Benefits to Canadians

A healthy population and a sustainable health system

University of Alberta

Analyzing End-of-Life Care

Dr. Donna Wilson's research program focuses on health services utilization and health policy in relation to aging and end-of-life care. As one of the few nurse researchers who analyses the health services utilization information gathered annually by health departments and Statistics Canada, Wilson's research is unique.  "Often, this data is not analysed or minimally analysed and buried in reports read by few people. A rich source of information is missed that could support the creation or retention of helpful public policy and health services."  Wilson is currently investigating quality indicators for end-of-life care, with funding from Health Canada.

Matters of the Heart

Focusing on the psychosocial and organizational dimensions of heart disease, Dr. Alex Clark's Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research-funded work looks at how heart health outcomes can be improved and how evidence-based clinical practice can be supported more effectively. His research involves patients, health professionals and decision-makers and examines the complex interplay of factors promoting and inhibiting willingness and capacity to change cardiovascular risk factors. His current work includes developing evaluations of cardiac rehabilitation and tele-heart health initiatives, an action research project to promote physical activity in people with coronary heart disease and a study examining risk factor change in people from deprived communities who have heart conditions.  

Reducing Vulnerability to HIV

The social, economic and cultural factors that make marginalized populations vulnerable to HIV infection are the focus of Dr. Judy Mill's research program. "I am particularly interested in designing interventions that are effective in reducing vulnerability to HIV," she says. Currently, Mill is implementing multiple projects within this program, at the local, regional, and national levels, with a particular focus on Canadian Aboriginal populations.  Mill's methodological expertise is in qualitative participatory research, and all projects are built on strong partnerships that include community workers as co-investigators, community advisory committees, and the collaboration of decision makers.

Researching Research

How nurses and other health practitioners find information and incorporate new research into their decision-making processes is the focus the Knowledge Utilization Studies Program, led by Canada Research Chair in Knowledge Translation, Dr. Carole Estabrooks. The program, involving numerous faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students, examines the full spectrum of nursing research and studies health delivery policy. The goal is to develop strategies to increase levels of research use, and subsequently to test how this has an impact on health care delivery.

Figuring Out Fatigue

For the past several years, Dr. Karin Olson has focused her research on fatigue in various ill and healthy populations.  This has allowed her to develop a conceptual framework for fatigue and the related, but different, concepts of tiredness and exhaustion. She and her team are developing strategies for health-care providers to understand the behavioural manifestations of all three to properly diagnose them.  They are also looking at ways to prevent the progression of tiredness to fatigue, and fatigue to exhaustion.  Olson, who has funding from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, is also interested in how complementary therapies such as reiki can be used to boost energy.

Deconstructing Depression

With prevalence rates for depression in women double that of men, depression is a serious health issue for women. Under the direction of Dr. Kathy Hegadoren, a Canada Research Chair in Stress Related Disorders in Women, research conducted at the Women's Health Research Unit (WHRU) in the University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing examines the psychological and biological factors contributing to women's increased risk for stress-related disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers in the unit are also investigating gender differences in how the body handles drugs. The WHRU is focused on discovering the links that connect stress, stress-related problems, female hormones and antidepressant therapies.

Optimizing Ozone Water Treatment Systems

Ozone is a powerful oxidant that kills pathogens and micropollutants found in our drinking water supplies. Normally applied to water and wastewater through bubble columns and/or contactors, ozone gas is injected into the liquid phase to be treated. Drs M. Gamal El-Din and D. W. Smith introduced a novel bubble column design, referred to as the impinging-jet bubble column. Using laser-based measurement techniques and advanced mechanistic models, ozone concentrations and liquid-phase backmixing levels in water can be accurately predicted. Through this new bubble column design, the team expects to optimize ozone water treatment systems that can lead to the preservation and protection of the Canadian public health. This research is supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Keeping It Clean

Biofilm growth in water distribution systems is a threat to our drinking water. A team of researchers (R. Lu, A. Fragata, Dr. T. Yu, Dr. D. W. Smith) at the University of Alberta is studying the interaction between disinfectants and biofilms by using unique microsensor techniques. In addition to the various microsensors that it has fabricated, the team has recently developed a new microsensor to measure chlorine (or monochloramine) in drinking water biofilms. This study will help the drinking water industry find better strategies to control biofilm growth in distribution systems and ensure the safety of drinking water. This project is supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Alberta Innovation and Sciences.

New hope for type 1 diabetes sufferers

A medical procedure developed at the University of Alberta continues to receive international acclaim as a major breakthrough for those living with type 1 diabetes. The Edmonton Protocol involves transplanting insulin-producing cells from a healthy pancreas into the liver of a diabetes sufferer. Once injected, the cells develop a blood supply and begin producing insulin. Since 1999, the protocol has helped more than 500 patients worldwide, including 85 in Canada. The results have been positive. In a five-year study published in July 2005, one year after transplantation, 80 percent of patients no longer required insulin injections. Five years after transplantation, most patients had to resume insulin but 80 percent still had function of the implanted islets, reducing the amount of insulin required by approximately 50 percent. 

Back to the top

The University of British Columbia

Hip Research

At the University of British Columbia's Centre for Hip Health and Musculoskeletal Research, researchers have perfected a minimally-invasive surgery technique that will be studied nationally to determine if it can produce better health outcomes for hip replacement patients. Prior to the development of this technique, patients were exposed to greater risks. Now, those undergoing hip surgery require a smaller incision, and experience less muscle damage. It is hoped that this advance will also improve mortality rates, which currently sit at 20 percent in the first year after surgery.

TRIUMF for disease treatment

A university-industry partnership in nuclear medicine is resulting in the development, manufacture and global distribution of products to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer. Through collaboration between TRIUMF, a national particle and nuclear physics lab located on the University of British Columbia campus, and MDS Nordion, the world's leading supplier of medical isotopes, up to 50,000 treatment doses of radiopharmaceuticals are produced and shipped weekly to the nuclear medicine community worldwide, enabling 2.3 million patient treatments a year. TRIUMF is a partnership that involves 13 Canadian universities and is the only facility in Canada that provides proton therapy specifically to treat ocular melanomas (cancer of the eye).

Back to the top

Brock University

In Search of a Better Way

Assistant Professor Evangelia Tsiani, of the Departments of Community Health Sciences and Biological Sciences conducts research in the hopes of finding new, therapeutic strategies to better manage diseases. One of the goals of her current research is to examine the biological effects of resveratrol and to determine its impact on glucose homeostasis both in vitro and in vivo.  Tsiani's research program also focuses on understanding cell signaling pathways in cancer cells. Tsiani received funding from the Banting Research Foundation in 2003, and in 2004, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awarded her a three-year Discovery Grant.

Back to the top

The University of Calgary

Bringing Brains and Computers Together

Picture a day when an amputee can control an artificial limb with thought or imagine flipping on your computer by thinking. Although this may seem like the distant fantasy of a sci-fi movie, research at U of C's Faculty of Medicine is moving this dream closer to reality. Calgary neurobiologist Dr. Naweed Syed and a team of scientists at the University of Calgary and the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich were able to grow a network of snail brain cells on a microchip and found that the nerve cells and the silicon chip could talk! What's more, they discovered that the microchip could actually read memory traces from the nerve cells. The team is now investigating ways to transfer these advances to humans. While practical applications lie far in the future, this technology offers hope to amputees and the visually impaired and to those suffering from brain damage or degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

Leading the Fight Against Fetal Alcohol Disorders

Pediatrics professor Dr. Margaret Clarke is a nationally-respected authority on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and is finding ways to better detect, treat and prevent the disorder. FASD refers to a host of physical and neurological problems that begins with prenatal alcohol exposure and ends by robbing children of their full potential. It affectsup to onechild in every hundred and costs Canadian tax-payers up to $3 million for each case. Clarke's research is inspiring a battalion of researchers who are working to change this—from investigating the neurological affects of prenatal alcohol exposure to screening baby stools for alcohol traces to designing education programs for judges and doctors.

