Dalhousie researchers receive infrastructure funding from CFI

Support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation

- July 30, 2015

Dal's latest recipients of funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) cover a broad range of research areas: liver disease, arthritis, brain function, marine sediment and stroke recovery.

Ed Holder, minister of state (science and technology), announced the new funding Wednesday morning at the Université de Moncton.

The support from the John R. Evans Leaders fund helps institutions and their researchers acquire infrastructure to create state-of-the-art facilities to undertake cutting-edge research and technology developments. Matching funds were also provided by The Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT).

"Our researchers who were recognized today are exploring new research approaches to further discovery in their area of expertise,” said Martha Crago, Dalhousie vice-president research. “This funding will allow researchers to establish leading laboratories to further treatments for liver disease and autoimmune inflammatory diseases as well as expand our knowledge on social disorders and understand what coastal sediments can tell us about the environment and climate.”

About the research projects

An estimated one in 10 Canadians, or more than three million people, are living with some form of liver disease. When liver disease remains undiagnosed or untreated, the consequences may be liver cancer, liver failure or even death. There is therefore an urgent need for improved non-invasive diagnosis and monitoring of liver disease. Dr. Sharon Clarke, assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine, is aiming to develop a comprehensive, non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) evaluation of diffuse liver disease using specialized techniques such as MR elastography to evaluate for liver fibrosis, MRI measurement of liver fat and iron content, and phosphorus spectroscopy to assess liver metabolism. This research is expected to result in cost savings through earlier diagnosis of diffuse liver disease with subsequent improvement in timely intervention and treatment, which will ultimately reduce the number of patients dying of liver disease.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are two of the most prevalent chronic, frequently-disabling autoimmune inflammatory diseases affecting many Canadians. Dr. Beata Derfalvi, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine, will use research findings to increase understanding of the role microvesicles play in inflammatory arthritis and inflammation. She is exploring new ways to treat JIA and RA. Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy reduces inflammation by suppressing the excessive activation of the immune system characteristic of autoimmune or inflammatory diseases. Dr. Derfalvi’s research could help the regulating and control of the disease, meaning more effective therapies and reduce both the cost and negative societal impact of inflammatory diseases.   

Dr. Tamara Franklin, assistant professor in the Faculty of Science, is using a neurocircuitry approach to investigate how non-genetic modifications of the DNA strand (epigenetic marks) impact the brain function required for appropriate social interactions. The knowledge gained from Dr. Franklin’s research will help us learn more about how the brain acts during normal peer interactions, and how brain function may be perturbed in social disorders.

The new Trace Element Geochemistry Laboratory, established by Dr. Stephanie Kienast, assistant professor in the Faculty of Science, will explore the geochemical study of marine sediments from the coastal and open ocean. Research from the new facility will help increase our knowledge of marine environmental conditions, such as harmful metal accumulation, and improve projections for future climate change.

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in Canada and more than half of stroke survivors experience difficulties with cognitive function. Poor cognition decreases the potential for recovery, the ability to live independently and the potential to return to work. Dr. Diane MacKenzie, assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Professions, is the primary investigator with the proposed interprofessional Centre of Attention in Real Environments (iCARE) project. iCARE studies visual attention and cognitive function during real-world tasks by measuring eye movement of both the patient and their health care provider. Visual attention errors by the patient can lead to poor functional performance and visual attention errors made by the healthcare professional can affect the decision-making process for intervention recommendations. By studying these visual attention errors, iCARE is designed to improve the functional outcome of patients with cognitive dysfunction following stroke by targeting three areas all critically affected by attention: observer accuracy, cognitive assessment and intervention accuracy, and team collaboration.


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