Cutting Edge 2015: Development of Personalized Treatments for Chronic Pain – Luda Diatchenko

@ Health

Approximately 20 per cent of Canadians suffer from chronic pain, making it not only the number one reason that people seek health care, but also the number one concern of patients with long-term illnesses.  Chronic pain drains more than $10-billion annually in lost productivity and health-care services from the Canadian economy, which is more than the cost of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Moreover, there is a personal toll associated with chronic pain that cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Patients living with this condition face challenges such as social isolation, increased risk of suicide, and greater mortality rates. Chronic pain conditions are very difficult to treat and our existing treatment approaches are largely inefficient.  One of the reasons of inefficiency of current treatment approaches is heterogeneous nature of chronic pain, as people develop pain for multitude of diverse reasons and each individual has many ways to deal with a disease.  My primary objective is to better understand the genetic mechanisms at the roots of chronic pain as a basis for developing new pain-relief drugs and personalized pain therapy strategies. To accomplish this goal, my colleagues and I study chronic pain mechanisms and risk factors through genetic analysis of well-characterized populations of pain patients, through the mapping out the molecular mechanisms that mediate the biological, psychological, and genetic factors that contribute to the onset and persistence of chronic pain.

Guest: Luda Diatchenko (Professor, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics, Dept. Genetics, McGill University)

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February 25, 2015 at 4:07 pm


Biological Invasions – The Ecological and Societal Impacts of Non-native Species

@ Environment

Dr. Anthony Ricciardi talks about “biological invasions” and how they can cause extinctions, disrupt ecosystems, alter natural resources, threaten human health, and even pose national security problems. He further discusses how ecologists are planning “assisted colonization” for species to rescue species threatened by climate change.

 

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October 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm


Witnessing the Formation and Evolution of Galaxies

@ Science & Technology

We live in a Universe of remarkable structure. From super-clusters of galaxies, tens of millions of light years across, to grand-design spiral galaxies and  small rocky planets like Earth,  structure exists on all scales.   It wasn’t always this way: through the extraordinary advancements of observational cosmology of the last several decades,   we now know the Universe was homogeneous at its beginning.   While the physics which links the young and smooth Universe to its underlying Dark Matter skeleton is well-established, perhaps paradoxically we know very little about how the objects composed of regular matter – the stuff you and I are made of – assembled.   In a general sense, cosmological structure grows hierarchically; small systems collapse first then merge to form progressively more massive objects. But this is a violent and energetic process, triggering bursts of star formation, feeding matter onto super-massive black holes,  stripping galaxies of their interstellar medium, and fundamentally shaping the complex structure we see around us today.

Dr. Webb’s research centers on the growth of structure in the universe, and galaxies in particular. Her approach is to use data at many different wavelengths of light; each wavelength probes a different physical process and tells us something unique about galaxy formation. Because a lot of the physics in galaxies happens behind thick veils of dust, she focusses much of her research on submillimeter (~400-1200µm) and mid/far-infrared (~3-400µm) observations, which directly detect the dust and provide clues to what’s happening behind it. She primarily studies galaxies in the very distant and young universe (i.e., high-redshift); because of the finite speed of light we are seeing these systems as they existed 5-12 billion years ago and can literally watch them form! However, she is also beginning programs to study near-by galaxies since these systems can be studied in much more detail and will provide insight into the processes which formed the galaxies of today.

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April 24, 2013 at 11:15 am


Christie Rowe: In Search of the Source of Earthquakes

@ Science & Technology

Speaker: Christie Rowe (Assistant Professor, Dept. Earth and Planetary Sciences, McGill University)

Earthquakes happen every day all over the world.  Most are concentrated along the boundaries of tectonic plates, but occasionally, earthquakes happen where we don’t expect them.  How do these events start? What controls the location of earthquakes?  And what happens to all the energy that is released? Thousands or millions of years of erosion can reveal the deeper crustal rocks, which were the source of ancient earthquakes. Seeking out surface exposures of these ancient faults can give some insight into the physical and chemical controls on earthquakes.  Professor Rowe will present stories from her field work across North America, Africa, and the deep ocean offshore Japan in search of answers to these questions.  She will show the discoveries made during her April-May 2012 ocean drilling expedition to study the deep ocean fault which produced the great Tohoku 3/11/11 earthquake, and compare this fault to ancient faults in Alaska and Namibia which produced great earthquakes millions of years ago.  Finally, she will argue that earthquakes are a key process in forming ore deposits and show examples from Québec and around the world.  Here are some links to Scientific American Blog postings written by Dr. Rowe about D/V Chikyu this spring off the coast of Japan and about Earthquake prediction.