Numbing the Pain of Migraines

Migraine sufferers stand to benefit from Dr. Gerald Zamponi's research into chronic pain, migraines, and seizures, at U of C's Faculty of Medicine. A researcher in the Departments of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and Physiology and Biophysics, Zamponi is conducting research into calcium channels, work that may lead to new treatments for a variety of neurological problems, including migraines—the single most common neurological disorder associated with calcium channels. Zamponi's research may also help scientists better understand and improve treatments for chronic pain, vision disorders cardiac problems, and epilepsy.

Diagnosing Canada's Health Care System

It's one thing to maintain a healthy body but quite another to maintain a strong national healthcare system. While most health researchers investigate disease with the aim of finding a cure, Dr. William Ghali's research at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine examines the ways in which such care is delivered in Canada. Ghali, a Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research and an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Health Scholar, studies the infrastructure of healthcare delivery with an eye to arming healthcare policy makers with the information they need to design an efficient and sustainable healthcare system for generations of Canadians to come.

Pioneering Stem Cell Research

Dr. Sam Weiss and a team of U of C medical researchers gained international recognition when they discovered they mammalian neural stem cells could be stimulated to generate all the major cell types of the central nervous system. The implications of the discovery are staggering. Millions of North Americans suffer from brain and spinal cord injuries and neurodegenerative diseases. The ability to generate, transplant, and replace neural stem cells offers the promise of a cure where traditionally a patient's only hope was drug therapy to manage symptoms. Research advances in Weiss' lab may one day enable scientists to transplant new fetal cells into afflicted areas of the brain to replace the damaged cells.

Improving Radiation Treatment for Cancer Patients

Dr. Susan Lees-Miller, a cancer researcher at U of C's Faculty of Medicine, gained international attention when she discovered the protein DNA-PK, which is now known to play a vital role in the repair of radiation (IR)-induced DNA damage. This landmark discovery is pivotal to cancer research because every year oncologists use IR to treat thousands of cancer patients because it induces a specific form of DNA damage—a DNA double-strand break (DSB)—which kills cancer cells. Problem is, IR also kills healthy tissue surrounding the cancer cells. Researchers in Lees-Miller's lab are delving deeper into the nature of these DSB-attuned proteins and their response to IR-induced DNA damage in order to develop less painful and less damaging cancer treatments for patients.

ohOn the Trail of a Microscopic Menace

Protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica, which infects one per cent of the world's population and causes up to 100, 000 deaths each year, has met a formidable foe in Dr. Kris Chadee, a researcher in the University of Calgary Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Gastrointestinal Inflammation. The third leading cause of death by parasitic infection in the world, this parasite poses a significant health risk to populations around the world—especially in the wake of rising globalization and world climate changes. By unraveling the unique mechanisms by which this parasite evades its host's defenses, Chadee and his research team are working to develop and test a vaccine that will outsmart this world-wise parasite.

Back to the top

Dalhousie University

Robotic neurosurgery

The Halifax Brain Repair Centre, a partnership of Dalhousie University, the Capital District Health Authority in Halifax, the IWK Health Centre, National Research Council and other government agencies, has advanced the field of remote surgical robotics through the world's first brain telementoring robotic surgery. This technology allows experts in urban areas or at key research centres to guide surgeons at a distance while they perform critical procedures on patients who would otherwise not have access to this expertise. The Brain Repair Centre's next goal is to have surgeons actually perform neurosurgery from a distance via robotic technology, with the robotic apparatus being developed in Halifax.

