Category Archives: Chronic Airways Disease

Chronic Airways Disease Theme: Chronic airway diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia share common features of chronic airflow obstruction and structural changes of the airways. These disorders are associated with an underlying inflammatory process that is driven by genetic susceptibility as well as environmental factors such as allergens and cigarette smoke. The main research questions being investigated focus on elucidating the basic mechanisms that lead to the development of chronic airways disease. Studies are also attempting to identify and characterize the clinical heterogeneity of these diseases in order to better personalize prognostic, diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

Major scientific objectives of the chronic airways diseases theme include: (1) Elucidate pathogenetic mechanisms and develop novel therapeutics for allergic inflammation & airway hyperresponsiveness. (2) Understand the cellular and molecular basis for irritant (including air pollution & cigarette smoke) -induced lung disease, and its relevance to COPD and the Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS). (3) Ascertain the biological basis for different asthma phenotypes, particularly severe asthma that is resistant to usual therapies.

View posts, news, and publications related to this research theme below.

Dr. Christine McCusker is the recipient of the Montreal Children's Hospital 2020 Pfizer Research Award of Excellence

Pfizer Research Award of Excellence

Congratulations to Dr. Christine McCusker, member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and Division Head, Pediatric Allergy and Immunology of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Dr. McCusker is the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation 2020 recipient of the Pfizer Research Award of Excellence.

This award is given to a researcher from the Montreal Children’s Hospital community whose initiatives have made a unique and significant contribution to pediatric care.

Dr. McCusker is passionate about her work, which surely explains her success. Over the past few years, she and her team have cured children of allergies to tree nuts, milk and eggs thanks to a desensitization program she helped put in place. She has led her team to positive clinical research outcomes, advancing treatments and helping empower children with allergies.

“I love my job! I also get to play with kids and help reduce parents’ anxiety.”

Dr. Christine McCusker

Learn more about Dr. McCusker and the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation Pfizer Research Award of Excellence:

Read about the 2020 Awards of Excellence here.

Watch Dr. McCusker receiving her award:

McGill Research Centre for Cannabis, led by Dr. Carolyn Baglole, establishes a CBD Research Partnership Fund to mark the second anniversary of cannabis legalization in Canada

CBD Research Partnership Fund

A CBD Research Partnership Fund has been launched by the Association québécoise de l’industrie du cannabis (AQIC) and the McGill Research Centre for Cannabis. Dr. Carolyn Baglole, Director of the McGill Research Centre for Cannabis, believes this increased research funding will result in increased safety and effectiveness of medical CBD.

“We are pleased to partner with the AQIC in a project that provides much-needed financial support for CBD research, the results of which ultimately will give a better understanding of the safety and efficacy of CBD. A partnership between McGill and the private sector will allow us to combine resources, thereby raising the bar of scientific discovery, and the promise that medical cannabis holds.”

Dr. Carolyn Baglole

The launch of this CBD Research Partnership Fund marks the second anniversary of the legalization of the use of cannabis in Canada.

Read the full article:

Advancing the Safety and Efficacy of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Medical Use AQIC and the McGill Research Centre for Cannabis Establish a CBD Research Partnership Fund. McGill’s Health e-News. Oct 19, 2020. Photo credit: Association québécoise de l’industrie du cannabis (AQIC)

Dr. Carolyn Baglole on the impact of legalization on cannabis research in Canada

The Future of Cannabis Research

Dr. Carolyn Baglole of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories talks about the future of cannabis research in Canada, and how legalization has had a positive impact in this field. Funding opportunities have increased considerably and barriers to research, such as access to different cannabis products, have diminished. Stigmas surrounding medical cannabis continue to exist, but the future of cannabis research in Canada is evident.

Julie Quenneville, President of the McGill University Health Centre Foundation, recently spoke to Dr. Baglole on CJAD as part of the Health Matters series.

Where to listen:

Increase in rate of allergic asthma

Allergic Disease on the Rise

Allergic diseases are on the rise. Specifically, allergic asthma in children, which has become the number one chronic illness in Canada. It is also a major cause of children being hospitalized. Dr. Irah King, of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, is a co-author on a recent Nature Immunology publication on the topic. Understanding the increasing rate of allergic asthma is the first step towards preventing or finding a cure.

