Kubes, Dr. Paul

2005 Winner: Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Science

Understanding And Treating Inflammatory Diseases

Inflammatory diseases such as asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease have a devastating effect on their victims. They also take a toll in terms of health care costs and productivity levels. While these diseases affect different organs, they have in common a process by which white blood cells, or leukocytes, travel from the bloodstream into surrounding tissues. By focusing on this process, known as leukocyte recruitment, Dr. Paul Kubes is having a major impact worldwide on the understanding and treatment of these debilitating diseases.

Improving Disease Study

Dr. Kubes uses a technique called intravital microscopy, which enables scientists to look at how white blood cells behave in the blood vessels of living animals. He has extended the technique and applied it to models of human disease allowing researchers to see the process at work in the relevant organs during the development of diseases such as stroke, lung infections, MS and hepatitis.

Through this work, he has made a number of important discoveries and has become one of the world’s leading experts on inflammation and imaging of the immune system. Dr. Kubes is perhaps best known for the discovery that nitric oxide, which is produced by blood vessels under normal conditions, prevents white blood cells from adhering to blood vessels and causing inflammation. Further research showed that the anti-adhesive and anti-inflammatory properties of nitric oxide are important not only in cardiovascular disease, but also in inflammatory diseases and potentially in the spread of cancer cells.

Growing the Scientific Community

A related finding has translated into the use of inhaled nitric oxide to treat lung disorders in children and adults. In addition to his scientific contributions, Dr. Kubes has played an active role in the development of Alberta’s scientific community. He was Chair of the Immunology Research Group at the University of Calgary from 1996 to 2003, and in 2004 became the founding director of the Institute for Infection, Immunity and Inflammation. Under his leadership the group has grown from six members into the largest institute at the university, with 84 researchers. The Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Alberta Science and Research Investments Program recently awarded Dr. Kubes and his group $18 million toward the establishment of the institute and the construction of its new home, the Health Research Innovation Centre. To ensure that scientific advances get translated into bedside practice, Dr. Kubes founded and chairs a unique Canadian Institutes of Health Research training program that requires all participants be supervised by both basic scientists and clinician-scientists.