Jan 22, 2021

Humans of LMP: Clinton Robbins

COVID-19, Research: Cardiovascular, Research: Molecular & cell biology, Humans of LMP, Our people
Clinton Robbins

Each month we'll speak to a member of the Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology community and find out more about them.

This month it is Associate Professor Dr. Clinton Robbins. He is part of a group recently awarded $950,000 to help better characterize the inflammatory and cardiac effects of COVID-19.

If you would like to be featured, or know someone who should be, use the nomination form on our Humans of LMP page.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am currently Chair of the Peter Munk Centre of Excellence in Aortic Disease Research. In addition, I am an associate professor, cross-appointed with the Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and Immunology.

As a basic scientist, the goal of my research is to identify fundamental molecular and cellular biology of the normal arteries, and mechanisms that regulate inflammation in atherosclerosis and abdominal aortic aneurysm.

I hope to use this knowledge to identify novel therapeutic targets to treat these conditions.

How long have you been at LMP and what was your previous role?

I started at LMP in September of 2012. Prior to my recruitment to the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute and the University of Toronto, I completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

My research in Boston focused on cardiovascular immunology. Specifically, I determined the importance of tissues other than the bone marrow in generating inflammatory cells during cardiovascular disease.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am most proud of our current work that identifies atherosclerotic disease as an important driver of abdominal aortic aneurysm, a condition for which there are no reliable pharmacologic treatments.

Specifically, we demonstrate that damage to the aorta occurs as a result of overlying atherosclerotic plaque penetrating the artery wall.

Our work represents a significant conceptual advance in our understanding of the pathological consequences of the atherosclerotic process, previously thought limited to plaque growth (stenosis) and rupture (thrombosis).

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

COVID-19 is a major global health threat.

In severe cases, SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome, multi-organ failure, and cardiac injury.

Strikingly, those with a history of cardiovascular diseases (such as hypertension and coronary artery disease) are at much higher risk of cardiac injury and adverse clinical outcomes when infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Utilizing novel animal modeling systems, we are currently focused on understanding why cardiovascular risk factors increase the susceptibility of COVID-19 patients to adverse clinical outcomes. Moreover, we are determining whether cardiac injury in COVID-19 patients results from direct viral infection of the heart or is a consequence of the systemic inflammatory response.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Album: Lost Dogs (Pearl Jam)

Film: Lost in Translation

Novel: The Tin Drum (Gunter Grass)

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

I dream of having dinner with anyone outside my COVID lockdown bubble, and in a restaurant!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Worry less.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Once upon a time, I used to be a firefighter.

What is your favourite place?

The north shoreline along the Massachusetts coast.