CAN news

Canadian Researchers Reveal How Certain Chronic Diseases Can Worsen The Effects of Multiple Sclerosis

Ruth Ann Marrie

Ruth Ann Marrie

Multiple Sclerosis is known as a progressive disease in which symptoms worsen over time. But for some 85% of those who suffer, the first stages of the illness come in waves. The individual may feel perfectly well some days while others are marked with worsening or new symptoms.

Officially this condition is known as relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) and it is the focus of a large Canadian conglomerate known as the CIHR Team in Epidemiology and Impact of Comorbidity on Multiple Sclerosis, or ECoMS. As the name implies, the group aims to determine how co-existing chronic diseases – comorbidities – affect those suffering with MS. Last week, representatives of the team, headed by Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie at the University of Manitoba and Director of Manitoba’s MS Clinic at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, revealed their findings in the journal, Neurology.

Researchers at SickKids identify an anti-cancer drug as a candidate to inhibit the degeneration of neurons.

Dr. David Kaplan

Dr. David Kaplan

Nerve injuries and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and glaucoma share some characteristics, one of which is the degeneration of a part of neurons called the axon.  Axons are long extensions that branch out of the cell body to allow neurons to connect to other cells, including other neurons, to transmit signals.   A team led by SickKids scientist David Kaplan with Freda Miller and their trainees Konstantin Feinberg and Adelaida Kolaj has recently identified a drug, called fortetinib, that protects axons from degeneration in multiple conditions. It may turn out to be a clinically useful therapeutic drug.

University of British Columbia Researchers Take A Closer Look At The Potential For Stem Cell Therapy After Spinal Cord Injury

Journal of Neuroscience cover

Injury of the spinal cord is a traumatic and life-changing event that affects over three million people worldwide. Over the last decade, researchers have been examining ways to help repair injured individuals through the use of stem cell transplantation. Significant progress has been made in this area yet many unanswered questions remain. For the laboratory of Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff at the University of British Columbia, these gaps need to be filled to ensure successful treatments in the future.

For Neil who is living with dystonia, fundamental research offers hope and partial relief.

Neil Merovitch is an impressive and resilient young man who has very personal reasons to believe in the importance of fundamental research.  At a young age, he was diagnosed with dystonia, a devastating disease in which normal movement is impaired due to neurological dysfunction. Individuals with this condition deal with sustained or repetitive, and often painful, muscle contractions.

Yet from the moment you meet Neil, his passion for fundamental research is clear. “I’ve always been interested in research,” he says. “It’s fascinating for me to explore the link between brain and behaviour each and every day.”  And dystonia does not prevent him from pursuing his goal, which is to obtain a PhD in neuroscience and physiology from the University of Toronto.

Sick Kids Researchers Have Found An Unexpected Twist in How Our Brains Develop

One example of the latter recently came from the joint laboratory of Freda Miller and David Kaplan, at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. They found that a type of cell known for transmitting information between nerve cells also plays another vital role. It instructs stem cells that build the brain to make another type of cell called an oligodendrocyte. This cell is crucial for making sure communication and information transmission in the brain happen at the right time in the right place. The results were published in the journal, Neuron, http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30344-6.

McGill Researchers Have Found A Possible Path For Treatment of Fragile X Syndrome

There is no denying autism spectrum disorders, commonly known as ASD, have become some of the world’s greatest health concerns. But what most people do not know is the incredible complexity of these conditions. As researchers have found, the problems are not singular in nature. Rather, they are a consequence of several changes in the way the cells of the brain function. This reality has forced ASD researchers to head deep into the molecular level of the brain in the hope of understanding what is happening in those affected.

Researchers at Dalhousie University Reveal A Startling Phenomenon in Evolution

Have you ever been startled by a sudden noise, sight or touch? It can be quite a shock to the system. You tense up, your mind blanks out all previous thoughts, and you find yourself preparing for the worst. Then there are the lingering effects that can last for minutes after it is all over. While you may hate the feeling of being startled, neuroscience researchers have found the entire process is a natural part of life inherited in evolution from our ancient ancestors.