Back to the top

University of Guelph

New dietary source of DHA

The University of Guelph has developed a new dietary source of DHA, one of the essential omega-3 fatty acids, which is crucial for brain and eye development and for reducing the risk of heart disease. DHA is made available for human consumption through the cow's milk after it ingests a specially-designed feed. Using this process developed on the Guelph campus, Neilson Canada, in partnership with the university, created the "Neilson Dairy Oh!" milk product containing DHA, now available in grocery stores.

Back to the top

Université Laval

Falling for Functional Foods

Thirty years ago, research on cholesterol made butter the enemy. So we started eating margarine. Then came the news that hydrogenating vegetable oils in margarine generates artery-clogging trans fats. So what can we spread on our toast today?

Ask the researchers at Laval University's Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods. They've patented a new process to hydrogenate vegetable oils and make margarine without trans fats. Since eating habits are directly linked to nearly half of all diagnosed cases of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, integrating functional foods into Canadians' daily diet could save the health care system more than $19 billion each year.

The Institute brings together experts in nutrition, food technology, and medical research to explore the links between health and food. By conveying knowledge and technologies to the food industry and its students, this Québec City research centre will contribute to a healthier future for all Canadians.   

Back to the top

The University of Manitoba

Reducing Breast Cancer Deaths

University of Manitoba researchers at the Great-West Life Manitoba Breast Cancer Research Centre work in a variety of specialized areas, but they share a common goal: to reduce deaths due to breast cancer. Funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Manitoba Research and Innovations Fund, the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, Great-West Life, and Nygård International, the $3. 9 million centre combines five different platforms that, collectively, are unique in the world. These include the Molecular Profiling Unit which studies gene expression in breast tumors, and the Manitoba Breast Tumor Bank, which houses the world's most comprehensive collection of breast cancer tissue and associated data.

Winning the Battle Against Ebola and Marburg

In 2005, University of Manitoba researchers made international headlines for a breakthrough development in the battle against Ebola and Marburg, two of the world's deadliest viruses. Steven Jones, immunology, and Heinz Feldmann, medical microbiology and infectious diseases, have produced the first vaccine system that has proven 100 per cent effective in protecting monkeys against infection from the viruses. The research, which began at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, was supported by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Following initial trials, work was carried out in partnership with the U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in what is being considered a landmark in international scientific collaboration.

Combating the Allergy Epidemic

The University of Manitoba's internationally-recognized allergy and asthma research group brings together expertise from a variety of disciplines to combat what has been described as a national allergy epidemic. Kent HayGlass, Canada Research Chair in immune regulation, works with researchers at the Children's Hospital of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Institute for Child Health to investigate how immune cells and responses are turned on and off. Allan Becker is the lead investigator of two Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) teams examining gene-environment interactions and gender influences in asthma. He is also research director of the Children's Asthma Education Centre at the Children's Hospital and a core member of the university's CIHR National Training Program in Allergy and Asthma. Estelle Simons, head of the 30-member section of allergy and clinical immunology in pediatrics and child health, is internationally known for her innovative studies of asthma, anaphylaxis, and other allergic disorders.

Reversing the Ravages of Congestive Heart Disease

University of Manitoba researchers at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre are on the leading edge of heart disease research at the cellular and molecular levels. Widely regarded as one of the preeminent basic cardiovascular research programs in the world, the Institute is led by Naranjan S. Dhalla, physiology, a world leader in heart research who has received the Order of Canada for his achievements. Dhalla's laboratory is currently focusing on four areas: heart dysfunction in chronic diabetes, ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, and stress-induced heart disease. The ultimate goal of his research is to develop an effective drug therapy that could potentially prevent and reverse the ravages of congestive heart disease.

Searching for Immunity Against Leishmaniasis

University of Manitoba parasite immunologist Jude Uzonna is at the forefront of world efforts to develop a vaccine against Leishmaniasis, a chronic and debilitating disease that currently affects more than 12 million people in 88 countries. Using mice, Uzonna was the first researcher to show that the live parasite must remain in body cells in order to maintain immunity to leishmaniasis, and he is currently working with a genetically modified version of the parasite that is able to induce immunity in mice without causing the disease. Since 2003, Uzonna's work has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Manitoba Medical Service Foundation, the Manitoba Health Research Council, and the Dr. Paul H. T. Thorlakson Foundation Fund.

Lung Cancer's Stigma

University of Manitoba nursing researcher Michelle Lobchuk is examining the stigma faced by lung cancer patients, a large percentage of whom develop the illness as a direct result of smoking. She is looking specifically at informal caregivers, like family members or friends, who often silently blame the patient for becoming ill. This blame and anger can result in poor communication, and it can affect the decisions caregivers make. Lobchuk's study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of Canada, uses survey tools to measure and quantify the perceptions of both patients and family caregivers. The project's goal is to create a better understanding of how blame and anger influence communication and affect feelings of empathy in the caregiver.

Linking Housing Conditions to Asthma

A University of Manitoba engineering professor is investigating the relationship between housing conditions and asthma. Dimos Polyzois, civil engineering, is a leader in the field of composite building materials. Working with experts in health, education, and risk analysis, he is examining 840 homes in Winnipeg to develop a database of housing conditions that will include the condition of structural components and infrastructure, as well as the maintenance history of each home. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the project aims to develop an index that will quantify the risk associated with a particular home for families with asthmatic children.

Finding the Key to Healthy Aging

A unique long-term study at the University of Manitoba is providing valuable information about our aging population. Robert Tate, community health sciences, leads the Manitoba Follow-Up Study, the longest-running study of its kind in North America. Since 1948, researchers have followed the health of nearly 4, 000 WWII Air Force recruits, collecting valuable data on their changing health and lifestyles over the years. With funding support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Tate is currently investigating how and why individuals can age successfully in spite of illness and adversity. Today, there are still more than 1, 300 men who continue to participate in the study. Tate is exploring successful aging as a dynamic process, looking at factors in early adulthood that might contribute to this success.

New Biology Offers Hope for Custom-Made Medical Treatments

There's a new bioscience in town. It gets under the skin of the toughest diseases and could produce new treatments—or even cures. It's called "systems biology" and is born from the mapping of the human genome. It could also unlock the way molecules interact to produce life.

"The challenge is to determine how and where molecules are assembled in the cell in health and disease," explains John Wilkins. Wilkins and a multidisciplinary team of University of Manitoba researchers work with the Health Sciences Centre Foundation to explore this young science. The group has garnered international attention for developing new scientific equipment, analytical software, and tools to identify and treat disease.

Systems biology has the potential to reveal why some individuals are immune to the diseases they carry, while others are vulnerable. With its help, scientists may custom-design treatments for everything from HIV/AIDS and cancer, to arthritis and transplant rejection.   

Back to the top

McMaster University

How to reduce the risk of heart attack

McMaster University led a major global research project, the INTERHEART Study, that involved more than 29,000 people in 52 countries. This international study determined that worldwide, nine easily measurable factors predict more than 90 percent of the risk of a heart attack. This research has major implications for developing prevention programs targeted at premature heart attacks.

Back to the top

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Upping the nutrient value

Researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland's school of pharmacy, together with North Atlantic Biopharma, have developed a new intravenous feeding product based on omega-3 nutrients from seal oil. North Atlantic Biopharma currently has a strategic alliance with a Chinese pharmaceutical company to bring the product to market in Asia. The Genesis Group, Memorial's technology commercialization arm, provided the researchers with the structure to test and market their product, which is now at the clinical-trial stage. The new pharmaceutical product will be used to feed patients who have difficulty digesting essential nutrients orally, and will be particularly helpful for trauma and post-surgery patients.

Back to the top

Université de Montréal

AIDS Vaccine: Hope for a Drug-Free Future

"Triple cocktail" therapy has improved the lives of people infected with the AIDS virus. But only 10 percent of the estimated 40 million people infected have access to the combination of medications. Those on the regime cope with serious side effects and prohibitive costs.

