Faculty

Freda Miller

Professor, Associate Director

Associated Departments

Professional Profile

Dr. Miller joins UBC from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where she was a Senior Scientist and Professor at the University of Toronto. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and at the Hospital for Sick Children she was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar and the Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neurobiology. Most recently, Dr. Miller’s accomplishments were recognized by the naming of the “Dr. Freda Miller” public school by the Calgary Board of Education.

Research Area

Dr. Miller is best known for her work on dermal and neural stem cells and on mechanisms that regulate neuronal survival and growth. Her discovery of dermal stem cells provided insights into the mechanisms underlying skin maintenance and repair and contributed to providing the conceptual basis for using skin as a major source for genesis of human stem cells. At the same time, Dr. Miller discovered new mechanisms determining whether nerve cells live or die, findings that have implications for our understanding of neurodegenerative disorders. Finally, Dr. Miller has made significant contributions to understanding how stem cells build the brain during normal development and how this goes awry in neurodevelopmental disorders. This led to her recent discovery that the commonly used diabetes drug metformin can recruit endogenous neural precursors and in so doing can promote repair of the injured brain. Together, these discoveries led to clinical trials for therapies that “wake up” our own stem cells to repair the injured brain and skin and to the co-founding of two biotechnology companies.

Research Questions

  1. How is stem cell-mediated genesis of neurons and glia regulated by the extracellular environment in the mammalian brain?
  2. Can endogenous somatic tissue stem cells be recruited to promote adult tissue repair?
  3. Why do some mammalian tissues regenerate?  Can we use this information to promote repair and regeneration of other tissues?
  4. What are the signaling networks that allow environmental cues to regulate stem cell biology? 

Research Keywords

biochemistry, biological imaging, gene/cell therapy systems, epigenomics, neurobiology, regenerative medicine, systems biology, translation, outreach, biotechnology