Academic Rank:
Associate Professor Emeritus
Emeritus Member BCCHRI
Short Bio:

Dr. Tai received his BSc Hons. at McMaster University, his PhD at Dalhousie University with Dr. Tarunedu Ghose. He moved to Vancouver and worked in the Metabolic Investigation Unit at BC Children’s Hospital with Dr. John Tze. Later he joined the Department of Pathology in the Genes, Elements and Metabolism Program at BC Children’s Hospital. He collaborated with Dr.Tze on pancreatic islet cell transplantation research, and later on natural products research.

Dr.Tai was a long-time volunteer with the Canada-China Paediatric Hospital Linkage program created by Dr.Tze in 1986. He is also a founding member and Hon.Secretary of Canadian Institute of Chinese Medicine Research.

Academic background

  • PhD, Dalhousie University, Microbiology. 1980
  • MSc, Dalhousie University, Anatomy. 1973
  • BSc (Hons), McMaster University, Biology. 1971

Research Interest

  • Natural health products and herbal medicine research
  • Tissue culture
  • Gene expression
  • Bioassays
  • Traditional Chinese medicine in chronic conditions
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes (Nutrition and Metabolism)Summary: Understanding mechanisms of action of important natural health products/herbals used daily by millions of people worldwide should be one of the most important target of research in medicine. The seriousness of the impact of diseases like cancer, diabetes, and arthritis on the Canadian healthcare system has been well recognized. However, the potentials of natural health products in preventing and/or treating these conditions have been underestimated. Unlike conventional medicines, natural health products/herbals contain multiple active ingredients with multiple actions. In order to study these complex effects effectively, and to elucidate the “actives” of the herbal preparations, we are collaborating with researchers at BC Cancer Agency, Simon Fraser University , and BCIT. The multidisciplinary research team brings together the expertise in the fields of cell biology, chemical and gene analyses, and pharmacokinetics in a co-ordinated pursuit of a common goal: the investigation of natural health products to improve human well-being.

Current Research Projects:

  • Essiac and FlorEssence
    Essiac and FlorEssence are two important herbal teas used by many cancer patients. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center shows that 9.5% of 102 patients with advanced malignancies who returned survey questionnaires had used Essiac as supplementary alternative treatment. We earlier reported that Essiac and FlorEssence demonstrated anti-proliferative and differentiation-inducing properties in cancer cell lines. Some of the ingredients in Essiac and FlorEssence have been reported to show antioxidant properties and may play a role in the prevention of oxidative stress and hence carcinogenesis. Since some patients may be taking them during standard cancer therapy, with many of these agents being strong oxidants, understanding the antioxidant properties of these two herbal teas is important. In the most recent study we assessed the in vitro antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Essiac and FlorEssence. Such information will be important to allow clinicians and patients to assess whether these herbal teas will interfere with the activity of cancer chemotherapeutic agents.
  • Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus)
    Devil’s club is related to the well-known medicinal herbs Asian ginseng and American ginseng. It is probably the most important spiritual and medicinal plant to most indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest region of North America . Despite the historical use of Devil’s Club for the treatment of arthritis, cancer, diabetes, infections, and other diseases, very limited research results have been reported in peer-reviewed journals. Its antioxidant and anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells have not been reported. Results of our recent study showed that this herb possesses strong antioxidant and anti-proliferative properties. In view of the importance of the herb and its strong biological activities, we plan to study the effect of quality of the herb on its biological activities with collaborators at BCIT. Such information will be invaluable to the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest region.
  • Screening and testing of natural health products with potential to reduce side effects of therapeutic agents
    Many chemotherapeutic and immunosuppressive agents are toxic to kidney cells and bone marrow cells. We are screening and testing natural health products and herbal medicines with potential to: i) reduce the nephrotoxicity and bone marrow toxicity of anti-cancer drugs in cancer patients; ii) reduce the nephrotoxicity of anti-rejection drugs; and iii) improve the quality of life of patients,and efficacy of conventional anti-cancer drugs.