At the Université de Montréal, Rafick-Pierre Sékaly's research is dedicated to the day when HIV/AIDS patients trade in their bags of pills for improved immune systems. Sékaly is the founding scientific director of the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, based at the U de M. CANVAC comprises 79 researchers and is currently involved in a Canadian AIDS vaccine trial.

Through CANVAC's research and projects underway at the Institute of Research in Immunovirology and Cancer at the Université de Montréal, and the U de M Hospital Centre (CHUM), scientists are learning more about how the immune system defends itself. This important research could also lead to vaccines for cancer, SARS, and Hepatitis C.   

Back to the top

Mount Allison University

Heavy Metal Research

Lead contamination is a major public health risk, particularly for children. Exposure can result in impaired hearing, reduced growth, and learning disabilities. It's critical to track lead pollution to its source.

Scientists and medical practitioners rely on blood tests to monitor lead levels in humans. But blood only reveals recent contamination. At Mount Allison University, David Fleming is using X-ray fluorescence—a non-invasive procedure involving gamma and X-rays— to track long-term exposure to lead by measuring its accumulation in bone. Detecting lead in the bone can help identify and reduce sources of exposure.   

Back to the top

University of Northern British Columbia

DNA and Cancer

Biochemistry professor Chow Lee is looking at reasons behind the rapid growth and aggressiveness of cancer cells. Dr Lee's research focuses on the manipulation of bio-molecules called messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA is the carrier of genetic information and understanding how to control its level will eventually provide information on how to control many aggressive behaviours of cancer cells in the human body. He is currently concentrating his research on two mRNAs for two genes that are implicated in cancer development: one makes cancer cells resistant to drugs and the other is responsible for the rapid growth of cancer cells.

Give Me a Hand

Humans are believed to be the only primates that prefer one hand over the other. Research on skeletons carried out at UNBC indicated that a larger than expected proportion of bones in the left hand were bigger than in the right hand, leading to new research on the origins of handedness. The research is expected to shed light on the evolution of other human-specific traits. Richard Lazenby is a forensic anthropologist, who also assisted Vancouver's missing women task force with the Pickton farm investigation.

Cardiovascular Health

Psychology prof Ken Prkachin is a national expert on how stress influences cardiovascular health. His research has found, for example, that inter-personal stress has greater impacts on health than work-related stress. He is also involved in a project that assesses the facial expressions of people in pain, so that health care workers will more accurately gauge the pain and discomfort being experienced by patients. He recently gave a workshop at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, participating in a major study on pain in emergency wards and how to recognize it.

Back to the top

University of Ottawa

"Ottawa Ankle Rules"

The "Ottawa Ankle Rules", developed at the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Health Research Institute, are diagnostic guidelines that have transformed the way doctors assess and treat patients. Posted in emergency rooms around the world, these clinical decision-making rules are nearly 100 percent effective in ruling out ankle fractures, thereby reducing the number of unnecessary x-rays. They have become the prototype for the development of other such guidelines, including knee, head and spinal injury rules. All of these reduce emergency room crowding and save the health care system millions of dollars.

Back to the top

University of Prince Edward Island

The Healthy Human-Animal Bond

It's a familiar statistic: more than half of all North Americans are obese and have an increased risk for diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. A lesser-known fact: their pets are also at risk.

Lifestyle-related disorders affect animals as well as humans. At the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Centre for Comparative Biomedical Research, investigators have a unique opportunity to study the similarities and differences between humans and animals. Researchers work together on treatments and preventative strategies for obesity, diabetes, stroke, and other diseases—developing products and procedures to benefit humans and animals.

Molecular Factors In Adverse Drug Reactions

When new drugs are approved, or existing drugs prescribed, there is no way to know if some individuals will have an adverse reaction to a normal dose of an otherwise safe drug. Dr. Alastair Cribb, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Pharmacology and Toxicology at UPEI, is working to change this. He investigates the molecular factors that underpin adverse drug reactions to better predict the toxicity of new chemicals, improve treatment, or prevent adverse reactions, with an overarching goal to improve drug safety.

