Category Archives: Faculty

View recent posts and news from our faculty members. For our faculty profiles, read more here: https://www.meakinsmcgill.com/faculty-members/ 

Carolyn Baglole: Director of the McGill Research Centre for Cannabis

Research in the era of legal cannabis

Dr. Carolyn Baglole is the director of the new McGill Research Centre for Cannabis. This centre is positioning itself to examine the role of cannabis, all the way from plants, to people, to policy. She was recently interviewed by McGill News.

Read the full article here: So much to discover: Research in the era of legal cannabis
More about the McGill Research Centre for Cannabis: https://www.mcgill.ca/cannabis/

Is this centre the first of its kind?

It’s not the first, but it is one of the most comprehensive; this centre will be going from plants to people to policy. That means we will focus on three research axes. [Researchers in] agriculture and plant sciences will conduct fundamental studies on the plant itself – crop management, for example. Our biomedical research axis will encompass both pre-clinical and clinical studies – for example, looking at pain management, and sleep. We also have a socioeconomics and law axis, which focuses on a broad range of financial, legal, policy, regulatory and educational matters emerging from legalization.

Is this an emerging area of research, and was it inhibited, in the past, by taboos?

Issues surrounding legality and social stigma have hampered research. As a result, there is so much information, on all fronts, that we lack. Legalization has really opened the floodgates for cannabis research.

This is important not just because of legalization, but also because of the medicinal use of cannabis?

Yes, we need to understand the potential medicinal applications. We want to understand the growth of the plant, how that affects its chemicals and how they work to alleviate disease symptoms.

One of your goals is to separate myths from reality?

Yes, that is really about being open in our scientific quest. We want to let the data and the science unfold, learning what that story is telling us. Ultimately, the science will inform us as to what is true and what is not.

Why is it essential that the centre be trans-disciplinary?

We can learn from each other. For example, I am involved in the biomedical axis; our colleagues from agriculture and plant sciences may be able to identify a strain of cannabis that produces chemicals which can then be applied in a biomedical setting.

Trans-disciplinary research is really about being comprehensive in our research approach. We combine one person’s area of expertise with that of another, in order to understand a subject as a whole. As compared to isolated projects, we gain a more fundamental understanding.

Dragonfly wings are naturally antibacterial - article with Dao Nguyen

Dragonfly wings in the hospital

Did you know that dragonfly wings are naturally antibacterial?

Biofilms are colonies of bacteria that can attach securely to the surface of certain medical devices. Shockingly, a quarter of all nosocomial infections are reported to be associated with the use of infected equipment, based on American data.

RI-MUHC researcher Dao Nguyen shares some thoughts on combatting biofilms in this short article from Quebec Science. Her research team is looking at the wings of dragonflies and cicadas to better design safe antibacterial materials. Nanometric structures on dragaonfly and cicada wings actually kill bacteria by physical contact. Therefore, there is great interest to design and develop antibacterial materials that mimic this natural structure.

The research team will observe interactions between bacteria and these newly designed materials, then test the most promising against Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacteria responsible for hospital-acquired infections as well as fatal infections in people with cystic fibrosis. It has an ability to form biofilms and is naturally resistant to many drugs.

If the results are conclusive, the materials may eventually be used on a large scale to make safer medical devices and instruments.

Read the full article here (in French).

CCIC Researcher Profile – Dr. Carolyn Baglole

Dr. Carolyn Baglole was featured in the July 2019 CCIC Newsletter. Her research was profiled in their monthly research highlights. Read the newsletter excerpt below.

Dr. Baglole received her BSc and MSc from the University of Prince Edward Island, and completed her PhD at the University of Calgary. She then did postdoctoral work in the fields of lung biology/toxicology in the Department of Environment Medicine at the University of Rochester (Rochester NY) before returning to Canada at McGill University.

Dr. Baglole’s translational research program seeks to identify novel cellular and molecular pathways that regulate the pathogenesis of chronic lung diseases. Her main research focus is to understand how these environmental exposures contribute to pathogenic mechanisms such as chronic inflammation and cell death (apoptosis) that drive the development of diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

In relation to the CCIC, her lab is currently examining how various forms of inhaled cannabis and/or cannabinoids affects lung and immune function. Using pre-clinical models, her team will investigate activation of cellular signaling pathways by exposure to cannabis/cannabinoids, how cannabis exposure effects immune cell numbers and function and whether newer forms of inhaled cannabis products impact lung function. Working with clinicians and other scientists, she is developing an interdisciplinary program for biomedical cannabis research to explore the full potential of cannabis and cannabinoids in human health and disease. For this, she will have a state-of-the-art inhalation facility. This is important, as the most common way to consume cannabis is through inhalation (of smoke or vaporized cannabis/cannabinoids). With this, she will be able to deliver inhaled cannabis and cannabis-derived cannabinoids/novel drugs in a real-world scenario to assess efficacy in disease models and understand the immune-medicated mechanisms involved in the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

