The Centre for Respiratory Research at McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre
Category Archives: News
Respiratory Research News from the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and the RESP program of the RI-MUHC. View our latest funding results, faculty and trainee awards, and our research featured in the media.
Thanks to the efforts ofDr. Guilherme Sant’Anna and his colleagues, the Montreal Children’s Hospital Neonatal Unit will soon be monitoring patients using AI technology. Dr. Sant’Anna is a Neonatologist at The Montreal Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor at McGill and RI-MUHC RESP Program member. It was approximately 15 years ago that he and his team of dedicated professionals began thinking of ways that their little patients could benefit from the ongoing advancements in technology.
“In our daily life, technology keeps improving, it goes so fast, that we said to ourselves that we needed something better for our patients,”
Thanks to funding of $1 million received from the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Neonatal Unit will be going ‘live’ with AI in possibly six months’ time. Once the system is up and running smoothly in that unit, the technology will be rolled out to other units in the hospital. Eventually, doctors will be monitoring patients using AI while their patients are at home.
Read more about the interview with Dr. Sant’Anna here:
The RI-MUHC is currently enrolling patients in RESOLUTION, a clinical trial of LAU-7b for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drug acts on lung inflammation and showed potent antiviral effects in-vitro against SARS-CoV-2. Results from previous studies in adult CF patients showed an important reduction of key pro-inflammatory biomarkers at the onset of a pulmonary exacerbation episodes, suggestive of a protective effect of the drug on the lungs.
An original post from April 2020 described the start of the clinical trial:
Laurent Pharmaceuticals, a McGill spinoff, will run a Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus.
Larry Lands is the Chief Medical Advisor for Laurent Pharmaceuticals. Laurent Pharmaceuticals Inc. is planning to test its lead drug LAU-7b in patients with COVID-19 disease. LAU-7b was recently identified as a potential anti-viral therapeutic option for COVID-19 during a drug-library screening effort.
The Research Institute of the MUHC is presently enrolling participants in the study, called RESOLUTION. LAU-7b is a novel oral form of a drug called fenretinide, which inhibits the inflammatory reaction of the body to the virus. This study could lead to improved treatments for hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are at higher risk of developing complications.
“Thanks to its inflammation-controlling properties, low-dose fenretinide triggers a natural mechanism – the body’s own resolution of the inflammation process – which keeps the inflammatory response under control without suppressing its protective immune role.”
“We still have so much to learn about cannabis,” “We need to keep this research on track so we can further the science and better inform policymakers and the public.”
Dr. Carolyn Baglole
Although Dr. Baglole did not begin her scientific career with cannabis-related research in mind, the legalization of cannabis in Canada and other countries around the world has led to a growing interest in and use of the product for medical purposes. Recognizing the need for more information, researchers like Dr. Baglole are focusing on the potentially positive effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on the human body. CBD is the compound found in cannabis that has medicinal uses as it does not have psychotropic side effects. Early research suggests it may have an effect on the immune system and anti-inflammatory properties.
The Association québécoise de l’industrie du cannabis (AQIC) has launched the CBD Research Partnership Fund, which Dr. Baglolehopes will help to increase interest and support for this field of research into CBD and its yet-to-be discovered medicinal benefits. Partnerships such as this one will ensure that cannabis-related research continues far into the future.
“I hope that the CBD Research Partnership Fund has a feed-forward effect for CBD research at McGill,” Baglole says. “I hope it shows the high-quality work that can come out of this kind of research partnership and attracts additional funding so that we’re able to support more cutting-edge research projects.”
It is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week and Dr. Dao Nguyen, a researcher at MI4 and clinician-scientist at the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and the RI-MUHC, dreams of applying her knowledge and skills to preventing a post-antibiotic world. We have all read about the increasing strength of bacteria and hear how our present-day antibiotics are becoming ineffective. In fact, it is estimated that 20-30% of currently existing bacteria are resistant to available drugs. The WHO estimates that by 2050 drug-resistant organisms will surpass cancer as the primary cause of death. This is the problem Dr. Nguyen would like to take on.
She would like to create an interdisciplinary Antimicrobial Resistance Centre where members of the scientific community can combine their knowledge and work towards preventing a post-antibiotic world. Thanks to the MUHC Foundation’s fundraising efforts, Dr. Nguyen’s dream of an Antimicrobial Resistance Centre will likely come to fruition – something we should each be thankful for. Dr. Nguyen explains:
“Let’s say you accidentally cut yourself. Right now, you can get treatment from a topical cream or take antibiotic pills to cure the infection in a few days,” says Dr. Nguyen. “With antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it wouldn’t be treated as easily and the infection could spread requiring an amputation.”
An amputation would be an extreme result from a simple cut on the finger, yet an all too possible outcome if research is not carried out and solutions are not found.
