CIHR Spring 2019 Results are in!

Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Congratulations to our members who were successful in CIHR's Spring 2019 round of funding!

Dr. Pierre Mattar was successful in obtaining two project grants from the Spring CIHR competition.  The first entitled “Molecular mechanisms controlling photoreceptor genome organization and neurodegeneration” was awarded $692,326.  This study will unveil how the cells in the eye organize their DNA, a process which is vital for the cell’s function and survival. Dr. Mattar has previously discovered proteins which are essential to this process and he will now explore how their expression changes in models of neurodegeneration.  The second grant entitled “Molecular dissection of temporal competence in neural progenitors” was awarded $692,326.  This project will uncover how neural stem cells are generated during development using the eye as a model.  Results from this study will help to harness the power of stem cells in the future as a possible treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. 


Dr. Subash Sad with co-investigators Dr. Alexandre Blais and Dr. Alain Stintzi were awarded $768,286 for their project entitled “FoxO3a acts as a key checkpoint that regulates inflammation in the gut”.   They are investigating how certain genes are involved in the onset and progression of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory condition of the gut.  To date they have discovered that mutating two genes will result in an aggressive Crohn’s disease model.  There work will unlock new avenues to treat this debilitating disease.  


Dr. David Picketts was successful in funding his project “Determining the mechanisms underlying disease pathology and the genetic reversibility of the ATR-X syndrome” with $765,000 from CIHR.  He is investigating a gene that, when mutated, causes a severe form for intellectual disability.  Discovery how this gene is involved in brain development, learning and memory will help to increase the understanding of neurodevelopmental diseases.  Dr. Picketts’ project will also explore using a gene therapy approach to reverse this condition.


Dr. Katalin Toth with co-investigator Dr. Richard Naud were awarded $1,059,526 for their project “Signal integration and action potential coding in hippocampal microcircuits”. Animals use spatial behaviours for survival, to find food, to find where home is and to stay safe in new environments.   Spatial navigation is dependent upon the formation, storage and retrieval of spatial memories. Dr. Toth’s project will focus on understanding how the brain codes this information by investigating how neurons in the brain interact and talk during navigational tasks.  They will also elucidate how this information is distributed to the rest of the brain for processing.


Dr.  Stephen Ferguson was successful in funding his project entitled “Investigation of sex differences in preclinical models of Alzheimer's disease treatment” with $956,250 from the spring CIHR project grant competition.  Dr. Ferguson is expanding on his findings that receptors in the brain involved in Alzheimer’s disease progression behave differently depending on if you are male or female.  These findings will have immense impact on the way that Alzheimer’s disease is treated as well as opening new avenues for treatment.


Dr. Shawn Hayley received $577,576 for his project “Microglia-neuron inflammatory interactions in Parkinson's disease: Targeting LRRK2 and WAVE2”.  Microglia within the brain act as specialized immune cells. However, these cells appear to be altered in Parkinson's disease, becoming hyperactive, possibly due to environmental challenges, such as pesticides or infectious agents. Once activated these cells may then damage cells in the brain leading to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  Dr. Haley’s project will uncover how these cells become activated and damage the surrounding tissue, leading not only to the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease but also co-morbid symptoms such as depression.


Dr. Jing Wang was awarded $780,300 to optimize cell-based therapies for stroke recovery with his co-investigator Dr. Marjorie Brand. Together they will create an optimal stem cell transplantation approach by targeting the regeneration of both neurons and blood vessels. This will not only allow for the blood flow to better be restored to the brain, but it will also enhance the generation of mature neurons to support stroke recovery. The hope is that grafted cells will incorporate into both damaged and undamaged brain tissue and improve behavioral recovery following stroke.

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