University of Saskatchewan

September 21, 2014   


March 08, 1999

Oct. 29, 1998

Of the 23 awards, 20 went to U of S scientists. HSURC, the province's health research granting agency, awarded a total of close to $1.4 million in funding to the 23 projects.

HSURC grants provide start-up funding for beginning scientists and new faculty, help provide salary support for research fellowships, and stimulate more health-related social science research in the province.

Biomedical Establishment Research Grants

* The following summaries were provided to HSURC by award recipients.

Professor Angela Busch, School of Physical Therapy, College of Medicine, U of S (Co-investigators: Dr. C. Schachter, Prof. A. McQuarrie, Dr. S. Sheppard, Mr. P. Kimber, Mr. R. Bourassa, Dr. P. Peloso)

Fibromyalgia physical therapy and fitness study

Fibromyalgia, a syndrome of chronic pain and tenderness, affects 3.5% of the population. Although physical therapy is provided to many people with fibromyalgia, its effectiveness for this condition has not been studied. In a clinical trial involving 156 individuals with fibromyalgia, Professor Busch and her colleagues will compare the effects of 12 weeks of physical therapy to the effects of fitness training and to having no treatment. The researchers will examine changes in tenderness, pain, fatigue, fitness, and function.

Dr. Philip Chilibeck, College of Kinesiology, U. of S.

Prevention of post-menopausal osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which people's bone mineral is decreased, leaving them susceptible to skeletal fractures. Its incidence is increasing in Saskatchewan and the physical and financial costs of osteoporotic-related fractures are rising. This makes prevention strategies extremely important. Dr. Chilibeck's goal is to develop an optimal strategy for preventing osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. He will combine exercise and drug treatment (bisphosphonate), both of which prevent bone loss, albeit through different mechanisms.

Dr. John DeCoteau, Dept. of Pathology, College of Medicine, U. of S. (Co-investigator: Dr. A. Magliocco)

DNA mismatch repair in human acute leukemia

Acute leukemias are cancers of the blood-forming cells that develop when genetic changes occur in genes that regulate cell growth. Abnormal DNA mismatch repair is one mechanism by which cancers develop genetic changes. Drs. DeCoteau and Magliocco will investigate whether acute leukemias that result from abnormal DNA mismatch repair are associated with genetic changes that could predict a more favorable prognosis. Understanding this process will allow for the improved diagnosis and treatment of patients with acute leukemias.

Dr. Susan Kaminskyj, Dept. of Biology, College of Arts and Science, U. of S.

Genetic control of cell growth and survival in the fungus, Aspergillus

Al organisms control their growth, which is managed cell-by-cell. Some cells in multicellular organisms are alive but not growing, while others are actively stimulated to grow or, surprisingly, to die. Higher organisms share many similar genes, so fungi (molds and yeast) are used as model systems to study growth regulation. Dr. Kaminskyj will use mutants of the bread mold fungus, Aspergillus--which have cell-specific growth, stasis, and death--to identify novel features of programmed cell death.

Dr. Rajala VS. Raju, Dept. of Pathology, College of Medicine, U. of S. and Saskatoon Cancer Centre

Myristoylation: a molecular target for colon cancer

Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in North America. Its treatment remains difficult because effective chemotherapeutic agents are lacking. Modifying proteins using myristoylation has been proposed as a target for designing drugs that inhibit the development and progression of cancer. Using cell models, Dr. Raju will investigate whether the elevation of N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) is a cause or consequence of tumor development. Understanding this may pave the way for developing effective gene-or chemotherapy for colon cancer.

Dr. Maruf Saddik, Dept. of Pathology, College of Medicine, U. of S.

Role of heart metabolism in functional recovery of ischemic hearts

Reperfusion, the process of re-establishing blood flow to the heart after an attack, occasionally causes further injury to the ischemic heart muscle. Such injury is partly related to the type of fuel used for heart metabolism during the process. For instance, high levels of fatty acids can aggravate injury. Dr. Saddik will investigate the detrimental effect of fatty acids, and test agents that can modify fuel use by the heart. His goal is to clarify the role of heart metabolism in limiting reperfusion injury and to identify potential agents for minimizing this injury.

