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NoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/aw-announcement.jpgsite://news/images/2017/aw-announcement.jpgnewsaw-announcement.jpgaw-announcement.jpgPresident Peter Stoicheff and Deans Doug Freeman (veterinary medicine) and Mary Buhr (agriculture and bioresources), alongside A&W representatives Susan Senecal (incoming president and CEO), Jefferson Mooney (chairman emeritus) and Trish Sahlstrom (senior vice-president and chief commercial officer).NoNoneNo/
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The LFCE will be a multisite, multi-disciplinary research centre that focuses on the livestock production chain including forage, cow-calf, beef cattle production and environmental research.

“A&W is deeply committed to the Canadian beef and forage industry,” said Jefferson Mooney, chairman emeritus, A&W. “Our investment is an investment in the future of Canadian food and best practices to make that food.”

The donation will be used to fund the construction of the Livestock and Food Building at the LFCE site near Clavet, Sask., create a community outreach and engagement program, and to establish a visiting fellowship in One Health research.

“A&W, the University of Saskatchewan and Canadian ranchers all believe in good food, farmed with care. Together, we are forging new tools and techniques for healthy, sustainable growth,” said Susan Senecal, chief operating officer, A&W. “We are united in a passion for great beef.”

The Livestock and Food Building will be a significant part of the heart of the livestock operations at the LFCE and a major location for research activities. The building will also act as a hub for the community outreach program, which will offer presentations and seminars for both industry representatives and consumers.

Mary Buhr, dean of the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources, said this strategic relationship will add another dimension to the university’s One Health initiative and research that focuses on the link between beef production practices, environmental wellbeing, and human health and nutrition.

“The LFCE will take a holistic approach to understanding the relationship between human health, animal health and our environment,” Buhr said. “A&W’s extraordinary support is a demonstration of the power of teamwork to significantly improve the impact of innovative research and outreach on the livestock and forage industries.”

Douglas Freeman, dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, said the development of the LFCE wouldn’t be possible without the extraordinary partnership.

“Two areas of preeminence at the U of S converge with the LFCE: agriculture and One Health,” he said. “The centre also represents a unique partnership between the university, government and industry. The scale of partnership and collaboration are extraordinary. Working together we can accomplish so much more and have a major impact on health, production and food security. We’re excited to develop this new partnership with A&W and work together to achieve the promise and potential of the LFCE.”

Two new facilities for the LFCE are expected to be completed in the spring of 2018 and will complement current livestock and forage research sites. The LFCE, a partnership between the U of S, the livestock and forage industries, and the Saskatchewan and federal governments, will unite livestock and forage field laboratories and science labs in a collaborative centre with a total cost of $37.5 million.

Other funding contributions to date include $10 million from the federal and provincial government through the Growing Forward 2 program, $4.47 million from Western Economic Diversification Canada, $10 million from the U of S, and $1 million from the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

researchtrue1547743704451pey849ResearchResearch Archives/articles/researchnewssite://news/articles/researchimj1291547618027515imj1291547618027515show-in-navYes2017true2017/articles/research/2017newssite://news/articles/research/2017imj1291547618027055imj1291547618027055show-in-navNoresearchers-explore-ways-to-remove-antibiotics-polluting-lakes-and-riverstrue1547743704451pey849Researchers explore ways to remove antibiotics polluting lakes and riversPre-treated barley straw is showing promise as an environmentally-friendly material that could be used to help soak up certain types of antibiotics polluting waterways.Pippa WysongCanadian Light Source, College of Engineering1507741140000/articles/research/2017/researchers-explore-ways-to-remove-antibiotics-polluting-lakes-and-riversnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/researchers-explore-ways-to-remove-antibiotics-polluting-lakes-and-riversimj1291547618341663imj1291547618341663show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/catherine-hui-niu.jpgsite://news/images/2017/catherine-hui-niu.jpgnewscatherine-hui-niu.jpgcatherine-hui-niu.jpgJian Wang, CLS beamline scientist; Catherine Hui Niu, U of S associate professor; Bei Yan, member of Niu’s research team.NoNoneNo/
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Pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, are an increasingly common pollutant in water systems, said Catherine Hui Niu, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan.

After pharmaceuticals are used in humans and animals, traces are excreted and end up in sewage and, from there, into the environment. Their presence in waterways has raised concerns about potential risks to human health and ecosystems. To date there has been no effective way to remove them from water sources.

There are some materials that attract pharmaceutical pollutants to them in a process called adsorption, and could hypothetically be used to help remove them from water, says Niu. But their adsorption capacities need to be enhanced to make them useful for large scale clean-up efforts.

Barley straw, the leafy part of barley plants, has adsorption properties that show promise for helping remove certain antibiotics from water.

Niu and Bei Yan, a member of her research team, used the Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan to study samples of pretreated barley straw exposed to norfloxacin. It’s a type of quinolone antibiotic commonly used to treat bladder infections and a few other conditions, and has been detected as a pollutant in some water and sewage samples.

The scientists’ work revealed some of the mechanisms of how the pretreated barley straw works as an adsorbent. They found that subjecting the straw to a chemical and microwave heating protocol actually improved its adsorption qualities, specifically for removing the antibiotic norfloxacin from water. These results have been published in Chemical Engineering Journal.

“The pretreated barley straw’s adsorption capacity is much higher than many other materials out there,” said Niu.