The leading theory is known as “The Hygiene Hypothesis” – that due to regular use of antibiotics and disinfectants, people are less exposed to microorganisms that would normally train our immune system to be more tolerant. To exacerbate the lowered immune response, our exposure to substances in our environment, such as surfactants in detergent, may induce cell death. These compounds are harmful to barrier surfaces such as the intestines and lungs and may additionally prime our immune system to generate allergic, type-2 responses. 

Read about the study:

Schneider C, Shen C, Gopal AA, Douglas T, Forestell B, Kauffman KD, Rogers D, Artusa P, Zhang Q, Jing H, Freeman AF, Barber DL, King IL, Saleh M, Wiseman PW, Su HC, Mandl JN. Migration-induced cell shattering due to DOCK8 deficiency causes a type 2–biased helper T cell response. Nat Immunol. 2020 Oct 5. doi: 10.1038/s41590-020-0795-1.

Read more here:

A possible link between cell death and allergic disease. McGill Health e-News. Oct 6, 2020.

Congratulations to Sabah Hussain, Kevin Schwartzman, and Jean Bourbeau on their Spring 2020 CIHR Project Grants

Three CIHR Project Grants Awarded!

Congratulations to all Meakins and RECRU members who were funded in the Spring 2020 Project Grant Competition! Congratulations to ALL!

Sabah Hussain. Co-investigators: Gilles Gouspillou, Marco Sandri. Title: MYTHO: An uncharacterized FoxO-dependent gene that controls autophagy and skeletal muscle mass.

Jean Bourbeau, Sébastien Gagnon. Co-investigators: Rebecca Colman, James Downar, Dennis Jensen, Hayley Lewthwaite, Bryan Ross. Title: Sublingual Fentanyl for acute relief of breathlessness in patients with advanced COPD : A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design trial.

Kevin Schwartzman, James Johnston. Title: Tuberculosis in Canada: Modeling to Inform Elimination. Ranked 2nd in the Public, Community & Population Health.

Impact of poor air quality from wildfire smoke

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Dr. Jean Bourbeau speaks to the impact of poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke currently blanketing parts of British Columbia. The impact of poor air quality could last much longer than the actual smoke. The fine particulate matter from these forest fires has a significant impact on the health of everyone exposed. While it is important to understand the short term impact of this smoke, it is equally important to examine the long term impact on health. We do not know the impact of smoke exposure on the development of diseases, nor do we really know its impact on the progression of an underlying disease.

On ne connaît pas quels sont les risques de la fumée sur le développement de maladies ou même sur la progression plus rapide d’une maladie existante, explique le spécialiste.

– Jean Bourbeau

Read more:

L’impact de la mauvaise qualité de l’air pourrait durer plus longtemps que la fumée. Radio-Canada. by Hélène Bardeau. Sept 14, 2020.

Dr. Jean Bourbeau is a Scientist at the RI-MUHC RESP Program, member of the RECRU, and an Associate Member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories.

Dr. Carolyn Baglole received a CIHR catalyst grant: Health Effects of Vaping for her grant entitled: Utility of a Preclinical Model to Study the Impact of Vaping Products on Cardiopulmonary Outcomes.

Impact of Vaping on Cardiopulmonary Outcomes

Dr. Carolyn Baglole, with Dr. Koren Kathleen Mann, received a CIHR Catalyst Grant: Health Effects of Vaping. The title of the grant is: “Utility of a Preclinical Model to Study the Impact of Vaping Products on Cardiopulmonary Outcomes.”.

The objective of the grant is to investigate the effects of vaping products on cardiopulmonary outcomes, alone and in conjunction with SARS-CoV-2 infection. They propose to develop a mouse model of vaping to understand the effects on the lung, as well as the heart, vessels, and immune system. They will further use a mouse model to test whether vaping can alter that infection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. This model could then be used to test new vaping products as they enter the market for toxicity and/or to test therapies to counter act the severe toxicities of vaping.

Congrats Carolyn and the rest of the team!

