The Government of Canada announces national and international research teams to study the impact of environmental factors on human health and disease

OTTAWA, July 10, 2013 /CNW/ - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today announced that nine teams of researchers have received funding to examine how environmental factors can alter the expression of our DNA and potentially affect our health. The research teams are being funded by the Government of Canada in partnership with Genome BC, Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS) and the Japan Science & Technology Agency.

"We are pleased to support these research teams whose work will enhance our understanding of gene-environment interactions and provide new insights into human health and disease," said Minister Aglukkaq. "We are proud to partner with Canadian and Japanese organizations to fund these important projects that will help to improve the health of Canadians."

In October 2012, Minister Aglukkaq announced the funding committed to support the teams through the Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC), a national initiative designed to position Canada as a leader in the field of epigenetics and health. Total funding for all nine teams is $21.8M over five years.

The teams announced today were selected by a rigorous peer-review panel of international experts. They include six Canadian teams and three teams composed of Canadian and Japanese researchers.

The following researchers will lead Canadian teams focused on improving the translation of epigenetics research into better human health:

  • Dr. Cheryl Arrowsmith (University of Toronto) will measure the influence of the  microbiome on epigenetic mechanisms in inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Dr. Denise Daley (University of British Columbia) will explore how the environment affects epigenetic mechanisms involved in the development of asthma.
  • Dr. James Davie (University of Manitoba) seeks to discover the epigenetic "signatures" associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
  • Dr. Pamela Hoodless (BC Cancer Agency) will examine what epigenetic modifications are involved with regulating hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatocyte differentiation
  • Dr. Mark Lathrop (McGill University) plans to perform full resolution epigenomic mapping in metabolic disease in human populations.
  • Dr. William Muller (McGill University) will explore the role of epigenetics in the development of breast cancer, and its implications for drug resistance.

"We hope this work leads to diagnostic biomarkers of conditions such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that can be used as early as birth," said Dr. James Davie from the University of Manitoba. "It is well established that early diagnosis and intervention can profoundly change the life of a child with this disorder."

The following teams of Canadian and Japanese researchers will address ongoing challenges in the epigenetics of stem cells:

  • Dr. John Dick (University Health Network in Toronto) and Dr. Hiromitsu Nakauchi (University of Tokyo) will seek ways to improve methods for engineering stem cells made from hematopoietic stem cells, potentially identifying new therapeutic targets. They also hope their epigenetic roadmap of the blood system and leukemia will become a new important resource for the research community.
  • Dr. Andras Nagy (Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto) and Dr. Yasuhiro Yamada (Kyoto University) will study the reprogramming process in order to find cells most suitable for regenerative medicine that are efficient and safe from a tumorigenic perspective.
  • Dr. Janet Rossant (Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto) and Dr. Hitoshi Niwa (RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology) will use different methods from labs in Canada and Japan to develop a complete understanding of the molecular epigenetic networks that distinguish pluripotency and trophoblast development.  Their research will allow them to learn more about placental development and pregnancy disorders.

"FRQS is very pleased to be participating in this pan-Canadian research initiative on the interactions between genes and the environment. FRQS will contribute financial support for the two research teams based in Quebec, at McGill University," said Dr. Renaldo Battista, Scientific Director of the FRQS. "These teams will explore how the environment influences the development of breast cancer and metabolic diseases. The teams' research projects will provide a better understanding of how these diseases develop, so that treatments for them can be improved."

About Genome British Columbia
Genome British Columbia is a catalyst for the life sciences cluster on Canada's West Coast, and manages a cumulative portfolio of over $625M in research projects and science and technology platforms. Working with governments, academia and industry across sectors such as forestry, fisheries, agriculture, environment, bioenergy, mining and human health, the goal of the organization is to generate social and economic benefits for British Columbia and Canada. www.genomebc.ca

About the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS)
The mission of the Fonds de la recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS), which reports to the Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, is to support health research in order to foster the wellness of Quebecers. Its mandate is to promote and financially support this research, to share knowledge and train researchers, as well as to establish partnerships necessary for the development of Quebec's research and innovation system and advance the research internationally. For additional information visit: www.frqs.gouv.qc.ca

About Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system for Canadians. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

SOURCE: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

For further information:

Cailin Rodgers, Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, 613-957-0200
David Coulombe, CIHR Media Relations, 613-941-4563
Sally Greenwood, Genome BC, 604-637-4373
Michelle Dubuc, FRQS, 514 873-2114 ext. 1235

Ce document est également disponible en français.