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Addressing the dual public health crises of COVID-19 and overdose

A team led by Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite, Senior Scientist with the BC Centre for Disease Control and an adjunct professor in the School of Population and Public Health, were awarded $75,000 from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and $777,439 from CIHR as part of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Research Funding Opportunity. The researchers will assess the impact of the new risk-mitigation guidance that permits prescribing of pharmaceutical alternatives to the toxic drug supply.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Extracellular Vesicle Associated Glycans as a Novel Platform for Breast Cancer Detection

Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women in Canada. Breast cancer cells shed tiny pieces of themselves into the blood stream called extracellular vesicles. These tiny pieces, or cell fragments, are different from those of a healthy breast cell and we think they could be used to detect a breast cancer at its earliest stage. Importantly, we can isolate and study these fragments from the blood of healthy females and breast cancer patients. We think that by looking at the sugars and proteins they contain we will find markers that could help in the detection of breast cancer.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Ventilation Heterogeneity in Asthma, COPD and Asthma-COPD Overlap: Oscillometry and Pulmonary MRI

Airways disease is a hallmark finding in both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although tobacco cigarette smoking is the largest known cause of COPD, recent studies have revealed that 10% of patients with life-long asthma may develop COPD later in life without ever smoking. The mechanisms underlying asthma transition to COPD are unknown.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Vitamin C-induced epigenomic remodeling as a preventive therapy for leukemic transformation

Despite the overall improved diagnostics, standard of care and therapeutic options, most acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients suffer from severe therapy-related side effects and still only 28% of them reach 5-year overall survival. The hypothesis that drives my project is that mutations which affect DNA-modifying enzymes disrupt a methylation-based control mechanism that regulates gene expression in a way that halts the normal cellular differentiation process.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Resisting Vascular Cognitive Impairment: The Effects of Resistance Training on Myelin and Blood-based Biomarkers of Neuroplasticity in Older Adults

We are studying if strength training exercises can reduce myelin loss and preserve cognitive abilities in adults with cognitive impairment due to vascular risk factors (e.g., high blood pressure), also known as vascular cognitive impairment (VCI).

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Promoting mental health in immigrant, refugee, and non-immigrant children: A British Columbia intergenerational population cohort study

Mental health problems are estimated to be the most common disabling condition among adolescents worldwide, with children growing up in socially disadvantaged homes having up to three times the risk of mental health problems compared to children without such disadvantage. Studies show a high degree of intergenerational stability in these patterns, with social stressors putting particular subgroups of children at higher risk from the earliest stages of development.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Development of Novel Alpha-amanitin Analogs for Targeted Cancer Chemotherapy

New toxins for incorporation into treatments known as antibody-drug conjugates are urgently needed to ensure therapeutic action. These antibody-drug conjugates consist of an antibody, designed to target a specific group of cells, attached to an active drug that elicits a desired cell response. While most emergent payloads for clinical application target tubulin, making them redundant, the death cap mushroom contains a toxic peptide called alpha-amanitin with unique biological activity.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Modulating microRNA-193a expression levels as a treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has a dismal prognosis in Canada with only every 5th patient surviving 5 years. To find novel treatment options, we explore the therapeutic potential of the tumor suppressor microRNA (miR)-193a in AML patients together with InteRNA, a company that developed a novel drug based on the liposomal encapsulation of miR-193a (1B3), which showed very promising preclinical results in solid tumors and provided the rational for a phase I trial starting in spring 2020.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Engineering the design of regulatory T cell therapy in transplantation

Transplantation is a cure for end stage organ failure, but a successful transplant requires a life-long use of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent organ rejection. The resulting lower immunity leaves patients in a complex medical condition because increases the risk for infections and cancer.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Evolving Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms in Children Born Very Preterm: Brain, Stress Regulation and Parenting

Anxiety and depressive symptoms are the most common mental health problem in children born very preterm (24 – 32 weeks gestation).  Our previous work found pain-related stress of frequent daily procedures during hospitalization across a period of rapid brain development and programming of stress hormone (cortisol) expression to be associated with later anxiety/depressive symptoms. Longitudinal studies examining how this vulnerability develops across early childhood in this population are scant.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Viral Determinants of Natural Human Cytomegalovirus Transmission

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus that is present in 50-90% of adults globally, depending on the region. When a woman either becomes infected for the first time or reinfected during pregnancy, she may pass the infection to her fetus, which often causes hearing loss and intellectual disability in the child. CMV is the most common congenital infection worldwide. Women usually become (re)infected with CMV from virus shed by young children but a better understanding of how children transmit CMV to mothers is critical for designing strategies to prevent congenital CMV. 