Innovative Method to Inhibit Telomerase 

UPEI physicist, Dr. Barry Linkletter performs research in the field of DNA structure. Healthy human cells have a finite lifespan because of natural limitations in the number of times they can replicate themselves. Germ and cancer cells have no such limitations, due in part to an enzyme called telomerase.  Various methods are currently being studied to inhibit this enzyme and thus reduce the replication of these cells. Dr. Linkletter is developing a ground breaking method of utilizing small molecules, hydrogen bonded to the DNA, to inhibit the telomerase.  Future applications for this project may include development of drug treatments for cancer.

Problem-solving Capacity Increased with Beowulf Cluster

Drs. Sheldon Opps and James Polson are using a Beowulf Cluster, or supercomputer, in the Physics Department of UPEI.  Dr. Polson runs computer simulations to model molecular systems.  Two specific foci of this work involve the physical properties of cell membranes, and a process called polymer collapse. Polymer collapse works as a simplified, single-molecule model of protein folding: the study of why protein takes different shapes to perform different functions in our bodies. Dr. Opps stuidies models of soft materials, such as biomembranes, proteins, and liquid crystals. These materials have important industrial applications and have biomedical relevance. One example is the study of hole formation in membranes with the goal of providing insight into some causes of cell disease.

Assessing Health Benefits of Regional Resources

Dr. Carolanne Nelson in UPEI's Department of Family and Nutritional Sciences is investigating the health effects of bioactive compounds from rosehips, blueberries, and marine plants using nutritional genomics techniques. These compounds are evaluated by determining whether disease-relevant genes are turned on or off. This approach utilizes DNA Microarray Reader technology, which can assess an entire genome in a single three-day experiment. A team of UPEI researchers is establishing the Institute for Bioresource Innovation, which will allow Dr. Nelson's team to explore a wider variety of interactions between compounds and genes, in search of unique health benefits that will add further value to these regionally abundant crops.

Back to the top

Université du Québec en Outaouais

Cyberpsychology: Virtual Reality and Mental Health

Treating patients with phobias and other mental health disorders often requires therapists to desensitize them to their fears and anxieties. But exposing people to what frightens them or triggers harmful behaviour is inherently risky. What if patients could confront their fears in an environment so real they feel they're actually there?

Stéphane Bouchard and his team are using modified 3D computer games to simulate stressful situations for people with fear of flying, fear of spiders, fear of heights, claustrophobia, and other anxiety disorders. Hooked up via helmets that have been integrated into a screen, the patients are gradually exposed to stimuli in a virtual environment, so they can learn to modify their responses. Bouchard's research at the Cyberpsychology Lab is helping to document the reduced cost and effectiveness of delivering psychotherapy by videoconference to people living in remote or under-serviced areas.   

Back to the top

Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface

Turning Clinical Research into Bedside Care

Every year, 65, 000 Canadians die from heart attacks. Another 14, 000 die from strokes. At St. Boniface General Hospital in Winnipeg, a multidisciplinary team of researchers is developing new technologies and novel drugs to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Though progress has been made on many fronts to improve the lives of patients afflicted with heart and cerebrovascular diseases, new technologies and the accelerating pace of scientific discovery have set the stage for even more dramatic advancements.

Nowhere else in Canada is there a greater opportunity to make those advances—to bring discoveries made at the laboratory bench to clinical trials and, ultimately, to patient care. That is the essence of "translational" research—and The I. H. Asper Clinical Research Institute is strategically situated to close this virtuous cycle, initiated when the clinician encounters a seemingly insolvable problem at the bedside, and completed when the solution finds its way back to the patient.

