Approximately four percent of children in elementary schools suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This disorder places children at an increased risk for developing problems such as antisocial behaviour, substance abuse and career difficulties. Carla Seipp is examining whether parents’ responsiveness to a child may be an important influence on the risks and impairments associated with ADHD. Carla will compare responsiveness during interactions between mothers and sons with ADHD, and mothers and sons with no behavioural difficulties. By focusing on the family environments of children with ADHD, Carla hopes to identify parenting behaviours that could reduce the risks and impairments associated with the disorder.
The error-free duplication of a multicelled organism’s genetic material is critical to its survival. Even small changes in the genetic code during duplication can lead to diseases such as cancer. Equally important to cell division is the error-free transmission of chromosomes to each of the two daughter cells, which depends on the proper regulation of sister chromatid cohesion (the attachment of both strands of newly-replicated DNA to the area of the chromosome called the centromere). When the mechanisms involved in chromatid cohesion are defective, there may be uneven segregation of chromosomes to daughter cells. This results in abnormal chromosome numbers (aneuploidy), a characteristic of many cancers. Ben Montpetit is studying the components responsible for regulating cohesion of sister chromatids. Ben’s research is aimed at providing a better understanding of what happens when the cohesion process is flawed, and to help identify therapeutic targets in cells with defects due to altered chromatid cohesion.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects approximately one in 20 Canadians. Research has shown an association between lower socioeconomic status and poorer outcomes for asthma patients, including more hospital admissions and emergency room visits and a greater likelihood of a fatal attack. Excessive use of short-acting bronchodilators, which help manage acute episodes of asthma, indicates inadequate asthma control and has been associated with poorer outcomes. Larry Lynd is investigating whether there is a relationship between lower socioeconomic status-measured by education, income, occupation and characteristics of residence-poor asthma control, and the overuse of bronchodilators. Confirming that relationship could determine whether inappropriate management of asthma is at least partially responsible for poorer outcomes. Larry hopes this research can lead to policies and strategies aimed at improving the management of asthmatics of lower socioeconomic status.
Though small in numbers, stem cells are responsible for the continued production of blood cells throughout a person’s life. They are also responsible for regenerating the blood-forming system following a bone marrow transplant in people with leukemia and other blood diseases. While blood stem cell transplantation is a promising therapy, its use is currently restricted because researchers have not yet found a way to reproduce these cells in large enough numbers for effective transplantation. Dr. Clayton Smith’s research is devoted to developing a better understanding of blood-forming stem cells so they can be effectively isolated and manipulated. Using leading-edge bioengineering and computer-based technologies, he is systematically exploring how the body’s environment affects stem cell growth, to see if these conditions can be replicated outside the body. He is also studying the function of certain genes that may be important to stem cell growth. Ultimately, he hopes to learn enough about stem cells to be able to grow them in large numbers outside the body for use in blood stem cell transplantation.
Health research has established a strong link between socio-economic status and health outcomes. However, in BC’s resource-dependent communities, the income and social status situations for many workers vary throughout their working lives as a result of changing technologies and labour market conditions. Downsizing and restructuring in the labour market often results in greater frequency and duration of unemployment. Workers who retain their jobs often experience increased work stress in adapting to new on-the-job requirements, and entire resource-based communities are affected when industries downsize and restructure. Dr. Aleck Ostry is focusing on the health of workers in resource-based industries, and the health of their children. Dr. Ostry is studying the health outcomes of more than 28,000 sawmill workers between 1950 and 1998 in 14 BC sawmills, as well as approximately 23,000 of these workers’ children. He will explore to what extent labour market experiences at work and in the community affect the health outcomes of workers, and how these experiences also affect the health of their children. As changing market conditions in the global economy affect workforces throughout the world, this research is gaining national and international recognition.
Mild electrical stimulation of various brain sites leads to the development of seizures, which intensify over time. Called the kindling phenomenon, this process has been widely studied as a model of epilepsy, neuroplasticity (learning, memory and various mental disorders) and the interictal (emotional) changes that occur between seizures in certain types of epilepsy. In his previous research, Steven Barnes demonstrated that learning plays a major role in this process. His studies show that rats learn to associate particular environments with seizures and this awareness greatly affects the intensity of seizures and interictal behaviours. People with epilepsy also tend to have more seizures in certain situations than others, a pattern that has not been widely studied. Steven is investigating how conditioning affects these responses. His research will ultimately reveal insights about the role of conditioning in the kindling phenomenon associated with epilepsy.
Current treatments for advanced prostate cancer eliminate the growth-promoting effects of androgens such as testosterone. Unfortunately, while this treatment is initially effective in reducing prostate growth, the usual outcome is an untreatable form of prostate cancer where the cancer becomes androgen-independent (grows without androgens). Steven Quayle is working to isolate the different genes that are expressed (activated) at different hormonal stages of prostate cancer. He is using a technique where prostate cancer cells grown in hollow fibres progress to androgen-independence in a controlled, reproducible manner. This will allow Steven to confirm the changes in gene expression that consistently occur with disease progression, and study in more detail the role of particular genes. These genes may be useful as indicators of disease progression, as well as potential targets for treatment.
What are the best ways to ensure young people listen to and act upon information about avoiding high risk sexual behaviours? This is the research focus for Josephine MacIntosh, who is delving into the individual, social and cultural factors that may perpetuate the epidemics of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, especially among young women. Josephine is studying the effectiveness of using a theatre-based intervention program among youth aged 13 to 15. The theatre productions will consist of a series of original dramatic productions researched, scripted, produced and presented by youth volunteers. She hopes to develop an educational approach that can engage the audience and actors as they learn about issues such as abstinence, treatment of HIV and sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy prevention, decision-making, peer-pressure, negotiation for safer sex and alternative safer sexual behaviours.
The Hereditary Cancer Program at the BC Cancer Agency provides genetic testing and counseling services. The demand for these services in BC depends on many factors, each of which is subject to change. Factors include the growing knowledge in basic, applied and social sciences relating to hereditary cancer; the size of BC’s population and its characteristics in terms of age, ethnicity and family size; the evolving criteria by which people are deemed eligible for services; and people’s desire for these services. Through his research, Dr. Chris Bajdik is determining the demand for hereditary cancer services in BC and predicting how this demand may change in the future. He has created a computerized simulation model of the BC population, based on information about demography, cancer epidemiology and etiology, genetics, genetic technology, and human behaviour. The results from this model will help the BC Cancer Agency plan its services and assess the health benefits and costs of its Hereditary Cancer Program.
In spite of prevention programs that target risky sexual behaviours in youth, many BC teens continue to experience serious health and social problems related to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unplanned pregnancies. However, there are significant variations in the incidence of teen pregnancy and STDs among rural and remote BC communities. Terrace, for example, has relatively high rates, while 100 Mile House has lower rates than the provincial norm. Dr. Jean Shoveller is studying the factors that contribute to this variation in sexual health outcomes among youth. In addition to personal behaviours among teens, she is investigating how other factors – such as relationships with family and peers, community social norms and the influence of institutions including education, health and religion – may contribute to decisions they make around their sexual health. Through her five-year study of three rural/remote BC communities, Dr. Shoveller hopes to provide significant insight into how communities can help prevent adverse sexual health outcomes among their youth.