McGill Researchers Have Found A Fungal Toxin May One Day Repair Damage To The Central Nervous System

Injuries are a part of life. In most cases, such as cuts, bruises, tears, and even broken bones, our bodies heal. But when damage occurs to the central nervous system – or as most people call it, CNS – the outlook can be heartbreaking. The cells in this area, known as neurons, simply are not good at regeneration. This is why damage to the spinal cord and retina is considered a dire ailment.

Two CAN Young Investigator Awards in 2017: Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, from Université de Montréal, and Tuan Trang, from University of Calgary.

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is proud to announce it will be awarding two Young Investigator Awards in 2017.  The laureates are Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, from Université de Montréal, and Tuan Trang, from University of Calgary.  The CAN nominations committee was equally impressed with both candidates, who have made important contributions to our understanding of the brain and the nervous system in the early stages of their careers.  Both winners have developed a strong program of basic, curiosity-driven research that have led to discoveries that can be used to improve the lives of Canadians.

University of British Columbia Researchers Have Found A Way To Block The High of Cocaine

“If you got that lose, you want to kick them blues, cocaine
When your day is done, and you want to ride on cocaine
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie
Cocaine.”

-Eric Clapton

Despite its illegal status, cocaine remains one of the staples of social drug use. The stimulating effect of the chemical has been glamorized in modern-day culture and continues to be lauded as a means to artificially keep the mind active. Yet, as anyone who has tried this high can tell, the side effects are far less delightful. They include memory loss, increase heart rate, insomnia, and almost instantaneous addiction.

Discovering The Genetic Cause For Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Of all psychiatric conditions, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD as it’s more commonly known, is perhaps the most widely known and also, misunderstood. Colloquially, this term is used to describe anyone with a penchant for a obsessive nature. Yet, this ailment, which only affects about 2% of the population, is quite difficult to both diagnose and manage.

Science as a uniting global force: A statement by the Canadian Association for Neuroscience

Recent events at home and abroad foreshadow a more divided and closed world.  As such, the Canadian Association for Neuroscience wants to state their position that science can and must remain a builder of bridges between the peoples of all nations, regardless of differences in political views, religious beliefs or country of origin. Scientists around the world share a desire to advance knowledge in ways that benefit all humans.

University of Toronto Researchers May Have Found The Reason Loneliness Leads To Depression

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
-Mother Teresa

At one time or another, everyone experiences moments of social isolation, when there is no one around and the world is confined to one’s own existence. In short bursts these moments of solitude can be therapeutic and may lead to moments of emotional regeneration or creativity. Yet when loneliness becomes chronic, the effects may be deleterious to one’s emotional health.

While Studying the Toxic Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease on the Brain, UBC Researchers May Have Found A Possible Treatment.

Alzheimer’s disease is growing in Canada at an unprecedented rate. At the moment, over half a million people suffer from this debilitating condition but that number is expected to nearly double over the next generation. The effects of this illness are tragic, such as memory loss as well as changes in behaviour, judgement, and normal daily function. For this reason, understanding this disease and finding meaningful treatments are considered a priority.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, a protein, known as amyloid-β, begins to clump together, forming what is officially called a plaque. As this happens, the neurological landscape changes as neurons begin to die off. Despite decades of research, the mechanism behind this loss remains, for the most part, a mystery.

UBC Researchers Unveil The Neurological Effects of Starvation

If you happen to watch any survival-based reality series, such as the Canadian Survivorman series, you’ll come to realize starvation has a dire effect on the body. A person becomes weak, disoriented, and begins to crave protein. In humans,  this is considered to be normal as we are considered omnivores. Yet, this effect also can be seen in other species, including one usually considered to be herbivorous.
The common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, primarily feeds, as the name implies, on decaying fruit and the microorganisms inhabiting it Yet, when this insect undergoes starvation, its tastes change. After several days with no food, they turn carnivorous and even cannibalistic.  This dramatic change in food choice, while observed, still has yet to be fully understood.