Read more about Dr. Baglole: https://www.meakinsmcgill.com/baglole/

Read more about the McGill Research Centre for Cannabis: https://mcgill.ca/cannabis/



respiratory research grant results at the meakins-christie laboratories

Funding News – CIHR Project Grant

Congratulations to the following Spring 2019 Project Grant Recipients

Dr. Sushmita Pamidi received funding for her project co-led with Evelyn Constantin (CHHD program) entitled “Maternal sleep-disordered breathing during pregnancy and long-term health outcomes in children: the 3D pregnancy and birth cohort”. Dr. John Kimoff is a co-investigator on the grant.

Dr. Larry Lands is a co-applicant with Dr. Michael Parkins (University of Calgary) for the grant entitled “The influence of Cytomegalovirus infection on cystic fibrosis disease progression”.

View full CIHR Funding Decisions for the 2019 Spring Project Grant Competition.

Dorival Martins Relève étoile Jacques-Genest

Dr. Dorival Martins receives the Relève étoile Jacques-Genest Award

Congratulations to Dorival Martins Jr, postdoctoral fellow in Biochemistry, McGill University (supervisor: Dr. Dao Nguyen) for his Relève étoile Jacques-Genest award from the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) for the month of July.

Winning article: Martins D, McKay G, Sampathkumar G, Khakimova M, English AM, Nguyen D. Superoxide dismutase activity confers (p)ppGpp-mediated antibiotic tolerance to stationary-phase Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2018 Sep 25;115(39):9797-9802. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1804525115. Epub 2018 Sep 10. PMID: 30201715

Read the full news release here.

Dr. Erwan Pernet and Dr. Maziar Divangahi, scientists at the RI-MUHC and the Meakins-Christie Laboratories have identified a lipid target to tone down the hyper-active immunity to influenze infection

Flu treatment using lipid target

Dr. Maziar Divangahi and his postdoctoral fellow Dr. Erwan Pernet are on a promising path towards developing flu treatment using a lipid target. They identified a new role for the lipid mediator Leukotriene B4 in the lung. In a study published in Nature Microbiology, they show that the LTB4 molecule is capable of not only reducing collateral tissue damage caused by immune responses but also enhancing host survival.

“The influenza virus is not the only threat; the host’s own immune response is mainly responsible for jeopardizing host survival. Therefore, it is essential to understand the regulatory mechanisms that maintain the tight balance between protective and harmful immunity.”

– Erwan Pernet

Influenza remains a global public health challenge, according to the World Health Organization. Each year, there are an estimated one billion people cases worldwide, resulting in 290,000 to 650,000 influenza-related respiratory deaths.

Dr. Divangahi’s laboratory has focused on new immunotherapies targeting the immune system via host lipid mediators to either effectively kill the virus or limit lung tissue damage. In this study, they focused on the LTB4 lipid mediator and its effects on the immune response to flu infection. After working with mice lacking the receptor for LTB4, they were able to identify a network of regulatory mechanisms that maintain the tight balance between protective and harmful immunity. Also, of particular importance to future clinical studies was the finding that a single dose of LTB4 at the peak of disease was enough to significantly reduce lung immunopathology and tissue damage and improve host survival. 

“For the first time we show there is a subtype of macrophages in the lungs that are able to produce this immunoregulatory lipid (LTB4) to reduce the inflammation caused by another macrophage population that is responsible for causing lung tissue damage during influenza infection.”

– Maziar Divangahi

View the full publication here:

Leukotriene B4-type I interferon axis regulates macrophage-mediated disease tolerance to influenza infection. Pernet E, Downey J, Vinh DC, Powell WS, Divangahi M. Nat Microbiol. 2019 May 20. doi: 10.1038/s41564-019-0444-3. PMID: 31110361

The research was also featured in the CIHR-III (institute of Infection and Immunity) newsletter!

View articles and interviews about this research:

gut microbiome research

Anti-TB drugs can increase risk of TB re-infection

A study published in Mucosal Immunology by Drs. Irah King and Maziar Divangahi showed that anti-TB drugs ( anti-tuberculosis drugs) caused changes to gut microbiota, thereby compromising immunity. This then led to an increased susceptibility to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection.

