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Funding boost for health research

Researchers at Queen’s have received over $2 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to advance programs accessing a series of public health challenges.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) recently announced results for their Fall 2021 Project Grant competition. The Project Grant program aims to identify ideas with great potential to advance basic and applied health research. Queen’s researchers David Reed (Medicine), Mark Ormiston (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), Chris McGlory (Kinesiology), and Imaan Bayoumi (Family Medicine) received over $2 million in support to advance programs that address public health challenges.

“Congratulations to these outstanding Queen’s researchers who have been funded through the competitive CIHR Project Grants program,” says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). “I am excited to watch these projects unfold and realize benefit to Canadians and global citizens by advancing our understanding of human health and development.”

Learn more about the funded projects:

David Reed
Dr. David Reed

Dr. Reed received $918,000 for a five-year program aiming to find new treatments for chronic abdominal pain, such as that experienced by people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other conditions. The precise mechanisms and causes of this pain are still unclear, which leads to lack of effective treatments. Additionally, currently available medications have side effects that limit treatment options. Dr. Reed proposes a close look into gut microbiota – the trillions of bacteria that inhabit our bodies and are crucial to our health – in the search for solutions.

In a previous research, Dr. Reed and collaborators at Queen’s and McMaster University discovered that in some patients with IBS, gut bacteria produce high levels of histamine – a compound that activates pain sensing nerves. Using pre-clinical models, they now plan to elucidate mechanisms of gut pain induced by histamine release. Also, the team will study the prevalence of high-histamine producing bacteria in a large cohort of IBS patients to establish how to effectively identify these cases.

Mark Ormiston
Dr. Mark Ormiston

The molecular processes involved in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) are the object of study for Dr. Ormiston, Canada Research Chair in Regenerative Cardiovascular Medicine, whose five-year research program received $750,275. In this disease, that targets young females and is sometimes fatal, loss of lung blood vessels leads to increase heart stress. Dr. Ormiston and team have previously shown that immune cells known as Natural Killer (NK) cells are impaired in PAH patients – an impairment that might be driven by a protein named transforming growth factor-b (TGFb).

To confirm TGFb’s role in developing PAH, the team will investigate lung vascular development and the progression of lung vascular diseases in pre-clinical models modified to produce NK cells that are insensitive to TGFb. With this program, Dr. Ormiston expects to further understand the molecular processes by which immune cells can contribute to vessel remodeling in the lung and open new avenues for drug development.

Chris McGlory
Dr. Chris McGlory

Dr. McGlory’s four-year program will focus on trying to understand why people lose muscle during periods of inactivity, such as those experienced by hospital patients when immobile after surgery. Losing muscle in hospital following surgery can trigger diabetes and lead to major negative health outcomes. Dr. McGlory received $535,500 to investigate the causes of muscle loss and possible treatments. 

The team led by Dr. McGlory aims to be the first to simultaneously measure the rates at which muscles are broken down and synthesized to identify the processes responsible for the loss of muscle during hospitalization-induced bedrest. They will also assess how nutritional supplementation with amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids alter this response. The project will unite a multidisciplinary team of international investigators and trainees. 

Imaan Bayoumi
Dr. Imaan Bayoumi

Dr. Bayoumi has been granted $100,000 to develop a one-year research program on poverty and child health. The team will assess the impact of Community Support Worker assistance on parents’ ability to navigate the social service system and accessing income support. Additionally, they will study the effect of this intervention on health care utilization.

The goal of the intervention is to reduce parental stress by increasing family income and, consequently, improving child development. Child poverty affects as many as 20 per cent of Canadian children and, if continued, can have lifelong impacts on health. Dr. Bayoumi hopes  health care providers and policy makers can leverage these research results to make informed decisions about tackling child poverty in Canada.

For more information about the CIHR Project Grants, visit the website.