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September 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm


Tim Geary: Medicines for Neglected Tropical Diseases: Reversing the Equation

@ Science & Technology

More than a billion people, mostly in developing nations, still serve as hosts to roundworms. They are a source of diseases that often kill – yet medicines for these diseases have generally been adopted from veterinary use and have not been optimized for humans. This lecture provides an introduction to parasitic diseases of poverty and describes a novel drug discovery process – involving scientists living in the most affected areas – that has been implemented in South Africa and Botswana. The integration of multiple levels of development is a significant challenge – but one with great rewards.

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July 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm


André Costopoulos: A diversity / tolerance model of cultural evolution

@ Science & Technology

Professor Costopoulos argues that while humans are probably selected to have a limited ability to make good decisions. Under the ‘diversity-tolerance’ model of cultural evolution, humans are smart enough to come up with a range of potential solutions to the problems we face but not very good at determining which solution is the best.

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March 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm


Alan Evans: Non-invasive mapping of the human brain

@ Science & Technology

As a specialist in three-dimensional modeling of the living brain, Alan Evans works to understand neurological pathologies inside-out: the natural history of a disease,” He asks: “What parts of the brain exhibit abnormal changes in cortical thickness, for example, over the duration of Alzheimer’s disease? How does that brain map relate to behaviours, such as a decline in language skills?

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March 30, 2012 at 3:04 pm


Elena Bennett: Feeding the world without destroying the planet

@ Science & Technology

By Elena Bennett (Natural Resource Sciences and McGill School of Environment, McGill)

Agricultural landscapes can provide many different ecosystem services, including food, high quality freshwater, opportunities for recreation, and flood control. Yet we often focus narrowly on the production of food, which can unintentionally undermine provision of other key services.  The idea of managing for ecosystem services compels us to consider more than one service and obliges us to consider the interactions and relationships among ecosystem services on the landscape. Yet we don’t know very much about these interactions. Thus, a key goal for science in the coming decade is to improve our understanding of how multiple services are provided across agricultural landscapes. What affects the relative proportions of services? Can trade-offs be reduced or synergies strengthened? We are working with local communities in the Vallée-du-Richelieu MRC (Municipalité Régionale de Comté), a 750 km2 regional governance body involving 13 towns southeast of Montréal to build models that they can use to objectively quantify the effect of today’s resource and land management decisions on the current and future provision of multiple ecosystem services.

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December 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm


Colin Chapman: Primate conservation: Is the cup half empty or half full?

@ Science & Technology

Of the nearly 600 species and subspecies of primates living today, approximately half are in danger of going extinct.  In fact, one subspecies in West Africa, Miss Waldron’s red colobus, is likely extinct.  Furthermore, the number of recognized threats to primate survival has increased dramatically over the last decade.  A decade ago, disease was not considered a factor that could threaten primate populations with extinction, while today there are a number of cases of dramatic primate population declines caused by disease and it is considered a vital factor in conservation planning.  Similarly, in the last decade climate change has gone from something largely ignored by many countries to a phenomenon of grave concern.  This lecture will discuss the current threats to primate populations, consider how perceptions of these threats have changed, and consider if the situation is hopelessly grave (the cup half empty) or if there are reasons for optimism (the cup half full).

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November 11, 2011 at 11:35 am


Elizabeth Jones: Blood Flow and Cardiovascular Development

@ Science & Technology

Every tissue in the body requires blood flow to bring nutrients to the tissue. For this reason, there is significant therapeutic advantage to controlling when and where new blood vessels develop. If we could induce new blood vessels, we could improve wound healing. In situation likes cancer, inhibiting blood vessels from growing into a tumour could starve the tumour and inhibit its growth. This lecture will explain the process of vascular development, the physical forces created by blood flow in cardiovascular physiology and the role that these forces play in forming a mature network of blood vessels.

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October 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm