UBC Community and Partners Publications

Newswire 2010

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NeWs 3 FAll/WInTeR 2009 scientists decode BreAst cAncer genome Scientists at UBC and the BC Cancer Agency are the first to have decoded the entire DNA sequence of a metastatic lobular breast cancer tumour, a type of breast cancer that accounts for about 10 per cent of all breast cancers, and have identified the mutations that caused the cancer to spread. the landmark study, published in Nature, helps to understand how breast cancer begins and spreads, pointing the way to new treatment targets and therapies. In studying the evolution of a single patient’s lobular breast cancer tumour over nine years, the team found 32 mutations in the metastatic cancer tumour and then determined how many of those same genetic “spelling mistakes” were present in the original tumour. Only five of the 32 could have been present in all the cells of the primary tumour, suggesting they are the culprits behind the disease’s origins. these five mutations were previously unknown to researchers as playing a role in cancer. evAlUAting cAnAdA’s Biodiversity reseArch cAPAcity two UBC scientists have been appointed to a national panel tasked with reviewing the state of biodiversity research in Canada. Professors Wayne Maddison and Sarah Otto join 13 other biodiversity experts on a Council of Canadian Academies panel that will consider the supply of taxonomic expertise, the effect of changing technologies on the field, and Canada’s contribution to biodiversity research at the international level. An acknowledged gap has developed in global understanding of biodiversity, due in part to a worldwide shortage of taxonomists and a lack of research institutes dedicated to biodiversity. “We’re being asked to report on the capacity of Canada to identify, monitor and document trends in biodiversity,” says Otto, Director of UBC’s Biodiversity research Centre. “We’ll also attempt to identify key gaps in the Canadian infrastructure for biodiversity science and the associated risks of these gaps.” eArly-life exPerience linked to chronic diseAses Early-life experiences stick with people into adulthood and may render them more susceptible to many of the chronic diseases of aging, according to a new study led by UBC researchers gregory Miller and Michael Kobor. Based on genome-wide profiling in 103 healthy adults, the study shows evidence that genes involved with inflammation were selectively “switched on” in subjects who began life with low socioeconomic status. “It seems to be the case that if people are raised in a low socioeconomic family, their immune cells are constantly vigilant for threats from the environment,” says Miller. “this is likely to have consequences for their risk for late-life chronic diseases.” gift creAtes cAnAdA’s lArgest fUnd for stUdy of hUmAn sexUAlity A $1.7 million gift to UBC from an anonymous donor has created Canada’s largest university endowment fund for the study of human relationships and sexuality. the gift was made in the name of Jane rule, the late pioneering Canadian author and former UBC educator who contributed to the decriminalization of homosexuality and the rise of Canadian literature on the world stage. the Jane rule Endowment for the Study of Human relationships will support programs related to the study of sexual orientation, race and gender and will also provide support for UBC’s Critical Studies in Sexuality program, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LgBt) student groups, conferences and visiting lectures. Accident insPires snowBoArd sAfety device After a 2005 snowboarding accident that left him a quadriplegic, Aaron Coret, a fourth-year UBC engineering student and snowboard enthusiast, partnered with recent graduate Stephen Slen to develop a freestyle ski and snowboard safety device as part of their course work. the result is a patent-pending invention dubbed the Landing Pad, which features two independent air chambers to allow riders to continue movement downhill but cushions the fall in case the rider lands on anything other than their feet, making training safer. videos and photos of snowboarders testing the Landing Pad are available at www.katalinnovations.com. Powered wheelchAir Users to receive Boost A new research initiative based at UBC aims to provide users of powered wheelchairs with a helping hand. Funded by a six-year, $1.5 million Emerging team grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health research, a multidisciplinary team of researchers will investigate how older adults are currently using powered wheelchairs, how they can be used better, and how the chairs themselves can be improved. the answers to these questions will improve knowledge and understanding in the field of aging and mobility research. Led by Prof. William Miller of the UBC Department of Occupational Science and Occupational therapy, the Pan-Canadian team of 14 clinical researchers, scientists and engineers will conduct a number of research activities. these include an assessment of measures to improve research and clinical practice, and the development of a wheelchair skills program and a new, collaboratively NeWsWire Photo > Russell Brown NeWs 4THe UnIVeRSITY OF BRITISH COlUMBIA • OFFICe OF THe VICe PReSIDenT ReSeARCH & InTeRnATIOnAl controlled wheelchair. the UBC Health research resource Office (HerrO), funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health research, assisted in preparing the successful funding application. fighting for indigenoUs cUltUre Indigenous knowledge and culture is legally taken and exploited, often for profit, damaging Indigenous peoples and communities in Canada and around the world, says greg younging, a professor of Indigenous Studies at UBC Okanagan and member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba. His research in the area of traditional knowledge, Indigenous rights and intellectual property rights indicates that under the current international intellectual property rights system, up to 95 per cent of patents, trademarks and copyrights on Indigenous traditional knowledge and cultural expression are owned by non-Indigenous people or corporations. the problem with the current system, he says, is that it puts Indigenous traditional knowledge into the public domain without respecting customary laws, spiritual practices and sacred traditions that have governed the use of this knowledge in Indigenous communities for centuries. younging is involved in discussions with the World Intellectual Property Organization, an agency of the United Nations dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property system. memBers of the royAl society of cAnAdA rSC: the Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada (rSC) is the country’s most prominent academy of scholars and scientists. More than 180 UBC faculty members belong to rSC, including the following recently elected individuals: Adele Diamond (Professor, Psychiatry) has pioneered a new subfield of psychology called developmental cognitive neuroscience. Her contributions have significantly improved understanding and medical treatment of phenylketoneuria (PKU), autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). David Kirkpatrick (Professor, Computer Science) is recognized for his contributions to the design and mathematical analysis of algorithms and data structures. His research has applications in acoustic simulation of concert halls, video-on-demand broadcasting, computer graphics, robot motion planning and geographic information systems. Alan Mackworth (Professor, Computer Science) is Canada’s leading figure in the field of artificial intelligence. His work has widespread applications for computer system design and has introduced a new discipline known as constraint programming. Mackworth is globally recognized as the founding father of the robot soccer challenge roboCup. Dr. Julio Montaner (Director, BC Centre for Excellence in HIv/AIDS) has conducted pioneering work in the use of combinations of anti-retrovirals to treat HIv/AIDS, which has led to a new standard of care for AIDS and prompted the World Health Organization to recommend that the drugs be used as first-line therapy for treatment of AIDS in resource-limited settings. John O’brian (Professor, Art History, visual Art and theory) is an interna- tionally respected historian of art, visual culture and art criticism, particu- larly in twentieth-century North America. By analyzing the relationship between artistic practice, theory and public culture, O’Brian has shown the intrinsic importance of Canadian art. memBers of the order of British colUmBiA the Order of British Columbia is the province’s highest recognition of excellence, achievement, and citizenship. New recipients in 2009 include the following three UBC faculty members: Dr. robert Hancock (Professor, Microbiology and Immunology) conducts innovative research that has increased understanding of how antibiotics affect bacteria, in the process developing antibiotics and immune system modulators with potential to be the first novel classes of antimicrobials in 40 years. Dr. Michael Hayden (Director and Senior Scientist, Centre for Molecular Medicine and therapeutics) has made outstanding contributions in the areas of genetics, Huntington’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. He is the most cited author in the world on Huntington’s disease. Dr. Linda Warren (Clinical Professor, radiology) is a driving force behind the founding and continued excellence of the Screening Mammography Program of B.C., which has greatly contributed to making Canada’s breast cancer mortality rate the lowest in the world. AWArDs


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