The Étienne LeBelClinical Research Centre of Université de Sherbrooke Hospital Centre (CHUS)
Pediatric research in Sherbrooke has got the wind in its sails. Following a major overhaul of its research program, children’s research was identified as one of the six principal themes. Funds given each year for the past 10 years from the Foundation of Stars have played a key role in the recognition of that research theme. In 2010-2011, funds received by the Foundation have enabled the CHUS to offer training scholarships for post-graduate and doctoral students as well attract additional significant grants from government organizations. Thirteen teams were able to benefit from this essential financing for their research activities. Research is moving forward in areas such as:
- Gestational diabetes
- Newborn brain inflammation which leads to cerebral paralysis; and
- Severe respiratory distress in newborn babies
Among this year’s news:
- Dr. Christiane Auray-Blais identified the lyso-Gb3 in urine as a major biomarker in the Fabry illness, a hereditary illness that causes severe pain in sick children.
- Dr. Aziz Aris just established the link between genetically modified organisms (GMO) related pesticides found in the blood of the umbilical cord of 100% of newborns tested in Eastern Townships. This raises the question of potential toxic effects of these products, probably foodborne, on the health of the foetus and children.
The Research Centre of Université du Québec (CRHUQ)
This year, the funds received from the Foundation of Stars helped to support research at CRCHUQ’s as part of their mission to assume excellence in pediatric research, particularly in perinatal and rare diseases as well as for the advancement of young researchers.
Here is a brief look at targeted projects:
- Integrated approach in perinatal: effects of the factors of maternal health on the weight of the newborn and the health of the child. This transdisciplinary project from Dr. Isabelle Marc looks at three major factors of the mother’s health: sleep, physical condition and nutrition.
- Support research on rare diseases: this strategic contribution will help support research in medical genetics on malformation syndromes as well as rare metabolic illnesses. The goal is to accelerate the discovery of genetic anomalies by favouring access to microchip systems in cytogenetic and high-level sequencing.
- Support high calibre, up-and-coming researchers.
The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) at the Montréal Children's Hospital (MCH)
The contribution of major financial partners like the Foundation of Stars is crucial. MCH’s research programs are moving ahead, and its researchers are forging breakthroughs that will make a difference in children’s lives thanks to the generosity of donors and the commitment and drive of fundraisers.
Support from the Foundation of Stars allows the MCH to train the researchers of the future and recruit senior and junior researchers. The Foundation of Stars was also instrumental in supporting six researchers in neonatology, nephrology, medical genetics, general pediatrics and psychiatry during the last years in their laboratory work while awaiting the outcome of external funding applications.
From labs to bedside, collaborative research was the core component of the research programs undertaken this year at the MCH. In fact, from research into cancer and genetic disorders to issues of prenatal health and development or reproductive health and human growth, MCH researchers steer knowledge toward developing treatments and a better understanding of the origin of the human condition.
Here is an overview of the recent achievements and future focus of MCH researchers who benefited from Foundation of Stars’ support.Genetic breakthroughs
- A research team co-led by Dr. Nada Jabado and colleague Dr. Jacek Majewski of McGill University proved that it is possible to identify any genetic disease in record time thanks to a powerful and reliable exome sequencing method. This breakthrough was published in the journal Human Mutation in June 2010 and was identified by “L‘Actualité” in December as one of the inventions that will “change everything.”
Children and the environment
- Dr. Cynthia Goodyer is leading a research team from five Canadian universities and Health Canada that is studying the effects of brominated flame retardants (BFR) on the human development of reproduction systems. Added to consumer products to keep them from catching fire too rapidly, BFRs are found in house dust and food. As a result, we are chronically exposed to them. Dr. Goodyer’s team studies its potential health risk not only to individuals but also to future generations.
Childhood asthma and allergies
- Dr. Feige Kaplan is studying the role that protein deficiency in the lungs plays in chronic pulmonary disease. She recently obtained funding to study a gene that regulates lung development and how it constitutes one of the key elements in evaluating the risk of respiratory disorders in newborns and adults.
- Drs. Bruce Mazer and Christine McCusker are researcing how allergies occur at a cellular level. The ultimate goal of these two researchers is to contribute to the development of pediatric vaccines against peanut allergies and other life-threatening allergies.
- Drs. Michael Shevell, Eric Fombonne and Annette Majnemer are involved with the creation of NeuroDevNet, a National Centre of Excellence, to study the causes of child brain developmental disorders, including cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders.
- Dr. Pia Wintermark is studying the causes and effects of brain injury in acutely ill newborns. Within her research program, she uses modern neuroimaging techniques along with clinical monitoring to try to understand the underlying mechanics and to develop treatments to prevent and repair brain damage.
- Dr. Guilherme Sant’Anna seeks to better understand and optimize the breathing support that some preterm infants require after birth. His research consists of identifying predictors of successful weaning from ventilators in extremely low birth weight infants.
- Dr. Krista Hyde focuses her work on determining whether research into auditory deficiencies can contribute to the detection of early changes in the brains of children with autism spectrum disorders. It is expected that such research will open the way for more effective and earlier treatments.
Sainte-Justine Research Centre
The year 2010-2011 was an excellent one for the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre. Highlights included the arrival of about ten new researchers, a rise in the number of students, an increase in our scientific productivity as well as its impact, and lastly, a growing success rate among the past major financing bids.
This year again, the contribution from the Foundation of Stars helped develop the skills of our young scientists (student and promising researchers), and served as a springboard for them to obtain support from the major funding agencies. This financial help provided grants to post-graduate, doctorate, and post-doctorate students. In February, the Research Centre proceeded to give 25 new grants thanks to the Foundation of Stars. These grants will help graduate students advance knowledge in such fields as leukemia, anxiety, Tourette syndrome, bone marrow and umbilical cord transplants, scoliosis, epilepsy, and the use of medication during pregnancy.
Furthermore, the Foundation of Stars’ contribution provided the start-up funds for five new young and promising researchers, recruited by the Research Centre.
Here are some of the past year’s major achievements:
- Dr. Daniel Sinnett will direct multidisciplinary and inter-university research work on the genomic factors and leukemia in children. This unique initiative will lead to the development of more powerful clinical tools to diagnose and treat leukemia in children.
- Dr. William Fraser initiated the first multi-centric study (birth cohort) to be realized primarily in Québec. The study (Discover, Develop, Become) aims at understanding the impact of perinatal events on child development, specifically in prematurity, assisted procreation techniques, intra-uterine growth restrictions and congenital malformations.
- Co-directed by Drs. Awadalla and Rouleau, CARTaGENE is an infrastructure aimed at the advancement of genetic research, whose objective is to enhance Québecers’ health through better diagnosis, treatments and prevention programs. This year, the 20,000 Québecers participant cap was reached, making this biobank one of the most exhaustive and powerful resources in the world. The data will be made available to researchers around the world. It will help to better understand chronic health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer and above all deploy more prominent initiatives for preventing diseases and promoting health.
Most of our teams have generated major breakthroughs and published articles in prestigious publications, for example:
- Dr. Mark Samuels in “Nature Genetics” on the contribution of three genes in abnormal growth, a finding that will increase the understanding of many disorders.
- Dr. Guy Rouleau in American Journal of Human Genetics on the importance of the novo mutation in genetic predisposition to autism and schizophrenia.
These achievements represent true accomplishments in the health of mothers and children in Québec. Our partnership with the Foundation of Stars is key to the success of our teams at the Research Centre; the pursuit of this commitment is essential in order to establish their leadership in the field of mother and child health.