Read more:

Graphical abstract: Targeting the OXE receptor as a potential novel therapy for asthma. William Powell

Promising treatment option for eosinophilic-driven disorders

Liminal BioSciences, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, has acquired a preclinical research program of small OXE molecule antagonists. This program is based on the research of Dr. William Powell, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Medicine at McGill University, working in collaboration with Dr. Joshua Rokach of the Florida Institute of Technology.

Investigational therapies developed in this program target a key chemoattractant and activator of eosinophils, which play a key role in Type 2 inflammation-driven diseases through tissue repair and resolution of inflammation. Drs. Powell and Rokach developed a series of potentially first-in-class, oral, selective OXE receptor antagonists against 5-oxo-ETE, one of the most potent human eosinophil chemoattractants. Migration of eosinophils to body sites including the lungs and intestines is mediated by eosinophil chemoattractants such as 5-oxo-ETE. Eosinophils play a key role in Type 2 inflammation-driven diseases, including certain respiratory and gastro-intestinal diseases. Dr. Powell will serve as an advisor to Liminal BioSciences on the Fairhaven R&D Program.

“Compared to biologics, small molecule OXE receptor antagonists offer a promising and potentially more cost-effective treatment option for eosinophilic-driven disorders. I am looking forward to working with Liminal BioSciences to continue development on this exciting R&D program initiated by work carried out at McGill University and FIT.”

Dr. Powell

Read the entire press release by Liminal BioSciences:

Jean Bourbeau receives funding from the CIHR 2020 COVID-19 May 2020 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity


Dr. Jean Bourbeau received funding from the CIHR COVID-19 May 2020 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity. Title of grant: COVID-19 and COPD: Important knowledge gaps in subclinical pulmonary disease in the Canadian population.

Congratulations Jean!

Dr. Jean Bourbeau is an Associate Member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, Member of the RECRU, and Scientist at the RI-MUHC RESP Program. His research focuses primarily on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and secondarily on disease management, self-management, pulmonary rehabilitation and cardiorespiratory exercise physiology.

Benjamin Smith, JAMA 2020. Jun 9;323(22):2268-2280. Figure 1. These CT scans of airways (red) and lungs (dark grey) show the spectrum of dysanapsis, with smaller airways in proportion to lung size (left) compared with normal size airways (middle), and larger than normal airways (right).

Dysanapsis and COPD risk

A new study by Dr. Benjamin Smith highlights dysanapsis as a strong risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Dysanapsis is a developmental mismatch between airway and lung size. While smoking has long been known as the best-known risk factor for COPD, it never explained why only a minority of lifelong smokers develop the disease, while non-smokers represent more than 25% of all COPD cases.

The team conducted detailed analysis of lung images and assessed standard COPD risk factors such as tobacco smoking, secondhand smoke, air pollution and occupational exposures. Their results show that dysanapsis appears to be a very strong risk factor for COPD, associated with twice as much of the variation in COPD risk when compared with cigarette smoking and other standard COPD risk factors. When the researchers measured airway tree and lung size using state-of-the-art CT scans of the chest, they discovered that never smokers with COPD had much smaller airways relative to lung size, whereas the heavy smokers who did not have COPD had unusually large airways and thus found themselves at the opposite end of the dysanapsis spectrum. While the root cause for dysanapsis remains unknown, these findings help understand why COPD can occur in people who never smoked and do not have other risk factors.

Read more about the study here

Why do some non-smokers get COPD while many heavy smokers don’t? A new study highlights a strong risk factor for COPD related to lung development. RI-MUHC News. June 9, 2020.

Read the article here:

Association of Dysanapsis With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among Older Adults. Smith BM, Kirby M, Hoffman EA, Kronmal RA, Aaron SD, Allen NB, Bertoni A, Coxson HO, Cooper C, Couper DJ, Criner G, Dransfield MT, Han MK, Hansel NN, Jacobs DR Jr, Kaufman JD, Lin CL, Manichaikul A, Martinez FJ, Michos ED, Oelsner EC, Paine R 3rd, Watson KE, Benedetti A, Tan WC, Bourbeau J, Woodruff PG, Barr RG; MESA Lung, CanCOLD, and SPIROMICS Investigators. JAMA. 2020 Jun 9;323(22):2268-2280. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.6918. PMID: 32515814

Dr. Benjamin Smith is a member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre – RESP program.