|Congratulations to Dr. Clare Beasley, Dr. Raymond Lam, Dr. Tim Murphy, and Dr. Terry Snutch, each of whom are recipients of a major project grant through the CIHR Fall 2021 competition! Their projects are among the 61 UBC-led projects that were selected for funding totaling $36 million.
Dr. Clare Beasley’s project (Association between Complement C4 and Synaptic Pathology in Schizophrenia) will explore a specific variation in the gene for complement C4, which recent advances reveal is linked to an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. The study will characterize alterations in complement C4 in postmortem brain tissue from individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, and determine whether these alterations might lead to abnormal synaptic connections in this disorder. The results will provide a greater understanding of the biological mechanisms by which complement C4 increases risk of schizophrenia, with the potential to assist the development of novel therapies for treating individuals with this disorder.
As studies show that 70% of people being treated for major depressive disorder tend to abandon medications after only 3 months of treatment, with high risk of relapse and problems in social and work functioning, Dr. Raymond Lam’s feasibility study (Light and Ion Maintenance In Treatment of Depression (LIMIT-D) Trial: Feasibility Study) will test two non-medication treatments, light therapy and negative ion therapy, to determine if they can substitute for antidepressants to prevent relapse. The results of the feasibility study will provide valuable information for the full trial that may involve more than 300 participants.
Human stroke treatment are means of rehabilitation that engage surviving brain circuits to compensate for damage due to stroke, however these approaches still require optimisation in animal models. Dr. Tim Murphy’s project (3-dimensional representation of mouse movement and rapid interaction with cortical brain activity to describe and shape behavior to improve outcome from stroke: insights from real and synthetic data approaches) will investigate how computer science methods, including computer vision and machine learning, can be employed with the use of a synthetic animated mouse and representing mouse movements within 3D to more carefully evaluate stroke disease progression and recovery, simulating aspects of mouse behaviour that would otherwise be difficult to observe in nature.
Dr. Terry Snutch’s project (Design and Preclinical Development of First-in-Class Selective T-type Calcium Channel Blockers for Chronic Pain) will combine state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, high resolution microscopy and focused drug screening to design and develop a second-generation drug that only targets the single intended protein out of a class of protein involved in nerve cell excitability. This addresses the drawback of a novel non-opioid analgesic previously developed by Dr. Snutch’s team, which interacts with multiple related protein family members of the same class. This renewed effort promises to introduce a novel non-addictive drug to treat chronic pain patients without the previous off-target liabilities.