Dr. Malvinder Singh, Dept. of Chemistry, College of Arts and Science, U. of S.

Novel approaches to DNA-targeted drug development

Recent developments in genetic research suggest DNA in various forms should be the most logical biological target for developing new chemical agents as model gene-specific drugs in the treatment and understanding of diseases arising from "bad" genes. By elucidating the basic principles governing the recognition of chemically altered forms of DNA by designed drugs, Dr. Singh's research uses a versatile design-synthesis approach toward generating a library of highly selective gene-targeted drugs.

Socio-Health Research Grants

Socio-Health Research Operating Grants

Dr. Shawna Berenbaum, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, U. of S. (Co-investigator: Ms E. Misskey)

Food security issues in the preschool population

In 1989, 64,560 children in Saskatchewan were growing up in poverty. Poverty often means that children do not have access to enough food to lead an active and healthy life. Dr. Berenbaum and Ms Misskey will explore access-to-food issues in preschool children identified as being at nutritional risk in Regina. Results will provide directions for planners, caregivers, and others in addressing this vital issue.

Dr. Roland Dyck, Dept. of Medicine, College of Medicine, U. of S. (Co-investigator: Dr. L. Tan)

Low birth weight and diabetic end-stage renal disease among Saskatchewan Aboriginal people

Diabetic Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan are seven times more likely than other diabetics to develop renal failure. This, combined with a burgeoning population experiencing an epidemic of Type II diabetes, will overwhelm available resources unless effective preventive measures are established. In this study, Drs. Dyck and Tan are trying to determine if intra-uterine factors leading to low birthweight contribute to later kidney failure. If so, optimizing prenatal maternal health could play an important role in preventing this devastating problem.

Dr. Muriel Montbriand, Applied Research Unit, College of Medicine, U. of S

Seniors' beliefs about illness study

Knowledge about medical diagnosis, prescriptions, and health-care-products can help seniors stay healthy and independent. However, recent research shows seniors are sometimes unsure about the meaning of their diagnoses and how their prescriptions or additional health-care products work. With this study, Dr. Montbriand seeks to improve understanding of seniors' beliefs about illness. Findings will be of value in developing new programs and improving existing programs to get more useful information to seniors about their illness.

Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, Dept. of Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine, U of S. (Co-investigator: Dr. C. D'Arcy)

Children's use of health care services

Experiences during childhood may have long-term consequences for health. In this study, Drs. Muhajarine and D'Arcy will examine one such experience, namely children's use of health care services. They will document the quantity and types of services used, and explore how patterns of use differ across social groups. This information will help determine how well health care services in Saskatchewan are meeting the needs of all children, and whether services are being used by families in the best possible way.

Research Fellowships

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships Renewal

Dr. Praveen Kumar, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. A. Nazarali)

Isolation of downstream target gene(s) of Hoxd-1 homeobox protein

Mutations in homeobox genes cause developmental abnormalities and various cancers. Our research goal is to identify and clone the downstream target gene(s) of Hoxd-1, in order to understand the mode of action of this homeobox gene. Drs. Kumar and Nazarali have already isolated optimal DNA binding sites sequences. They are now in the process of isolating and cloning the target gene(s) of Hoxd-1 gene.

Dr. Gordon Sarty, Depts. of Obstetric & Gynecology and Medical Imaging, College of Medicine, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. R. Pierson)

Detecting ovarian cancer via MRI

Using the new technique of diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Drs. Sarty and Pierson are developing an new approach to determining whether certain ovarian tumors found in ultrasonographic exams are cancerous or benign. Because most ovarian tumors are benign, the successful completion of the project will save the ovaries of many women from needless surgical removal and preserve their ability to have children.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships – New

Dr. Sanjukta Aich, Dept. of Biochmistry, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. L. Delbaere)

Structure and function studies of ß-glucuronidase

Dr. Aich, with Dr. Delbaere, aims to determine the crystal structure of Escherichia coli ß-glucuronidase. This substance is a good candidate for a recent approach to targeted cancer chemotherapy known as ADEPT – antibody directed enzyme prodrug therapy. The goal of ADEPT is to diminish the non-specific toxicity associated with most commonly used chemotherapeutic agents.

