drugs including a dopamine receptor antagonist that selectively target cancer stem cells.

Sachlos E, Risueño R, Laronde S, Shapovalova Z, Lee JH, Russell J, Malig M, McNicol JD, Fiebig-Comyn A, Graham M, Levadoux-Martin M, Lee JB, Giacomelli AO, Hassell JA, Fischer- Russell D, Trus MR, Foley R, Leber B, Xenocostas A, Browne ED, Collins T, Bhatia M.

Cell. 2012 June 8; 149(6):1284-97.

"Dr Mick Bhatia, an international leader in cancer stem cell research, discovered that the drug thioridazine, currently used as an antipsychotic, successfully kills the cancer stem cells responsible for initiating leukemias without harming normal stem cells." – Canadian Cancer Society

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