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Bone Marrow Lesions in Osteoarthritis and Their Relation to Cartilage Contact and Stresses

One in eight Canadians suffers from osteoarthritis (OA), a debilitating joint disease that frequently includes bone bruises, known as BMLs. The question we want to answer is, do BMLs result from changes in muscle strength and coordination, or poor condition of ligaments (connecting tissues) or cartilage (smooth joint lining) that cause the cartilage loading to increase? This study investigates whether BMLs might be a result of the loading environment of the knee. Though the exact cause of these bruises is not known, they have been linked to increased pain and worsening of OA.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Using electronic medical record data and patient reported outcome measures to improve the early identification and management of knee osteoarthritis in Canadian primary care

Osteoarthritis is a painful joint disease and leading cause of disability that affects over 6 million Canadians. The knee is one of the most commonly affected joints. Knee osteoarthritis (KOA) starts with mild joint pain and stiffness that worsens to extreme pain, often requiring surgery if left untreated.  Being able to identify people with KOA in primary care at an early stage of disease would help promote less invasive treatments. Yet, primary care clinicians report many barriers to identifying and treating KOA.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Unraveling client selectivity and pattern recognition of J-Protein chaperones involved in preventing intracellular aggregation of polyglutamine peptides

Many neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by the accumulation of proteins forming toxic aggregates inside neurons. Certain proteins contain regions with repeated amino acids that can favor the aggregation process. In the cell, the molecular chaperone system maintains a fully operational protein environment by helping proteins reach and retain their final structure, prerequisite for their functionality.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Inheritors of the Future: Community-Driven Voices of Youth Contemplating Health and Wellbeing in Indigenous and Northern Geographies of British Columbia

Youth will inherit the decisions that are made today. Yet, youth in rural and remote northern and Indigenous communities are not often engaged when decisions that will impact their futures are made. Youth, however, are knowledgeable members of communities whose health is intimately connected with community wellbeing; they also have distinct experiences with social, cultural, economic, and ecological determinants that impact health.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Evolutionary mismatch: a cause of cardiovascular disease in industrialized societies?

In the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin presented that species evolved to best suit their environments. Endurance exercise was central to the extensive hunting and gathering of early human ancestors. To support prolonged exercise in the heat, the cardiovascular system must work hard to keep the body cool and to provide blood to exercising muscles and the brain. Thus, having a cardiovascular system that supports endurance activity in the heat would have been beneficial to early humans.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

Modifying brain activity on an individual basis to improve recovery after stroke

Impaired arm and hand function after stroke (~85% of stroke survivors in Canada) is linked to altered brain activity and overactive brain areas. Practicing a task drives changes in brain areas important for function. Changes in these brain areas lead to recovery. But, overactive brain areas impede recovery. We can temporarily turn down overactive areas with brain stimulation to aid recovery. By targeting general brain areas important for movement, this non-invasive, painless approach shows promise. Yet, its response is varied.

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2020

Severity and Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms in Women Living with HIV

Globally, persons living with HIV are aging, with women constituting over half of this group. Increasingly, women living with HIV (WLWH) are entering menopause, a crucial transition with impacts on overall health and well-being. Regrettably, there is limited research focused on how WLWH experience menopause, leading to a major gap in their quality of care. Preliminary studies suggest that WLWH may experience menopause with heightened symptoms. However, uncovering the true extent of this important relationship awaits detailed clinical analysis.

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2020

Characterization of Pathogenic Chromatin States in Synovial Sarcoma

Synovial sarcoma (SS) is the most common soft-tissue cancer among young adults. It is an aggressive tumor type in great need of new treatment options. SS tumors are defined by a specific genetic change that causes two separate genes to fuse into one. This new fusion-gene produces the SS18-SSX protein which is thought to remodel the cells epigenome, resulting in the activation and inactivation of a large number of genes. As SS18-SSX cannot be inhibited by any known drugs, we aim to identify the genes and regulatory elements that are directly affected by the protein.

Primary Investigator: 
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Year: 
2020

Redevelopment and Optimization of an Adeno-Associated Virus Gene Therapy Product for the Treatment of Lipoprotein Lipase Deficiency

Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) is an enzyme that breaks down fats, specifically triglycerides, in the blood. An individual with LPL deficiency, which is cause by a defective gene, will therefore begin developing high triglyceride levels as a child. In time, they will develop life-threatening pancreatitis, a predisposition to heart disease, and ultimately, an increased risk of mortality. Previously, we developed a gene therapy for LPL deficiency that was shown to be safe and effective in clinical trials.

Primary Investigator: 
Award Type: 
Year: 
2020

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