McGill researchers end decade-long search for mechanical pain sensor

Reza Sharif-Naeini, image from
Reza Sharif-Naeini

Discovery brings hope for novel pain treatment

Researchers at McGill University have discovered that a protein found in the membrane of our sensory neurons are involved in our capacity to feel mechanical pain, laying the foundation for the development of powerful new analgesic drugs.

The study, published in Cell, is the first to show that TACAN, a highly conserved protein among vertebrates whose function remained unclear, is in fact involved in detecting mechanical pain by converting mechanical pressures into electric signals. Continue reading

Pain hypersensitivity: problem at the pump

Yves De Koninck
Yves De Koninck

Pain hypersensitivity and many other diseases could be associated with a protein that acts as an ion pump in neurons.

The research team led by  Yves De Koninck, at Université Laval’s Faculté de médecine and the CERVO Brain Research Centre had already targeted a protein called KCC2 as a key player in the mechanism leading to pain hypersensitivity.  A new study published in Nature Communications confirms confirms this lead and reinforces the idea that this protein could be a target of choice for the creation of a new class of analgesics to treat this problem that medicine is often powerless to address. Continue reading

Researchers first to use ultrasound to deliver a compound that stimulates brain cell communication in mice with Alzheimer’s disease

Isabelle Aubert
Isabelle Aubert

Sunnybrook Research Institute senior scientist Dr. Isabelle Aubert and her PhD student, Kristiana Xhima, led the first study using focused ultrasound to deliver a molecule to the brain to revive the function of neurons vital to learning and memory in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.

Breakthrough targets restoring the function of neurons vital to learning and memory

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Slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis

Alexandre Prat

By identifying a molecule that delays the progression of MS, CRCHUM researchers pave the way for new therapies for the nearly 77,000 Canadians living with the disease.

Over 77,000 Canadians are living with multiple sclerosis, a disease whose causes still remain unknown. Presently, they have no hope for a cure. In a study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) identify a molecule named ALCAM which, once blocked, delays the progression of the disease. Their results, obtained from in vitro human and in vivo mouse studies, could lead to the development of a new generation of therapies to treat this autoimmune disease. Continue reading

Cellular origins of pediatric brain tumors identified

Dr Claudia KleinmanSource: MUHC and Lady Davis Institute

A research team led by Dr. Claudia Kleinman, an investigator at the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital, together with  Dr. Nada Jabado, of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), and Dr. Michael Taylor, of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), discovered that several types of highly aggressive and, ultimately, fatal pediatric brain tumors originate during brain development. The genetic event that triggers the disease happens in the very earliest phases of cellular development, most likely prenatal. The findings represent a significant advance in understanding these diseases, and are published in Nature Genetics. Continue reading

Activation of opioid receptor uncovered

Louis Gendron - Université de SherbrookeIn conjunction with Chinese, Belgian, German and American academic colleagues, the team of researchers from the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS), led by the Director of the Department of Pharmacology-Physiology, Professor Louis Gendron, participated in the discovery of the binding mechanism of an important opioid receptor. The results should facilitate the development of new active substances. Opioids used today to treat severe pain can be addictive and often have significant side effects, such as nausea. The results are published in the renowned journal Science Advances. Continue reading

Patients with mood, anxiety disorders share abnormalities in brain’s control circuit

Dr. Sophia Frangou. Credit: Paul Joseph/UBC
Sophia Frangou

Dr. Sophia Frangou was recently appointed UBC President’s Excellence Chair in Brain Health.

New research published recently in JAMA Psychiatry shows for the first time that patients with mood and anxiety disorders share the same abnormalities in regions of the brain involved in emotional and cognitive control.

The findings hold promise for the development of new treatments targeting these regions of the brain in patients with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders. Continue reading

The brain’s regions work together when it comes to skilled motor sequences

Jörn Diedrichsen
Jörn Diedrichsen

Many skills, such as typing, playing an instrument or tying a knot, rely on complex sequences of movements. Despite being common activities, researchers are still discovering how the brain is able to plan and execute all the movements required to complete these, and other motor tasks. 

To better understand how motor sequences are represented in the brain, Atsushi Yokoi, a researcher at CiNet, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), and Jörn Diedrichsen, Western University Computational Neuroscience Professor, worked together to map finger movement sequences. Continue reading