Supervisors Looking for Graduate Students

Updated: November 2017

Dr. Ivonne Lamers
My enthusiasm for research draws from my interest in the biochemistry and physiology of nutrition-related diseases and in targeted and population-based strategies of chronic disease prevention and optimal health promotion. My research focuses on micronutrients and specifically B-vitamins and their kinetics and functions in human metabolism. B-vitamins are required for normal cell growth and neurological function and thus have an impact on human health from the embryo to the older adult. Low folate and/or vitamin B-12 status may yield pregnancy complications, low birth weight, cancer, and cognitive impairment.
The overarching theme of my research is micronutrient adequacy. My current research projects focus on maternal-fetal nutrient dependency, periconceptional vitamin adequacy, and the role of maternal and infant nutrition on growth and development. In the UBC Nutritional Biomarker Laboratory that I established, my team has set up a wide array of externally validated analytical methods. One of our goals is to identify sensitive nutritional biomarkers for early diagnosis of micronutrient inadequacies. With the use of stable isotope tracer protocols, we are able to investigate metabolic and functional consequences of nutritional inadequacies and micronutrient interactions in various population groups. The studies will help elaborate potential underlying mechanisms responsible for linkages between B-vitamin intake and chronic disease risk and in the evaluation of optimal vitamin intake to maintain biochemical functions.
I am interested in supervising graduate students with strong interests in biochemistry, nutrition, and biomarker analysis. Ideal candidates have strong communication skills for interaction with study participants and have experience or high interest in potential projects with a wet lab component. To read more about our current projects, team members, or highlights, please see: www.vitamins.landfood.ubc.ca
Current opening: 1 PhD position, CIHR-funded project with the goal to develop accessible blood indicators for vitamin B2 (riboflavin) status assessment and identify which most sensitively reflect dietary intakes and food sources of vitamin B2 in adults, using biospecimen and survey data from Canadian and Irish cohort studies. In this international and multidisciplinary project, we will also demonstrate an important health effect of vitamin B2 by investigating its role in modulating blood pressure via a novel gene-nutrient interactive effect.
If interested, please send your resume to yvonne.lamers@ubc.ca.

Dr. Kevin Harris
Research Area:  Preventive Cardiology; Cardiovascular Outcomes; Interventional Pediatric Cardiology.

As a pediatric cardiologist based at BC Children’s Hospital and the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, my clinical research program ranges from preventive cardiology – where we evaluate and promote healthy living in children with congenital and non-congenital cardiovascular disease – to interventional pediatric cardiology– where we are interested in optimizing outcomes of interventional cardiac catheterizations and pediatric cardiac surgery.

I am currently seeking a graduate student as part of a large Heart & Stroke Foundation funded research project that investigates the association between vascular health and physical activity in children with complex congenital heart disease. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, contact me via email with a cover letter and curriculum vitae. kharris2@cw.bc.ca

Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, UBC.  As a Clinician-Scientist, I have a strong interest in conducting translational research that bridges our understanding on the neurobiology of psychiatric illnesses with the clinical applications of this knowledge. I am particularly interested in applying this strategy to severe psychiatric disorders such as refractory psychosis and treatment resistant depression. My clinical practice is actively focused in those most severely afflicted by such conditions, and my research interests are directed at finding novel therapeutic interventions within Non-Invasive Neurostimulation Therapies (NINETs) that can help mitigate the suffering of those with severe and refractory forms of psychosis and depression. I strongly believe that understanding NINETs’ mechanism(s) of action is a critical step towards translating this knowledge to clinical practice. More important, translating that knowledge to clinical practice will have a direct, immediate, and positive impact on the life’s of those who struggle and suffer the most devastating forms of mental illness and their families.
In the lab we actively investigate on ECT, TMS, tDCS as well as utilize EEG, fNIRS, TMS-EEG, and MRI imaging spanning from sMRI, fMRI, MRS, and DTI. The lab is also the only centre in Canada to host both simultaneous TMS-fMRI and tDCS-fMRI capability.
The lab has received support from CIHR and Brain Canada for investigator-initiated research projects on the use of Non-Invasive neurotsimulation therapies.”

Dr. Aly Karsan
Myelodysplastic syndromes, blood cancers, hematopoiesis, Notch, innate immune signaling.  akarsan@bccrc.ca

Dr. Juergen Kast

Dr. Bradley Quon

Dr. Quon’s research program is focused on improving health outcomes in cystic fibrosis. He is developing novel blood biomarkers to improve cystic fibrosis pulmonary exacerbation outcomes. He is also involved in several national and international clinical trials and epidemiological studies examining novel therapeutics, infections, and health outcomes in cystic fibrosis.


Dr. Tricia S. Tang

Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology; 2775 Laurel Street, 10th Floor, Room #10211, Vancouver, BC V5Z1M9
My research is focused diabetes prevention and control in high-risk and medically underserved communities.  Currently, I have research studies investigating peer support models in improving and sustaining diabetes self-management efforts among South Asian adults with type 2 diabetes in a community-based setting as well as ethnically diverse patients with type 2 diabetes presenting to a specialty care setting. I am also involved in a project designing a virtual fitness center that provide culturally and linguistically-specific tools and resources for Punjabi and Hindi speaking South Asian adults at risk or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Tricia.tang@vch.ca


Dr. Alan I. So

His research focuses on the study of development of novel therapeutics for bladder cancer. He has characterized the functional role of different survival genes (including clusterin and Hsp27) in different tumor models (prostate, breast, lung, and bladder) in cancer progression. His current research projects focuses on: 1)discovery and development of novel agents to treat bladder cancer; 2) development of the mechanisms of treatment resistance in renal cell carcinoma and most recent project 3) 3D bioprinting of bladder cancer tumors as a platform for personalized medicine, involving tissue engineering and regeneration.  He is active in clinical trials across Canada and is a member of National Cancer Institute of Canada GU Clinical Trials Group and Canadian Uro-Oncology Group. Currently, he leads the Clinical Trials Unit at the Vancouver Prostate Cancer and is the Chair of the Urology Surgical Tumour Group at the BC Cancer Agency.

The Vancouver Prostate Centre, RHNH, #265 – 2660 Oak S., Vancouver, BC, Canada V6H 3Z6 604-874-5681
dralanso@mail.ubc.ca


Dr. Mahyar Etminan

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences| Faculty of Medicine; Associate Member, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, The University of British Columbia, The Eye Care Centre, 2550 Willow Street, Vancouver BC.

My research is focused in the area of ocular epidemiology using large population based databases. Specifically, I have worked extensively in the last few years examining the effect of prescription drugs on various ocular conditions. I have special interest on design and analysis of case-control and cohort studies, identifying and adjusting for confounders in epidemiological studies, causal inference and meta-analysis.
etminanm@mail.ubc.ca


Dr. Mark Fitzgerald

Supervisor and Professor, Respiratory Division, Department of Medicine

Our team at UBC Faculty of Medicine, Respiratory Division, is looking for interested Master and PhD students for our health literacy measurement tool development research funded by CIHR for multi-year project. This is a patient participatory research that will engage adult asthma and COPD patients to develop and validate a new measurement tool that is relevant and useful, specific to the Canadian universal health care context and addresses the limitations of existing tools by measuring all important domains of health literacy.

  1. The graduate (Master) student will be responsible for completing a literature review on health literacy measurement tools, patient recruitment, implementing qualitative studies (arrange and co-coordinate patient-oriented focus group sessions), preparing study documents and reports, and transcribe focus groups discussions. The student will also assist the project manager to meet key-informants, researchers, professionals, and community leaders to conduct personal interviews, and assist the brainstorming meetings and teleconferences. The student will meet the manager weekly to update the study and review the progress of the project. The student will work on his/her thesis focusing on the preliminary phase (stages one and two) of developing a new health literacy instrument.
  1. The PhD student should have extensive knowledge in measurement development and statistical analyses and is interested in taking health literacy and chronic disease management as his/her doctoral dissertation. He/she will work with the research manager and research team. The student will work with a Master’s student in conducting literature review and patient-oriented focus group and stakeholders (community key-informants/researchers) interview sessions. The PhD student will also summarize focus groups and interviews notes to classify the content of the health literacy measurement tool according to information received from patients and stakeholders to be shared with the study team and advisory committee. In addition, the student will be responsible to the entire study data tabulation and transcriptions (both qualitative and quantitative analyses) and will do the data analyses on the quantitative data. The PhD student will meet the study manager and Master’s student weekly to update the work and review the progress of the project. The student will complete the development of the health literacy measurement tool and describe the link between health literacy and levels of asthma and COPD control as her/his PhD thesis research during the term of the research project. The student will also help in the preparation of manuscripts for publication.

Please contact Dr. Iraj Poureslami at iraj.poureslami@ubc.ca or by phone at (604) 875-4111, Ext. 61812 for further information and set an interview time.


Dr. Liam Brunham

Dr. Brunham is a clinician-scientist whose research focuses on understanding how changes in specific genes contribute to differences in drug-response as well as to alterations in plasma lipid levels and their relationship to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. His laboratory uses a variety of approaches including genetic association studies, next-generation sequencing, and functional genomics to investigate the role of genetic variation in these phenotypes.

Current projects in the laboratory include:

1) Identification of rare variants that contribute to alterations in plasma lipid levels.
2) Identification of genetic variants underlying severe adverse drug reactions.
3) Modeling the functional impact of genetic variants on drug-response in genome-edited human cells.
liam.brunham@ubc.ca
https://www.hli.ubc.ca/profile/brunham/liam


Dr. Doris Doudet

The role and function of the monoaminergic systems, with particular emphasis on dopamine (DA) .
ddoudet@mail.ubc.ca

 


Dr. Linda Li

PhD student positions are available in Dr. Linda Li’s Arthritis, Joint Health & Knowledge Translation Research (Arthritis-KTR) Program to study the role of digital technologies in supporting self-management for people with arthritis. Dr. Li is Associate Professor and Harold Robinson/Arthritis Society Chair at the Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia, and Senior Scientist at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada. Example of current projects include:

1) Arthritis Care in the Digital Age

2) ANSWER-2 (A biologic decision aid for patients with rheumatoid arthritis)
A mixed-methods proof-of-concept study to develop and test a new patient decision aid that supports people with rheumatoid arthritis to make informed treatment decisions with their doctor.

3) OPEN (Osteoarthritis Physical Activity & Exercise Net)
A randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of an interactive website that aims to help people with osteoarthritis to improve their physical activity.

Students who are interested should contact Dr. Li at lli@arthritisresearch.ca


Dr. Scott Garrison

Dr. Garrison is a clinician researcher whose personal research interests are clinical trials, rational drug use, and initiatives to improve the care of the elderly. As VCH-Richmond’s Medical Director for Research, Dr. Garrison is also interested in facilitating, through collaboration with other care providers, clinical research opportunities for graduate students across the full spectrum of medical disciplines and care settings within the city of Richmond.
sgarrison@telus.net


Dr. Dirk Lange
The research interests in the Lange laboratory are in the area of Endourology, specifically benign urology.  Current research interests in the laboratory are: a)Understanding and improving ureteral stent-induced morbidity (biomaterial design to prevent stent-associated urinary tract infections, device encrustation, and patient discomfort. b)Understanding the ureteral response to indwelling stents, kidney stones, and ureteral obstruction. Specifically we are interested in identifying molecular mechanisms that drive ureteral dysfunction associated with indwelling ureteral stents and obstruction, as well as the recovery of normal ureteral function following reversal of the obstruction. c) Understanding the role of the intestinal microbiome in recurrent kidney stone disease.

Current Graduate Student positions available are in the development of novel antifouling coatings for ureteral stents. The position will involve testing the efficacy of novel antifouling coating formulations at preventing fouling of the indwelling device (protein deposition, encrustation, bacterial biofilm formation) in relevant in vitro and in vivo models developed in our laboratory.

Below is some background information regarding the scope of the problem.

Ureteral stenting is one of the most commonly performed procedures in urology to promote urinary drainage from the kidney to the bladder. They are most frequently used in conjunction with procedures to treat kidney stones and for reconstructive surgery of the ureter. Despite their widespread use, ureteral stents are fraught with complications associated with biofouling of the stent material with the most common being infection and encrustation. Studies have shown that up to 90% of stents are colonized with bacteria, despite the use of antibiotics, which is due to pathogenic bacteria being harbored in a protective bacterial biofilm. Encrustation rates rise dramatically with longer indwelling times. As a result, the long-term use of stents is limited, requiring regular stent exchanges and treatment of infections that result in significant patient morbidity and cost to the healthcare system. New materials and coatings to address these complications have not been successful, due to the diversity of bacterial species, significant variability in stent material physical characteristics and the deposition of a urinary conditioning film on the stent surface within minutes of device insertion. This conditioning film is particularly detrimental as it covers any novel material or coating rendering it ineffective, and facilitates bacterial adhesion and encrustation. Therefore, the development of a coating that inhibits a broad spectrum of bacteria in their biofilm state, in addition to overcoming the challenges of conditioning film deposition and encrustation would be a novel approach to prevent stent-associated complications.
dirk.lange@ubc.ca

 


Dr. Christopher Carlsten

The Carlsten lab is always looking for highly-motivated, energetic and team-oriented trainees, at all levels, who are attracted to the COERD mission
. Such individuals should email him at carlsten@mail.ubc.ca.

Dr. Carlsten directs the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Respiratory Disease (COERD), the mission of which is to gain new understanding of the mechanisms involved in occupational and environmental lung disease through laboratory and clinical research, and to translate this knowledge into improved diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative tools for the benefit of public health. The centrepiece of COERD, which emphasizes a highly interdiscliplinary and team-oriented environment, strong financial support from diverse stakeholders, and a rich network of local and international collaboration, is the Air Pollution Exposure Lab (APEL).

The following are key themes at APEL:
Health effects of toxic inhalants (“air pollution”, diesel exhaust, allergens, phthalates, respiratory, cognitive and immunologic effects)
Controlled inhalation models (humans, ‘in vivo’, experimental approaches to validate epidemiologic models, crossover study design)
Effects of complex inhaled exposures (synergy, adjuvancy, additive and multiplicative effects (statistical, functional), biological plausibility)
Translational research (state-of-the-art lab methods within experiments that concretely address public health concerns)
Understanding effects of genetics on pollutant effect (gene-by-environment analysis, oxidative stress, vulnerability, susceptibility)
Lab Website


Dr. Xuesen Dong

Ph.D graduate student positions are available in Dr. Xuesen Dong’s lab to study roles of steroid receptors and coregulators in prostate cancer and in premature labour. Our lab is located in Vancouver Prostate Centre, University of British Columbia. We are looking for dynamic and highly motivated applicants to join our laboratory that employs a multi-disciplinary approach to investigate androgen and progesterone signalling in cancer and myometrial cells (reference PMID: 19423654, 17452459, 21566083). Candidate with background in molecular or cell biology are encouraged. Interested candidates should send their CVs, including laboratory skills, and a cover letter together with the names and contact information of three references by email to xdong@prostatecentre.com.


Dr. Jan Dutz

Epicutaneous modulation of T cell function Recent evidence suggests that proteins or peptides can be applied on intact skin to vaccinate and produce both an antibody and a T cell response. Epicutaneous immunization (that is, on intact skin) offers potential for the development of tumour and virus-specific vaccines. In addition, it may be more cost effective as well as easier to administer than current methods of immunization. We are studying the epicutaneous application of peptides and proteins and methods to enhance their delivery and immunogenicity. In addition to being an ideal organ for the initiation of immune responses, the skin can suppress immune responses. It is particularly effective in this regard after exposure to ultraviolet light. Consequently, we are also studying how the skin may be used to induce tolerance and thereby possibly treat autoimmune disease.

SLE, UV light and T cell priming in the skin Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder that can have devastating consequences. Lupus often begins in the skin and can worsen with exposure to sunlight. Recent experimental data in mouse models suggests that the skin may be the organ where T cells are first activated in lupus. Recent data also suggest that cytotoxic T cells may be involved in the initiation of lupus autoimmunity. A better understanding of how the skin may initiate immune responses will shed light on the role of the skin in initiating and/or perpetuating disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus.

Treating diabetes by modulating cross presentation Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease in which insulin-producing cells (termed beta cells) in the pancreas are destroyed. We have determined that beta cell death in the pancreas allows beta cell antigens to be processed by specialized antigen presenting cells called dendritic cells. These dendritic cells can then activate diabetes-inducing cytotoxic T cells through a process termed cross-presentation. We are currently determining which additional factors are required for the detrimental cross-presentation of self-antigen and how this may be inhibited.

Jan.Dutz@vch.ca


Dr. Kevan Jacobson

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic, relapsing inflammatory disorder of the GI tract that affects approximately 170,000 individuals in Canada, with 20-25% diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. Epidemiologic studies suggest increasing incidence and changing disease phenotype in the Western world. The underlying etiology remains elusive since there are a variety of putative pathogenetic mechanism and variable time intervals between exposure to a putative trigger and onset of clinical disease. It is presently hypothesized that IBD develops in genetically susceptible individuals as a result of an abnormal response to intestinal microflora. Genetic susceptibility might be expressed as altered function of the intestinal epithelial barrier or a defective/ dysregulated immune system. Our work in the laboratory is focusing on the role of the epithelial barrier in intestinal inflammatory disease and potential modifiers including diet (probiotics, polyunsaturated fatty acids), enteric pathogens and enteric neuropeptides.

kjacobson@cw.bc.ca


Dr. Andrei Krassioukov

Dr. Andrei Krassioukov is currently recruiting a PhD student in his discovery science laboratory at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD). ICORD is an interdisciplinary UBC research centre focused on spinal cord injury (SCI). ICORD’s research activities span the continuum from basic, preclinical discovery, to human-based discovery, to acute clinical interventions, to chronic care and rehabilitation, to community integration and participation.

Research in Dr. Krassioukov’s Cardiovascular Autonomic Laboratory is focused on examining the mechanisms of various autonomic dysfunctions that occur following SCI, using experimental animal models or evaluating individuals with this devastating trauma. For the last twenty years, Dr. Krassioukov’s research has focused specifically on examination of unstable arterial blood pressure control and the life threatening phenomenon known as autonomic dysreflexia.

The PhD project will focus on the mechanisms underlying changes in vascular function following experimental SCI and in response to exercise using rodent models. The ideal candidate for this position will have a Masters degree in physiology/neurophysiology/zoology or a related field. Experience with animal handling, tissue histology, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry is paramount.

Funding will be available for the first year of the program, however, the potential candidate will be expected to apply for external funding in subsequent years.

Please contact Dr. Christopher West, Postdoctoral Researcher, at west@icord.org / 604-675-8816 for information.


Dr. Megan Levings

Graduate student positions are open in the Leving’s lab to study regulatory T cells and develop ways to treat diseases which are caused by insufficient immune tolerance.

Research in the laboratory is focused on CD4+ T regulatory (Treg) cells, which control immune homeostasis. Although we know that Treg cells have a fundamental role in regulating immunity to both self and foreign proteins, little is known about how they function. Current work is focused on determining how Treg cells differ from normal CD4+ T cells at both the biochemical and molecular levels, and elucidating their role in transplantation tolerance, cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. A long-term goal is to develop methods to generate Treg cells in vitro for use as a cellular therapy to replace standard immuno-suppression in the context of organ transplantation or to restore tolerance in the context of autoimmunity. For more information please visit the cfri.ca/levingslab.


Dr. Lucy Marzban

Type 1 diabetes and islet transplantation: Identifying the cell death signalling pathways by which non-immune factors such as islet amyloid formation mediate beta-cell death in human islets during pre-transplant culture and following transplantation. Through these studies we hope to find new approaches to enhance survival and function of islet grafts in type 1 diabetic recipients.

Type 2 diabetes and beta-cell apoptosis: Identifying the molecular mechanisms by which islet amyloid formation mediates beta-cell death in type 2 diabetes and finding new ways to prevent amyloid toxicity.

Role of islet alpha cells in diabetes: Investigating the underlying molecular mechanisms that contribute to the better survival of islet alpha-cells in conditions associated with beta-cell death such as type 2 diabetes, islet culture, and transplantation.

lucy.marzban@ubc.ca


Dr. Chris Maxwell

Interactions between various microtubule-associated proteins promote the nucleation of microtubules for the assembly of the mitotic spindle, permitting the alignment of genetic material and its equivalent segregation to daughter cells. Our past research has identified proteins that work together during cell division and shown that these proteins are also vital for differentiation.

Our ongoing projects include:

  • During mitotic spindle assembly and exit, microtubule organization and genome stability are determined by genetic and molecular interactions between gene/proteins. Using established technologies and phosphorylation mutants among other reagents, the interplay between these gene/proteins will be investigated to better understand division and the generation of genomic instability. Priority will be given to the translation of our results towards novel clinical knowledge, as previously published for adult leukemias and carcinomas, and clinical benefit.
  • Epithelial specialization, terminal differentiation and apicobasal polarity are reliant, in part, upon cytoskeletal reorganization and turnover of microtubule nucleating factors. These results provide a new perspective on differentiation and cancer risk associated with BRCA1 mutation. Using established technologies and reagents, we will investigate microtubule reorganization during neuronal differentiation and interrogate the mechanism(s) of tumorigenesis for pediatric brain tumors. A priority of the research program will be the application of knowledge to the development of better clinical tools for childhood brain tumors.

Many classical cancer therapies, as well as radiation, target cell division and/or microtubules. We will focus on testing, modifying and optimizing the effectiveness of a novel, promising cancer therapy that disrupts microtubule organization. By genetic and/or chemical alteration of partner proteins, we hope to broaden the clinical options to treat aggressive adult and childhood tumors.

cmaxwell@cfri.ubc.ca


Dr. Alice Mui

Signal transduction, gene regulation, transplantation, immunology and immune tolerance.
alice.mui@ubc.ca


Dr. Chris Ong

The primary focus of Dr. Ong’s research program is to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern the progression of prostate cancer from a state of androgen sensitivity to hormone independence with the hope of developing novel therapeutic strategies to prevent or delay the progression of prostate cancer to androgen independence. His primary focus has been on the PTEN tumour suppressor gene, which is among the most frequently mutated genes in cancer. One or both copies of PTEN is mutated in over 70% of primary prostate cancer and PTEN is completely inactivated in over 50% of advanced prostate cancer which correlates with a poor prognosis. Dr. Ong’s laboratory is currently studying how mutations of that gene confer protection of prostate cancer cells from cell death and resistance to chemotherapy as well as how loss of PTEN influences progression of prostate cancer cells to androgen independence. Implications from this research may lead to new therapeutic strategies designed to prevent or delay progression to androgen independence. Based on observations to date, Dr. Ong is testing the potential utility of several classes of small molecule drugs that act to down-modulate the PI3K survival pathway in the treatment of prostate cancer. These novel compounds have tremendous promise as lead compounds for development of therapeutics that target a primary defect associated with prostate cancer and other malignancies. Dr. Ong’s laboratory is also involved in the development of unique prostate tumour model systems which are used to characterize the function of a number of genes in normal and malignant prostate biology.
chris.ong@ubc.ca


Dr. Steve Plotkin

Dr. Steve Plotkin’s research group does research at the interface of physics and biology. Their interests range from the study of dynamics and disorder in the theory of protein folding, misfolding, and aggregation, to DNA function and dynamics, to studies of pattern formation and symmetry breaking in morphogenesis.
steve@phas.ubc.ca


Dr. Neil Reiner

My laboratory is concerned with host defense against intracellular infection and how intracellular microbes disrupt cellular functions to favor their survival. Because of our interest in the role of macrophages in host defense, one focus of the laboratory is to identify pathways that regulate cell activation is response to key agonists such as IFN-y and bacterial lipopolysaccharide. This research has led to the identification of novel signaling pathways that regulate macrophage function. The second major interest in the laboratory is to understand the strategies used by intracellular pathogens to effectively prevent macrophage activation. This research focuses on identifying the pathways and molecules in macrophages targeted by intracellular pathogens and the corresponding microbial virulence factors involved. Pathogens under study include, Leishmania donovani, M. tuberculosis and Salmonella.
nreiner@mail.ubc.ca


Dr. Chris Shaw

My laboratory’s key focus over the last few years has been on the unusual neurological disease of Guam and the Western Pacific, ALS-parkinsonism dementia complex (ALS-PDC). I view this disease as a kind of neurological Rosetta Stone able to unlock some of the key questions in neurological disease research. For example: what are the causes of ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s and what are the pre-clinical stages of each? Our approach has been to create an in vivo animal model in which we can look at behavioural changes in motor and cognitive functions, as well as systems, cellular and biochemical modifications as the disease process emerges over time. We have identified a novel class of neurotoxins in the course of our initial studies and are now beginning to understand the toxic mechanisms of action that lead to the death of neurons in the spinal cord and brain. The overall goal of this work is to identify key etiological factors involved in sporadic neurological disease and the early stages of the disease process. From the first could come effective prophylaxis; from the latter, early phase treatment before irreversible damage to the CNS has been done.

A second theme to our work is to seek potential therapeutic agents for existing neurological disease states using the above, and other, animal models. In particular, we are focusing our attention on progranulin, a neuroepithelial growth factor, and on a class of molecules called ginsenosides. Preliminary data with progranulin suggests that the molecule can exert powerful neuroprotective effects and perhaps even reverse early phase neurodegeneration.

The last aspect of our work, and one that is still emerging, is to look at the potential for compounds such as aluminum to be neurotoxic. We are interested in the types of aluminum compounds that can cause neurodegeneration, their route of administration, the impact of dose and duration, and the crucial but largely unexplored aspects of age and sex. These studies are just beginning, but show great promise to help us understand the origin of neurological disorders as diverse as autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.
cashawlab@gmail.com


Dr. Scott Tebbutt

Dr. Tebbutt’s research programme is focused on the genomics of complex respiratory disease, including the early and late reactions in allergic asthma and rhinitis. He also leads a multidisciplinary collaboration to investigate interactions between fungal spores and human airway cells. His research combines hypothesis-driven study of biological mechanisms with the development of advanced tools and technology (including bioinformatics and microfluidics-based systems) to better facilitate basic and translational research. Dr. Tebbutt has published original research contributions in journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.), Journal of Medical Genetics, Genomics, BioTechniques, Bioinformatics, BMC Bioinformatics, BMC Medical Genomics and PLoS ONE. He has published numerous technical reviews as well as book chapters on the role of genetic variation in respiratory disease. He has served as reviewer on several grant panels, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and he is Associate Editor for the journal BMC Genetics.
scott.tebbutt@hli.ubc.ca


Dr. Bruce Vallance

We co-exist in harmony with huge numbers of bacteria, many within our own gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. On occasion, however, particularly virulent bacteria called pathogens (Salmonella, EHEC O157:H7) infect our intestines and cause severe, even fatal, disease. To fight infections, our immune system must recognize these bacteria as harmful and trigger a protective immune response. Some individuals appear highly susceptible to infections, perhaps because their immune systems are unable to recognize or effectively deal with the bacteria. Inappropriate recognition of pathogens may also contribute to chronic diseases of the GI tract such as Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). We believe that in IBD an individual’s immune system mistakes harmless bacteria for pathogens and attacks them, causing chronic inflammation. Using immunological and microbiological techniques, we’re learning how our immune systems recognize bacteria in the GI tract. We’re also identifying the factors that can provide resistance or susceptibility to intestinal infections, and exploring the mechanisms underlying the dysfunctional pathogen recognition that can trigger chronic IBD.
bvallance@cw.bc.ca


Supervisors Looking for Post-doc Students

Dr. Gerald Krystal

Dr. Gerry Krystal in the Terry Fox Lab of the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre is looking for an enthusiastic post-doctoral fellow to work on the role of diet and inflammation on cancer. Please contact Dr. Krystal if interested.
gkrystal@bccrc.ca


Dr. Tobias Kollmann
Child and Family Research Institute
A5-147, 938 West 28th Ave; Vancouver, BC V5Z 4H4
Email: tkollm@mac.com
Laboratory website: http://kollmannlab.cfri.ca/index.htm

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