Biomedical

Plant based anticancer drugs - from discovery to final products

Plants are endowed with biological catalysts (enzymes) that make natural drugs used to treat various human illnesses. Among these, the Chinese happy tree (Camptotheca acuminata) produces the anticancer drug camptothecin. Although camptothecin is readily convertible to the more potent drugs topotecan (Hycamtin) and irinotecan (Camptosar), this requires chemical synthesis steps which rely on toxic chemicals and petroleum-based resources.

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2020

Dissecting the Flow-induced Symmetry-Breaking of Animal Cell Division

Morphogenesis is the process by which an organism develops its shape. Defects in this process are linked to several diseases and defects such as cancers, heart defects at birth, and cleft lip/palate. The study of morphogenesis is critical to understanding these conditions and identifying new treatments.  

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2020

Understanding and disrupting fear memory in the brain

Fear memory, like that occurring in post-traumatic stress disorder, imposes pronounced health and financial burdens. Our laboratory seeks to understand and therapeutically disrupt the neurobiological elements of fear memory. 

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2020

Computational Methods for Monitoring The Evolution of Tumours

Cancer is a disease of the genome that disrupt the cells’ key functions and make them grow uncontrollably. DNA sequencing projects have led us to discover that cancer cells involve many genetic changes and that even in a single tumour, there are often multiple cancer cell populations that each carry their own mutations.

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2020

The use of human stem cells to understand mechanisms and develop treatments for neurological disorders

Brain disorders are among the most significant health problems of modern day with enormous medical, social and economic burdens in British Columbia, Canada and globally. There is a substantial gap between the burden of brain disorders and the resources available to treat them. Neurodevelopmental disorders are particularly devastating, placing a heavy emotional and economic burden on children and their families. A major challenge in tackling these disorders is the inability to obtain and study brain cells directly.

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2020

Molecular Tools for Monitoring and Controlling the Mechanobiology of Diseases

Cells in our body are constantly engaged in physical interactions. They stick together, squeeze through each other, and each possesses a primitive sense of touch. These physical interactions are crucial in processes that control how we grew from a single cell into a complex organism and how they function. In diseases from cancer to neurodegeneration to chronic inflammation, these mechanical regulatory mechanisms are interrupted or impaired, causing cells to lose control and wreak havoc in our body.

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2020

Building bespoke artificial cells and tissues on a chip for drug discovery

Human cells are fascinating and complex: they reproduce, break down food to create energy and communicate with each other. The ‘skin’ of the cell, the cell membrane, plays a crucial role in choreographing interactions between a cell and the outside environment, for example by allowing or prohibiting the access of drugs from the cell exterior to the cell interior.

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2020

Real time phylodynamic monitoring of COVID-19

Each time SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from one host to the next, a small random number of point mutations are acquired. These mutations can be used to infer the branching structure of the evolving viruses, which is called a viral phylogenetic tree. Phylogenetic trees inferred from viral sequence data can provide much insight into the dynamics of an epidemic, this is the focus of an area of research called phylodynamics.

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2020

Predictors of immunotherapy benefit in patients with microsatellite stable metastatic colorectal cancer

Introduction: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cancer. Once metastatic, patients are generally incurable and receive treatment to prolong survival. Immunotherapies use a patient's immune system to attack their cancer. These treatments are effective in CRC patients with microsatellite instability (MSI). Unfortunately, 95% of patients lack MSI and are called microsatellite stable (MSS). This group usually doesn't respond to immunotherapy and we need to explore why.

Specific Aims:  

We aim to identify:

Primary Investigator: 
Year: 
2019

New strategies for unclogging microcirculatory obstructions in the healthy and diabetic brain

Recent work from our laboratory has shown that the brain capillaries routinely get 'stuck,' clogged by cells and debris even under healthy conditions. Most of these clogged capillaries clear within seconds to minutes, however, some can remain stuck for much longer. We also reported that about one third of these clogged capillaries were eliminated from the blood vessel network and never get replaced. Importantly, there are certain conditions which can increase the risk of clogged blood vessels in the brain such as diabetes.

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2019

Structural basis of novel strategies for the inhibition of AmpC-mediated beta-lactam antibiotic resistance in the opportunistic, nosocomial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen often responsible for hospital-acquired infections, which can be very difficult to treat due to antibiotic resistance. A common mechanism of resistance is the expression of beta-lactamase enzymes, which break down and disarm classical beta-lactam antibiotics, such as penicillins. Beta-lactam antibiotics act by breaking down the bacterial cell wall, producing cell wall fragments that induce expression of the beta-lactamase, AmpC.

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2019

Investigating components of a Campylobacter jejuni iron uptake system to inform antimicrobial strategies.

Campylobacteriosis is an infectious diarrheal disease and one of the largest contributors to hospitalizations and deaths from food poisoning in Canada and worldwide. It is usually caused by consumption of food or water contaminated by the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni, resulting in watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, and serious post-infectious illnesses. This illness is especially dangerous for very young or old people, made worse by lack of a vaccine and increasing frequency of infections that are resistant to treatment by current antibiotics. A recent WHO report identified C.

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2019

Engineering stem cells to improve adaptive immune function

Thousands of Canadians receive bone marrow transplants each year to treat cancer and immune disease. Unfortunately, not only is this treatment dangerous, it is only effective for a small subset of cancers and immune disorders. Our goal is to provide a safer alternative to marrow transplantation that can be applied to a broad set of indications.

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2019

Generation of fully mature, functional islet-like organoids from human pluripotent stem cells in vitro

Insulin is a hormone that is crucial for maintaining normal blood sugar levels and is produced by beta-cells in the pancreas. If the amount of beta-cells is insufficient, or beta-cells stop making insulin, blood sugar levels start to rise which can lead to diabetes. Islet transplantation can supply the necessary amount of beta-cells and achieve superior glucose control over exogenous insulin injection, but is extremely limited by its reliance on organ donations. As a result, only a small fraction of people afflicted with diabetes currently benefit from these cell replacement therapies.

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2019

Uncovering how specific "STAC" proteins regulate muscle contraction

Skeletal and heart muscle contraction requires calcium ions. Calcium ions enter muscle cells through 'calcium channels', which are effectively gates comprised of protein. The exact timing of the opening and closing of these gates is critical for normal muscle function, whether in maintaining a regular heartbeat or in enabling physical movement of the body as a whole. Any deviation in these calcium channels can cause calcium excess, which may result in disease. These include inherited cardiac arrhythmias or muscular disorders (e.g. Native American myopathy).

Award Type: 
Year: 
2019

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