Back to the top

Simon Fraser University

Sensor Improves Digital X-Rays

SFU assistant professor of engineering science Karim Karim won the prestigious Douglas Colton Medal for his work on amorphous silicon X-ray image sensors, boosting the potential use of large-scale digital x-ray procedures.  Karim overcame the fuzzy images that plagued large-format digital x-ray fluoroscopy by amplifying the x-ray signal at the pixel level using amorphous silicon technology.  "The pixel amplifier enables the low-dose fluoroscopy x-ray signal to ovecome the noise of the external imaging electronics and create a clearer image," Karim says.  Large format digital x-ray imaging can provide instantaneous results, making it ideal for remote diagnosis – for instance in medical consultations over the telephone or Internet. An added bonus of Karim's pixel amplifier is that patients may require lower radiation dosages when undergoing diagnostic x-ray imaging.

Multicultural Videos Improve Health Care

Communication professors Ellen Balka and Dave Murphy helped the BC Ministry of Health develop video vignettes and a documentary to improve the use of the BC NurseLine by the province's substantial Farsi-speaking community.  The BC NurseLine is a 24-hour, toll-free access to registered nurses specially trained to provide confidential health information and advice on the telephone.  The programs, broadcast on multicultural channels, proved so successful that the team is now working on similar videos aimed at the Chinese-speaking community.

Molecular Shape Shifting

Neil Branda is a Canada Research Chair in Materials Science and director of molecular systems for SFU's new research centre, 4D Labs.  Within 12 years of earning his doctorate Branda has learned how to reversibly change the shape, structure and function of molecules-the building blocks of life-on command, and use colour to signal their change.  In collaboration with other researchers at SFU and Vancouver General Hospital, Branda is preparing to do tissue experiments.  They will identify how light, electricity, and other environmental stimuli can trigger structural changes in molecules and influence their interaction.  "In biology, molecular shape is everything," says Branda.  "Molecular interaction is based on complementary shapes that fit together like a lock and key system.  If we can change and control the shape of molecules then we can pre-program molecular interactions to better deliver drugs to a targeted area in the human body. Ultimately, our goal would be to deactivate or alter disease producing molecular interactions." 

Back to the top

The University of Toronto

T-cell breakthrough

In 1984, researchers at the Ontario Cancer Institute, part of the University of Toronto's University Health Network, solved one of the immune system's greatest puzzles when they uncovered how T-cells work to recognize and destroy viruses and bacteria in the body. Twenty years later, the scientific paper containing this discovery has been cited more than 1,200 times and has influenced the work of scientists worldwide. This university-led discovery continues to fuel understanding and treatment of autoimmune diseases, including the development of new approaches to fight cancer.

Back to the top

The University of Western Ontario

Keeping Sweets Away From Stomach Bugs

A recipient of the Premier's Research Excellence Award, and funded by NSERC, CIHR and CFI, Western's Carole Creuzenet hopes to find the keys for neutralizing Helicobacter pylori and Campylobacter jejuni, two pathogens that lead to gastroenteritis, gastric ulcers, some gastric cancers and other stomach diseases.

Her research seeks to uncover new avenues for treatment by examining the roles played by unique sugars on the virulence of these bacteria, which have developed a resistance to currently-used antibiotics.  Creuzenet hopes to show that these sugars are the link between bacteria and host, thereby providing researchers with a target at which to aim.

Improved health care delivery

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario's Centre for Studies in Family Medicine are developing innovative ways to improve family medicine and primary health care delivery. The research includes a state-of-the-art pilot project to use patients' electronic medical records – in accordance with privacy guidelines – to create a searchable database. This database could help physicians detect the early signs of specific conditions by identifying common patterns. The centre is also pioneering an innovative online discussion and education group for improving physicians' use of evidence-based guidelines, and helping primary caregivers provide better counselling for patients with type 2 diabetes.

Back to the top

McGill University
McMaster University

Breast cancer breakthrough

McGill University and McMaster University researchers identified a new gene known as beta-1 that regulates the growth of breast tissue. When the gene is blocked or removed, tumour growth is halted. With this research, drugs can be developed to treat breast cancer. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation estimates that in 2005, 21,600 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,300 will die from the disease.

Back to the top