Congratulations to Julia Chronopoulos of the Martin Lab in the Meakins-Christie Laboratories! Julia was awarded 2nd prize for her presentation Immunity to Influenza A Virus Infection during Pregnancy. The presentation was given during the first virtual edition of the Quebec Respiratory Health Research Days, held from November 9-11, 2020.
November 14 is World Diabetes Day! In the lead-up to this, we are promoting work by Dr. Sushmita Pamidi, RESP program scientist, and Raphieal Newbold (MSc graduate). They are studying the link that may lead to better health for mother and baby. Sleep apnea has strong links with type 2 diabetes and is quite prevalent in pregnancy. The research team found that increasing severity of sleep apnea in pregnant women with gestational diabetes was, in fact, linked with higher glucose levels at night. It is possible that improved glucose control in pregnancy by treatment of sleep apnea could lead to improved overall outcomes for mother and baby.
A study published by the group in CHEST reveals that untreated sleep apnea can affect nighttime glucose levels of pregnant women who have gestational diabetes. Dr. Sushmita Pamidiand her team of researchers who carried out the study discovered a clear relationship between sleep, pregnancy, and type 2 diabetes.
The results of this study shed light on the importance of recognizing and treating sleep apnea in these pregnant women, an area that has not previously received much attention. Type 2 diabetes in pregnant women increases their risk for complications during pregnancy, after childbirth, and often results in an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the children during their lifetime.
In present day, intervention with pregnant women experiencing gestational diabetes primarily focuses on improved nutrition and increased exercise. This study has brought to light another important focus for medical attention as summarized by Dr. Pamidi:
“Overall, we need to think more about the importance of sleep disorders in pregnant women. This may be a missing link in the lifestyle recommendations for this population.”
Dr. Sushmita Pamidi
Read the RI-MUHC story for Diabetes Awareness Month & World Diabetes Day:
Dr. Mazer, Associate Scientific Director of the Taskforce, sums up the goal of their work as: to understand the prevalence of the virus in the community at large, and to learn about how the body responds to the virus. Completed studies in this area have revealed the following:
“We know that the prevalence of the antibodies in the population of healthy blood donors is between 0.7% and 1.0% of the population, as high as 2.9% in certain areas of Quebec and Ontario.”
Dr. Bruce Mazer
Although these numbers indicate a lack of herd immunity, he feels it is more important to understand how to treat individuals who are most at risk, to develop a vaccine, and to find answers to some of their yet-to-be-answered questions. Finding answers to questions such as why some people are more affected by this virus than others, why some people are more affected by previous viruses but not this one, and how long the antibodies created by vaccination will last in the body, would go a long way in decoding immunity to COVID-19.
Listen to Dr. Mazer’s interview by Julie Quenneville on:
Since the spring physicians have been discovering optimal treatments for COVID-19 symptoms. Dr. Nicole Ezer, a researcher with the RI-MUHC’s RESP Program, was interviewed on this subject on CJAD. Dr. Ezer explained:
Initially it was very challenging to know how to treat patients appropriately, in particular patients who presented in the emergency room and required lots of oxygen.
Dr. Nicole Ezer
Since the spring the medical community has learned a lot about this virus, thanks in part to the many publications that have come out.
The names of medications which have been found best to help hospitalized patients include the steroid dexamethasone and the antiviral remdesivir. These two medications have been very helpful in not only reducing the amount of time patients spend in hospital, but also the number of deaths caused by this virus. These were important discoveries for the medical community.
The focus remains on finding treatments to help patients with less severe symptoms. To this end, all residents of Quebec experiencing milder COVID-19 symptoms are encouraged to take part in an ongoing study at the MUHC called contain-covid19.com. No in-person visits are required. After acceptance into the trial participants will receive their medication by mail. All communications are done remotely. This is one way we can all be involved in the hunt for treatments for COVID-19.
Dr. Dao Nguyen is a researcher with the Meakins-Christie Labs and M[i]4(the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity). In this interview, which appears on the MUHC Foundation’s Health Matters Series, Dr. Nguyenexplains the value of the M[i]4 initiative. Not only does this initiative provide researchers with funding for their research, it also enables them to share ideas across numerous disciplines, thus increasing their chances of developing new ideas and finding solutions.
Dr. Nguyen believes that when the general public hears the word ‘infection’, their mind is likely to focus on COVID-19; however infection, antibiotics and immunity go far beyond this virus. Infection control is important for individuals in many circumstances, such as undergoing surgery, chemotherapy or even when someone cuts their hand. Over time, infections are getting stronger and new antibiotics are needed to treat them. Pharmaceutical companies were committed to the development of new treatments in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but are now focusing their efforts in more profitable areas. This leaves a void which the M[i]4 initiative hopes to fill.
Although M[i]4 receives funding from various sources, donations also play an important role. A donation can help to move an idea from paper to the laboratory. Donations can help with the completion of a project or infrastructure. Dr. Nguyen highly values donations received, and appreciates this financial support for their valuable work.