McGill Researchers May Now Know Why You Need To Drink Right Before Bed

Have you ever noticed a tendency to drink some water or other liquid sustenance right before going to bed? It’s a common occurrence although the reason behind this action has not been well understood. This unfortunately has led to a rather large-scale debate regarding the potential health benefits and risks of having a swig before sleep.
Over the years, some researchers have suggested the action is based on a physiological need, such as elevated body temperature or low water concentration in blood. Others have suggested this action is psychological rather than biological in nature as it increases the chances for REM sleep and dreaming. Then there are those who feel this action has no health value at all. After all, drinking immediately before sleep means you will no doubt have to disturb your regular period of rest for a quick bathroom break.

UBC Researchers Discover A Rare Genetic Link May Lead To Multiple Sclerosis

Imagine losing the ability to control your nerve function. You may encounter numbness and weakness in the limbs. Your ability to speak could decline as well as your vision. Tics and tremors might take over certain parts of your body. You even are at risk for depression.
These are just a few of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, which is better known simply as MS. This condition affects over two million people worldwide and leads to significant reductions in a person’s quality of life. Yet quite possibly the worst aspect of this disease isn’t the range of symptoms, but the culprit causing them.

Sick Kids Researchers Are Using A Systematic Approach To Understand How Neurons Arise

What convinces a stem cell to determine its fate? It’s one of the most persistent questions in modern biology. Research over the last four decades has revealed there is no easy answer. For example, in the brain, stem cells in the embryo produce all of the different cell types at precise times and amounts. If stem cells are perturbed by altering their ability to make those cell types, this is thought to contribute to neuropsychiatric and developmental disorders.
To produce their progeny, stem cells receive signals from other cell types, blood vessels, and the cerebral spinal fluid, and even produce signals themselves. This in itself raises numerous questions. What are those signals? How many are there? How does a stem cell decide to respond to one signal and not another? More importantly, how can this all happen in a coordinated manner to ensure the proper development of the brain?

UBC Researchers May Have Found How “Electrical Volume Control” Develops In The Brain

It’s an experience most of us have encountered at one time or another. We turn on the radio, stereo, television, or YouTube video and the volume is just too loud. Our reactions are almost immediate combining a mixture of frustration, helplessness, and a need to turn down the sound. Thankfully, we quickly can adjust the dial, slider, or remote to achieve a more comfortable level.
Now imagine that volume control cannot be adjusted and is fixed in one spot. If the levels are too high, you have to find other ways to deal with the auditory intrusion. It can lead to pain, frustration, and possibly an alteration in normal behaviour. In essence, when the sound is too loud, you suffer.

Sick Kids Researchers May Have Finally Figured Out Why We Can Remember Multiple Memories at Once

Have you ever noticed when you remember something from your past, you may also recall other moments from that time. It seems to be even more pronounced when remembering a moving event, such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the demise of the space shuttle Challenger, and more recently, the tragic events of 9/11.
While many of us experience these multiple memories, the mechanism behind their formation has been a biological enigma. For over a century researchers have tried to figure out how these combinations – or co-allocations – of memories occur. Yet successes have been few and far between.

Want To Retain Memories? McGill Researchers Suggest More REM Sleep May Do The Trick

Improving memory is a quest that never seems to end. For centuries, humans have attempted to find the right combination of social actions to better retain what we’ve learned. Over the years, some options have shown promise such as fasting  and strenuous exercise. While effective, they are not particularly popular. Then there’s the odd concept of intranasal injection of insulin. It goes to show that an idea with promise might not be the best idea.

McGill Researchers Have Found A Critical Component To Learning A Language

Acquiring a language is a difficult process. One of the best ways to learn involves the use of a tutor. This one-on-one interaction allows for direct learning as well as interaction without distraction. Usually, the teacher is an expert in that specific language. But when it comes to learning a first language, the most useful tutor happens to be an infant’s parent.