Dr. Jacqueline Braun, Dept. of Medicine (Neurology), College of Medicine, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. A. Kirk)

Differentiating subtypes of unilateral neglect

Although many patients suffering unilateral neglect have normal visual and motor skills, they do not report or respond to stimuli occurring in the side of the brain opposite to their lesion. Traditional rehabilitation treatments have been largely unsuccessful, but treatments based on the underlying causes may hold more promise. Dr. Braun, with Dr. Kirk, will investigate the neural mechanisms underlying unilateral neglect, in an attempt to determine how these mechanisms interact to produce various subtypes of the disorder.

Dr. Xiu Di Fan, Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. J. DeCoteau)

Genomic instability in hematological malignancy

A deficiency in DNA mismatch repair (MMR) gene function plays a key role in the genomic instability seen in many cancers. Previous research has shown that MMR gene deficiencies known as hMLH1 and hMSH2 are involved in certain solid cancers (tumours), including colon and gastric cancers. Drs. Fan and DeCoteau will study whether these mechanisms are also involved in hematological malignancies, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL) and leukemia. They hope to provide new insights into how these cancers form, leading potentially to improved diagnosis.

Dr. Rakesh Kakkar, Dept. of Pathology, College of Medicine, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. R. Sharma)

The role of a new high molecular weight calmodulin binding protein in cardiac ischemia

Researchers in Dr. Sharma's laboratory discovered a high molecular weight calmodulin-binding protein from cardiac muscle. This protein acts as an inhibitor of calpains, which are implicated in myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury and contractile dysfunction. Dr. Kakkar is studying the regulation, molecular cloning, functional motifs of the newly discovered protein and its role in cardiac ischemia/reperfusion. Such understanding is important in reducing ischemic/reperfusion injury, a major cause of morbidity and mortality.

Dr. Pingtao Tang, Dept. of Anatomy and Cell Biology, College of Medicine, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. P. Krone)

Expression and function of heat shock protein 90a during skeletal muscle differentiation

Researchers in Dr. Krone's laboratory made the surprising discovery that heat shock protein hsp90a, normally expressed in cells under conditions of environmental stress, is actually expressed as a part of the normal process of vertebrate embryonic muscle cell formation. Dr. Tang will continue this work to: i) elucidate the mechanisms that regulate expression of hsp90a in developing muscle cells and ii) examine the role of hsp90a in this process. This will also enhance understanding of the closely related process of muscle regeneration.

Dr. Jude Uzonna, Dept. of Microbiology, College of Medicine, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. P. Bretscher)

Test of an hypothesis for the inactivation/primary activation of CD4+ T Cells

The immune system of normal individuals does not attack the self. Under certain conditions this self tolerance is lost, resulting in devastating autoimmune diseases. The mechanisms that initiate autoimmunity are still poorly defined. Activation of T cells is central to the initiation of immune responses including autoimmunity. Drs. Uzonna and Bretscher have put forward an hypothesis for the primary activation of T cells that , if proven, will have vast implications in designing appropriate immunotherapies against tumors and autoimmune diseases.

Dr. I. Johnny Xavier, Dept. of Anatomy and Cell Biology, College of Medicine, U. of S. (Supervisor: Dr. N. Ovsenek)

Functional role of HSP90 in the regulation of HSF1

Expression of stress proteins under the control of a transcription factor termed heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) is associated with several disease conditions including tissue trauma and cancer. In this study, Dr. Xavier, with Dr. Ovsenek, will test the hypothesis that Hsp90 is the key chaperone affecting changes in HSF1 activities during stress. The findings from this research may eventually lead to developing new approaches (drugs, therapies) to target HSF1 and modify hsp expression in diseased tissues before or after surgery.

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