Current treatments for tuberculosis (TB) are very effective in controlling TB infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). They don’t, however, always prevent reinfection. Why this happens is one of the long-standing questions in TB research.

Gut microbiota are critical to keeping us healthy; they help to digest food, combat pathogenic microbes and reinforce our immune system. Recent research has shown that chronic use of antibiotic leads to disruption of this community, which can in turn lead to dysregulation of the immune system.  It remains unclear, however, whether changes in the composition of the microbes living in our gut have an influence on TB infection. 

The research team treated mice with the most commonly used anti-TB drugs – isoniazid, rifampicin and pyrazinamide – for a period of eight weeks. They found that while all three drugs significantly altered the composition of the mice’s gut microbiome, only mice treated with isoniazid combined with pyrazinamide showed an increase in susceptibility to Mtb infection. Transplanting feces from healthy mice into animals treated with anti-TB drugs was sufficient to restore immunity to Mtb. The team also evaluated a number of lung cell types known to be important for resistance to Mtb infection. Following anti-TB treatment, alveolar macrophages, a type of immune cell located in the airways of mice and humans and the first cell to encounter Mtb upon infection, were compromised in their ability to kill Mtb.

“Anti-TB therapies have been incredibly efficient in controlling the TB epidemic by decreasing morbidity and mortality associated with Mtb. Now, this work provides a basis for novel therapeutic strategies exploiting the gut-lung axis in Mtb infection.’’

– Irah King

Read the full press release here:

View the full publication:

Intestinal dysbiosis compromises alveolar macrophage immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Khan N, Mendonca L, Dhariwal A, Fontes G, Menzies D, Xia J, Divangahi M, King IL. Mucosal Immunol. 2019 May;12(3):772-783. doi: 10.1038/s41385-019-0147-3. Epub 2019 Feb 19. PMID: 30783183

View articles and interviews about this research:

Divangahi and Nargis Khan Science immunology Tuberculosis publication

Beyond Killing Tuberculosis

Dr. Maziar Divangahi’s May 2018 publication in Science Immunology tries to explain why the vast majority of people infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) can tolerate the infection without developing disease. 

Dr. Divangahi’s team found that rather than fighting to resist the pathogen, the body’s tolerance to Mtb is the key mechanism for preventing the spread of the infection. More surprisingly, they found that having excessive levels of T cells, which are known as soldiers of our immune system, could cause more harm than good. The study determined that the mitochondrial protein cyclophilin D (CypD) acts as a key checkpoint for T cell metabolism and regulates disease tolerance in TB. (May 2018)

View articles and interviews about this research:

Flu vaccine and immunotherapies

Dr. Maziar Divangahi was interviewed by CBC Homerun 88.5 FM about his latest research on the flu vaccine. His lab has taken on the challenge of trying to understand how the mechanisms of the immune system fight the flu in the hopes of finding new immunotherapies to combat the virus.

The discovery of the RIPK3 protein that is involved in the regulation of immune response to the flu means help may be on the horizon. Their findings were published in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens in 2017. (February 2018)

Full publication: RIPK3 interacts with MAVS to regulate type I IFN-mediated immunity to Influenza A virus infection. Downey J, Pernet E, Coulombe F, Allard B, Meunier I, Jaworska J, Qureshi S, Vinh DC, Martin JG, Joubert P, Divangahi M. PLoS Pathog. 2017 Apr 14;13(4):e1006326. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006326. eCollection 2017 Apr. PMID: 28410401

View articles and interviews about this research:

Human Airway Branch Variation and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Airway Branching Associated with COPD Risk

Dr. Benjamin Smith, in collaboration with Dr. Carolyn Baglole and Columbia University Irving Medical Center, published “Human Airway Branch Variation and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Together, their study shows that the internal anatomy of our lungs is surprisingly variable. Furthermore, some of those variations are associated with a greater risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (January 2018)

View full publication: Human airway branch variation and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smith BM, Traboulsi H, Austin JHM, Manichaikul A, Hoffman EA, Bleecker ER, Cardoso WV, Cooper C, Couper DJ, Dashnaw SM, Guo J, Han MK, Hansel NN, Hughes EW, Jacobs DR Jr, Kanner RE, Kaufman JD, Kleerup E, Lin CL, Liu K, Lo Cascio CM, Martinez FJ, Nguyen JN, Prince MR, Rennard S, Rich SS, Simon L, Sun Y, Watson KE, Woodruff PG, Baglole CJ, Barr RG; MESA Lung and SPIROMICS investigators. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jan 30;115(5):E974-E981. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1715564115. Epub 2018 Jan 16. PMID: 29339516

View articles and interviews about this research: