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Queen's technology considered for Ebola fight

AsepticSure was tested last week to see if it could slow the spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

  • [Field hospital tents]
    Two tents were set up at Innovation Park to mimic a field hospital.
  • [Medizone AsepticSure machine]
    AsepticSure, a technology created by Dr. Dick Zoutman from Queen's, is currently used to sterilize hospital rooms between patients to help prevent hospital-born infections.
  • [Medizone AsepticSure machine in action]
    The technology, pictured here, produces a patented gas to destroy all pathogens in a room.

AsepticSure co-inventors Dick Zoutman, a researcher at Queen’s, and Michael Shannon met last week with representatives from portable shelter company Design Shelter Inc. to test whether the technologies could be combined to fight the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

AsepticSure combines ozone and peroxide to create a patented gas that has yet to encounter a pathogen it couldn't destroy. 

"The ozone-peroxide combination works in the same way the human body does to kill pathogens,” says Dr. Zoutman. “AsepticSure permeates all surfaces to kill 99.9999 per cent of all bacteria, spores and viruses. We’ve already seen the technology kill the coronavirus, the virus responsible for the MERS outbreak, so if it can kill the coronavirus then there’s no reason it can’t kill the Ebola virus.”

Dr. Shannon says that if the team were asked to go to West Africa and begin their efforts to destroy the virus, they could be there with the equipment to do so in a week.

The team hopes that AsepticSure will, at a minimum, provide adequate protection for all hospital staff in West Africa – the most valued commodity in fighting the Ebola outbreak.

AsepticSure is a portable hospital sterilization system that can be used by trained maintenance staff. Rooms can be sterilized to the same standard as surgical equipment withing 80-90 minutes for a room of 4,000 cubic feet. For more information on AsepticSure, visit the website.

The AsepticSure technology was developed at Medizone’s dedicated laboratories in Innovation Park at Queen’s.

Mind over matter

Tom Hollenstein (Psychology) is running a two-year trial to see if the video game MindLight can help youth cope with and eventually conquer their anxiety.

The Playnice Institute develops video games such as MindLight with the goal of promoting emotional resilience in youth. Left unchecked, anxiety in youth is shown to lead to higher rates of substance abuse, school absenteeism, depression and suicide.

“The game gives kids a chance to practice regulating their emotions at their own pace and in a safe space using a popular tool, a video game. The idea is that through the game, they will learn how to deal with anxiety-provoking situations,” says Dr. Hollenstein, who is using a grant from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation to conduct the research.

MindLight is designed for children aged eight to 16 years old. Players enter a scary mansion and learn their grandmother was abducted by the shadows. They must travel the dark hallways, solve puzzles and avoid frightening monsters to find their grandmother.

Ethan Flanagan plays MindLight under the watchful eye of Tom Hollenstein.

To beat the darkness, players wear Teru the Magical Hat who teaches the player how to use their “mind light” mounted on that magical hat. Players wear a neurofeedback headset called MindWave that measures the player’s level of relaxation or anxiety and that information is incorporated into key features of game play.

“If the trial results are positive, it could lead the way to an entirely new way of treating anxious children and help researchers better understand the power of video games,” Dr. Hollenstein says.

The trial, conducted with the support of Dr. Hollenstein’s co-investigators Sarosh Khalid-Khan (Psychiatry) and Isabel Granic (Psychology), includes two elements. The first takes place through the Mood and Anxiety Treatment Program at Hotel Dieu. For the second part, Dr. Hollenstein’s research team is partnering with local schools to identify at-risk youth and work with them to determine if the game play can help reduce children’s anxiety.

Uncovering Herstmonceux Castle's history

For the past seven years, Scott McLean has been analyzing the archaeology of the Herstmonceux Castle estate in East Sussex, England. A new excavation program at the estate aims to uncover the ways medieval peoples adapted when the region went through climate change.

Members of the excavation team worked this summer at a site called Mota Piece.

“Through combined excavations, archival research and environmental analysis we are hoping to reconstruct a better understanding of what the Herstmonceux Castle estate was like during the medieval period,” says Scott McLean, an associate professor of history at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC). “With the information we gather, we hope to learn more about how the owners coped with the fierce storms and rising sea levels that constituted this period of climate change.”

The Herstmonceux estate occupies 600 acres of land adjacent to the Pevensey Levels, an ecologically sensitive region that was repeatedly flooded starting in the 13th century when the world entered a period of global cooling known as the Little Ice Age.

Dr. McLean’s research scope has expanded with the excavation program that draws in collaborators from Queen’s University and the University of Waterloo. The program, which has received a $200,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, will also place a strong focus on training students in archeology, archival research and public history research.

“The Herstmonceux Estate excavation provides an excellent opportunity for fruitful collaboration between experts at the BISC, Queen’s and the University of Waterloo,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “Participating in and observing operations at the archaeological sites also represents a unique hands-on learning opportunity for students studying at the BISC.” 

After their first summer of excavation, the team has turned up evidence of an early manor house on the edge of Pevensey Levels. The researchers have also uncovered approximately 100 previously unknown medieval documents related to the castle and estate.

 Excavations at Herstmonceux Estate are planned to continue until 2017.

Medical students create hands-on surgical skills program

SSTEP Program
Student Richard Di Len, left, with Dean Richard Reznick at a surgical skills program made possible through the Medical School Excellence Fund, a fund created through donations from alumni and friends.

Second year Queen’s medical students had a special opportunity during their first two weeks of summer break to practice their surgical skills.

A year in the making, the Surgical Skills and Technology Elective Program (SSTEP) was an idea proposed by second-year medical students Jennifer Siu and Stefania Spano to give students the opportunity to build and reinforce foundational knowledge and skills, in a supervised environment. Through their leadership, SSTEP brought together 24 second-year students and more than 27 faculty members and resident facilitators for two weeks of hands-on learning and surgical skill building.

In order to create the curriculum for SSTEP, Ms. Siu and Ms. Spano used the First Year Surgical Residency Bootcamp as a guideline, and built a program that gradually took students from basic skills like knot tying and suturing on to more complex procedures using a variety of materials.

“Our goal was to give students more time and supervision to practice their procedural skills in a simulated environment and in doing so, to help increase their overall understanding, competence, and confidence when they are asked to assist, observe, or perform similar procedures on patients,” said Ms. Siu.

Each day of the program honed in on skills used within a specific medical specialty, exposing students to procedures from general surgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology, obstetrics and gynecology, plastic surgery, anesthesiology, family medicine, and urology. Physicians from each specialty and nurses from Kingston General Hospital acted as teachers and facilitators.

“It was important for us to create a non-threatening academic environment where students could receive one-on-one guidance from faculty or residents in their area of expertise,” said Ms. Spano.

The program was hosted at the Medical School’s Clinical Simulation Centre, allowing the students to take advantage of the state-of-the-art surgical simulation facility simulated environment provided there.

SSTEP was realized with the support of an interdisciplinary team, spanning the Faculty of Health Sciences, with help from Dean Richard Reznick himself.

“We came up with the idea in April 2013, then proposed it to Dr. Reznick in October 2013,”Ms. Spano says. “He was enthusiastic about the idea and helped set us up with the appropriate partnerships”.

An important element of this partnership was that it was supported financially by the Medical School Excellence Fund, which is resourced by donations from alumni and friends. The fund, which was created in 2009, supports a variety of initiatives including educational technology, simulation, clinical learning, innovative research and student-led initiatives, and in this case, provided essential funding to bring SSTEP to fruition.

With the project given the go-ahead, Ms. Siu and Ms. Spano recruited two fellow students, Daniel You and Riaz Karmali, to their organizing committee.

“This initiative was entirely organized by our students and reflects their great passion and enthusiasm for self-directed education. We strive to offer opportunities like this to our students here at Queen’s; this facilitates the development of physicians who can demonstrate a broad array of competencies, including skills in advocacy, management and leadership,” remarked Dr. Reznick.

After a jam-packed two weeks of learning, the SSTEP leaders were pleased to find that the feedback was all positive, amongst facilitators and the students themselves.

“Learning alongside 23 of my future colleagues and friends was what made the program such a great experience for me,” one student commented. “The enthusiasm each student brought to listening and learning from the facilitators made it an experience I will never forget.”

One goal of Queen’s Initiative Campaign is to raise funds to enhance many aspects of the student learning experience, including opportunities to learn in different ways through experiential learning such as the SSTEP Program.

The Initiative Campaign is the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. The goal is to raise half a billion dollars to ensure Queen’s future as a destination for exceptional people. In addition to enhancing the student learning experience, the campaign will nurture a supportive campus community, and secure a global reputation in discovery and inquiry.


A second look at glaucoma surgery

Queen’s researcher says use of anti-inflammatory medicines after common eye surgery isn’t necessary

New research led by Queen’s University professor Robert Campbell (Ophthalmology) has revealed using anti-inflammatory medications after glaucoma laser surgery is not helpful or necessary.

Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in the world and about 400,000 Canadians are afflicted with the disease, which is mainly caused by pressure within the eye being high enough to damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for sending messages from the eye to the brain and is a vital part of vision.

[Rob Campbell]
Queen's researcher Rob Campbell says anti-inflammatory drugs may not be necessary after glaucoma laser surgery.

“The use of strong anti-inflammatory therapies after glaucoma laser surgery became standard practice years ago, in an era when the type of laser we used was much more destructive. Today’s laser systems are much gentler, and we felt that the use of anti-inflammatory steroids may not be necessary. In fact, we thought that a small amount of inflammation might actually be helpful in causing greater pressure-lowering effects from the laser treatment,” says Dr. Campbell, who also works at Hotel Dieu Hospital.

Dr. Campbell and his research team carried out the first placebo controlled randomized clinical trial focusing on the effects of post-laser medications. They found that steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do not affect the ability of the laser treatment to lower eye pressure and do not influence complication rates.

“These findings have the potential to change patient care after glaucoma laser surgery and could save the Canadian healthcare systems millions of dollars by decreasing the use of drugs following this very common procedure,” says Dr. Campbell.

The research results were published in Ophthalmology.

Research leaders earn academic accolades

Three Queen’s University professors have been named to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists program. The new program recognizes an emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership and seeks to gather scholars, artists and scientists at a highly productive stage of their careers into a single collegium where new advances in understanding will emerge from the interaction of diverse intellectual, cultural and social perspectives.

Queen’s received the maximum allowance of three New College inductees.

“This is an exciting new program that opens the doors of the RSC to early to mid-career scholars and researchers, and provides them an opportunity to contribute to the promotion of learning and research, an important mandate of the RSC,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “Equally important is the opportunity for the RSC to connect with younger colleagues representing a wide range of research pursuits and perspectives. Although we were limited to a maximum of three, the Queen’s researchers elected into the inaugural College cohort are great representatives of the diverse range of leading edge and innovative research being undertaken by our younger colleagues across our campus.”

Pascale Champagne (l), Morten Nielsen and Una D'Elia were honoured by the Royal Society of Canada.

The three new members include:

Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering) is an innovative and collaborative researcher rapidly establishing herself as an expert in the development of alternate water and waste management technologies and sustainable environmental approaches with a focus on integrated bioresource management.  “I am honoured to receive this prestigious award,” says Dr. Champagne. “The award will create new collaborative research opportunities and allow me to develop new synergies with other researchers, and contribute to Canada’s ability to manage bioresources in a manner that is both sustainable and supportive of economic development.”

Una D’Elia (Art History), a leading scholar in the elucidation of Renaissance art. Her award-winning and critically acclaimed publications are lauded internationally for revealing new interpretations of such famous artists as Titian, Michelangelo and Raphael.

“I take this award as validation of the importance and relevance of the study of the arts and humanities,” says Dr. D’Elia. “On a personal level, I am particularly proud to be able to have my two girls see their mother receiving this honour.”

Morten Nielsen (Economics), the Canada Research Chair in Time Series Econometrics and the David Chadwick Smith Chair in the Department of Economics. Dr. Nielsen is a research leader in econometrics, the field of study focused on developing methods for the statistical analysis of economic data.

“I am delighted to be inducted into the RSC College. Being recognized by your peers in this way is a great honour, and I am both humbled and thrilled,” says Dr. Nielsen.

For information on the New College, visit the website.

Centre site of ground-breaking research

Eleven Queen’s University researchers with appointments at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) are playing key roles in advancing patient-oriented research at the medical facility.

The Kingston General Hospital Research Institute (KGHRI), launched in 2010, brings together clinician-scientists and patients, expanding opportunities for those patients to partake in groundbreaking studies that could change the outcome or progression of their disease.

Roger Deeley stands in front of the KINARM, one component of the KGH Research Institute.

“Patient-oriented research became a strategic priority for KGH four years ago,” says Roger Deeley, Vice-Dean (Research), Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and KGHRI president. “Our goal was to increase research funding by 50 per cent in five years so we decided to create an independent, incorporated research institute. We wanted to make a statement that research was a major area of activity.”

With the support of the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization’s Clinician-Scientist Recruitment Program, 11 new clinician-scientists have been recruited from across North America and abroad. The doctors are conducting research in a number of areas including critical care, emergency medicine, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and neurosurgery.

For the past four years, KGHRI has operated as a virtual entity, but plans are now underway to open a new clinical research space on Connell 4 at KGH. Queen’s and KGH are partnering to turn the 12,000 square foot space on Connell 4 into a centre for patient-oriented research across multiple disciplines. The new research space will join two existing specialized research spaces at the hospital: the Human Mobility Research Centre and the Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit.

Dr. Deeley says the cost to refurbish the centre is around $3 to $4 million. Thanks to Canada Foundation for Innovation grants and a donation from the Henderson Foundation, the project will move ahead following approval from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

This story is the first in a series on the KGH Research Institute and the clinician-scientists recruited to work in the centre.

Nine professors named Royal Society Fellows

Nine Queen’s University faculty members have been elected to the Royal Society of Canada, the highest number of inductees the university has had in one year. Fellowship in the RSC is one of the highest recognitions for Canadian academics in the arts, humanities, and the social and natural sciences.

The nine new Royal Society members are (clockwise from top left): Erwin Buncel, Francois Rouget, W. George Lovell, Peter Milliken, Wendy Craig, Roger Deeley, John Burge, Ian McKay. In the centre is Myra Hird. 

The nine newest fellows from Queen’s have a wide range of research interests including health, environmental issues, history, bullying prevention and chemistry.

“Queen’s is renowned for its excellent research and teaching, in part thanks to the contributions of faculty members like these,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “I am proud to see so many individuals recognized in a single year, especially given our institution’s modest size.”

The nine new RSC members include:

Roger Deeley (Cancer Research Institute), a pioneer who has developed approaches to cloning novel genes based solely on their level of activity. Application of these approaches led to the discovery of a multidrug resistance protein, a drug efflux pump associated with resistance to chemotherapy in cancer, and some forms of leukemia.

Myra J. Hird (Environmental Studies), a distinguished interdisciplinary scholar with an international reputation for her multifaceted, collaborative investigations into science studies and environmental issues. Dr. Hird explores how social sciences and humanities may engage with scientific knowledge to better respond to a wide range of global issues, including climate change, human-animal relations, and the nature and future of waste.

Ian McKay (History), a highly respected scholar, analyst and award-winning author. Dr. McKay is credited with changing not just conventional views of Canadian history, but the basic concepts of the field itself. His investigations into Canadian working-class culture, politics and Canadian historical theory have uncovered broader historical patterns and political frameworks that continue to inform the work of historians and social scientists

Peter Milliken (Policy Studies), Canada’s longest-serving Speaker of the House of Commons and internationally respected expert on the rules and procedures of Parliamentary democracy. Mr. Milliken is a devoted champion of Canada’s excellence in scientific research and science policy.

François Rouget (French), a specialist in Renaissance literature. A leading researcher in the field of poetry, Dr. Rouget is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the scholars who enriched the knowledge of the poets of the second half of the 16th century.                              

Wendy Craig (Psychology), a leading international expert on bullying prevention and the promotion of healthy relationships.  As founder and co-scientific director of Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet), Dr. Craig has transformed the understanding of bullying and has effectively translated the science into evidence-based practice and intervention.

W. George Lovell (Geography), an international scholar of historical geography, most notably in the regional context of Latin America, where his work on Central America has had impacts not only on his own discipline but also on several related fields. Considered a leading authority on indigenous Mayan survival, Dr. Lovell has demonstrated how their post-colonial experiences relate to much deeper rooted cultural, political and economic processes.

Erwin Buncel (Chemistry), a continuously productive chemist with over 350 journal publications and four books.  While at Queen’s, he developed various avenues of investigation in physical organic, bioorganic and bioinorganic chemistry.  Dr. Buncel’s career is unique because of the extremely broad range of chemical problems on which he has had a major impact.

John Burge (Music), an award-winning composer and champion of the arts in Canada.  Exceptional in his ability to write successfully for the entire gamut of vocal and instrumental combinations, his outstanding musical output breaks new ground both technically and expressively.

For more information about the Royal Society visit the website.

To read more about Queen's research prominance visit the link.

Bringing innovation from the lab to life

Dr. D.J. Cook works to advance promising stroke therapies.

Dr. D.J Cook in his lab. Photo by Lucy Teves.

When asked why he was drawn to a career in neurosurgery, D.J. Cook jokes that his “mom made him do it,” but that it’s a field he’s found to be incredibly exciting.

 “It’s exciting because it’s a relatively uncharted area of medicine,” he adds. “Neurosurgery and neuroscience are ripe for innovation.”

Currently, Dr. Cook is working in translational stroke research – a process to advance promising stroke therapies discovered in basic research to human clinical trials. It’s research like this that could help alleviate the effects of a stroke including paralysis, difficulty with speech, blindness and issues with sensation and perception.

“Our main goal is to identify new therapies that will enhance stroke recovery by protecting the brain at the time of stroke, restoring lost function with cell replacement or enhancing inherent recovery processes through neuromodulation,” says Dr. Cook. “Our research program has developed expertise in designing and performing key pre-clinical experiments in relevant models to validate the effectiveness of promising therapies and fine tune the design of subsequent human trials.”

Neuromodulation is a technique where either electric current or pharmaceuticals are delivered surgically through implantable devices that cause the brain to reorganize itself in a way beneficial for recovery.

Members of the Translational Stroke Research Lab from left to righ: Tim St. Amand, Meredith Poole, D.J. Cook, Justin Wang, Shelby Olesovsky, Basheer Elsolh and Joseph Nashed. Photo by Angie Tuttle.

Dr. Cook describes experiments aimed at validating therapies in clinically relevant models such that they can be tested in subsequent clinical trials with a higher degree of confidence in therapy effectiveness and safety.  It is “the last but very difficult step” in pre-clinical therapy development. Current research projects in Dr. Cook’s lab include placing a gel implant into the brain that will slowly release drugs that promote reorganization of the brain and improved recovery, the lab is also exploring cortical and deep brain stimulation techniques to enhance rehabilitation therapy following stroke.

Dr. Cook’s research ties well into his career as a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon whose clinical practise is focused on fixing diseased blood vessels in the brain, including working with stroke patients, or patients at risk of stroke.

Dr. Cook recently received a grant of $1.2 million to help build infrastructure in the translational stroke research lab: $480,000 of the grant came from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI) and the remaining funds were granted by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

“Thanks to the CFI and MRI grants, our lab has been able to purchase infrastructure for intraoperative imaging and blood flow measurement, new tools to image the brain using MRI,  and new cellular and molecular tools that help us look at the reorganization of the brain after stroke,” says Dr. Cook. “This equipment makes the Translational Stroke Research Program at Queen’s a very unique research platform for translational stroke and neuroscience research. It’s unlike any other research program in North America, probably in the world.”

Follow these links for more information on the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

Petroglyphs provide glimpse of the past

Queen's archaeologist Barbara Reeves and her team made a surprise discovery of 157 rock carvings that detail life thousands of years ago.

Dr. Barbara Reeves stands with petroglyphs in Humayma, Jordan

Barbara Reeves’ team of archaeologists accidently stumbled upon the first of 157 ancient images just days before leaving the Humayma excavation site in Jordan.  

Humayma – located in western Jordan – has been an excavation site since 1986. Even though researchers have conducted many archaeological surveys in and around the area for years, the numerous carvings on the rocks, known as petroglyphs, remained undiscovered until this summer.

“The area had been inspected by surveyors many times in the past, but these petroglyphs appear to have been overlooked since each surveyor was typically looking for something quite specific, and that didn’t include rock carvings,” says Dr. Reeves, professor of archaeology in the Department of Classics and director of the Humayma Excavation Project.

After Dr. Reeves’ team discovered one petroglyph in the area, the archaeologists went looking for more information to help with the analysis. They discovered more than 150 other petroglyphs and 20 inscriptions that had been there unseen for years.

Carved footprints, like this, could mean the area was once a major pilgrimage site.

For Dr. Reeves, who has been excavating at Humayma since 1995, the discovery was a significant find.

“The petroglyphs show soldiers, hunters, worshippers, animals and feet,” says Dr. Reeves. “These petroglyphs are also all covered in what we call a ”desert varnish,“ which is a chemical process that happens on the surface of the sandstone that gives older inscriptions a darker tone than newer ones, allowing excavators to estimate ages of the inscriptions.”

After some initial analyses of the images, Dr. Reeves and her team have hypothesized that one site was a major pilgrimage site, with more than 50 carved footprints and inscriptions.

“Carved footprints commemorate a person’s presence at a religious site,” says Dr. Reeves. “This discovery aligns with a fifth century foundation myth, which suggests that the area and its landscape had some spiritual significance.”

Now that Dr. Reeves is back in Kingston, she plans to include some students in the analysis of Humayma’s data until she returns to the site next summer to continue deciphering the ancient carvings.

The survey at Humayma this past year was funded by a research grant from the Queen’s Senate Advisory Research Committee.


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