In fact, it is about six times higher than that of untreated raw barley straw.

All of this is still at a laboratory stage, cautions Niu. But understanding the mechanisms is an important step for developing eco-friendly materials than can help remove antibiotics such as norfloxacin from water.

u-of-s-imaging-technique-advancing-stroke-treatmenttrue1547743704451pey849U of S imaging technique advancing stroke treatmentA new University of Saskatchewan technology combining innovative synchrotron imaging and 3D printing could be a game changer for more accurate stroke prediction and for ultimately guiding surgery.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, international1512053100000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-imaging-technique-advancing-stroke-treatmentnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-imaging-technique-advancing-stroke-treatmentimj1291547620119184imj1291547620119184show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/mohammad-izadifar.jpgsite://news/images/2017/mohammad-izadifar.jpgnewsmohammad-izadifar.jpgmohammad-izadifar.jpgStroke prediction may take a turn with U of S researcher Mohammad Izadifar’s synchrotron technology (photo by Lana Haight for the Canadian Light Source).NoNoneNo/
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In a journal article published this week in Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express, post-doctoral fellow Mohammad Izadifar’s preliminary results show that unlike regular medical imaging, his new “blood-flow mapping technique” can determine whether a patient’s aneurysm, a tiny blood balloon in a brain artery, is about to burst causing bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke).

“When a patient shows up with an aneurysm at the hospital, doctors usually don’t know when or whether it will burst,” said Izadifar, originally from Iran and now a Canadian citizen.

The 60,000 new stroke cases in Canada each year cost the healthcare system over $3.6 billion yearly. Strokes happen because of blood clots in a brain artery (ischemic strokes), but up to 20 per cent of aneurysms may burst and bleed, causing hemorrhagic strokes.

“With regular medical imaging, it is very difficult for clinicians to tell the difference between stable aneurysms that could undergo surgery and those likely to rupture,” said Izadifar.

He said that with his synchrotron technique he was able to identify specific areas of the aneurysm that could burst.

“Our new technique could provide neurosurgeons with a new avenue for pre-assessment of different treatment options,” said U of S surgery professor Lissa Peeling, Izadifar’s collaborator along with surgery professor Michael Kelly.

Izadifar designed a 3D-printed model of a patient’s aneurysm based on the patient’s MRI brain scan. At the U of S Canadian Light Source synchrotron, he connected that model to a blood circulation system that simulates a human heartbeat. Using his new imaging technique, he was able to visualize the blood flow patterns and pressure in the 3D model. 

“I was able to track the footprint of blood cells in the flow to see where they are going in the aneurysm,” said Izadifar, who has received funding from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS) Foundation.  

At the Royal University Hospital, Izadifar tested the 3D aneurysm model using CT scanning with a contrast agent, but he couldn’t track the blood flow. So he assessed the potential of using the powerful X-ray synchrotron light and it worked.

Unlike MRI and X-ray scans, Kelly said the new imaging technique is remarkably superior because it works without contrast agents that chemically enhance the visibility of blood vessels in the body.

While his imaging takes under five minutes, Izadifar said more research is needed to develop new software able to reconstruct the data collected fast enough for potential clinical applications in stroke treatment.

“Now I want to test this technique on a larger scale on aneurysms of different size and shape to simulate real-life situations,” he said.

His preliminary study also shows that stents, minimally invasive devices inserted into brain arteries, could prevent strokes with a blood flow reduction of 50 to 70 per cent in aneurysms. But Izadifar cautions more research is needed to confirm his initial results.    


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

u-of-s-researchers-awarded-16.6-million-to-increase-maternal,-newborn-survival-in-mozambiquetrue1547743704451pey849U of S researchers to increase maternal, newborn survival in MozambiqueUniversity of Saskatchewan researchers have been awarded $16.6 million by Global Affairs Canada to work with Mozambique partners on improving the health and lives of 165,000 Mozambican women of child-bearing age and 23,000 newborns.University CommunicationsSchool of Public Health, international1499265000000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-awarded-16.6-million-to-increase-maternal,-newborn-survival-in-mozambiquenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-awarded-16.6-million-to-increase-maternal,-newborn-survival-in-mozambiqueimj1291547620153861imj1291547620153861show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/tevele-mozambique.jpgsite://news/images/2017/tevele-mozambique.jpgnewstevele-mozambique.jpgtevele-mozambique.jpgMembers of the community health committee in Tevele, Inhambane Province, MozambiqueNoNoneNo/
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This major training and research project, which is six years in length, aims to create conditions in Mozambique that will reduce maternal deaths by improving health services for women and tackling gender barriers that prevent them from accessing effective care.

Latest available United Nations statistics show Mozambique had one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates at 489 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015—nearly 70 times higher than Canada’s rate of seven per 100,000.

“This transformative initiative addresses a great tragedy and demonstrates our university’s ongoing commitment to global citizenship and international community service through research,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president Research. “This community-engaged project will also provide an extremely valuable international learning experience for our students.”

U of S epidemiologist and community health researcher Nazeem Muhajarine and project director Denise Kouri lead a team that includes university researchers and Saskatoon community development leaders. The team is partnering with Mozambique national and provincial health ministries and communities in the sub-Saharan African nation.

The project, which builds on the university’s 20-year partnership with Mozambique in Inhambane province on the country’s southern coast, aims to improve conditions under which women give birth in 20 targeted rural communities in five health districts.

“We are adopting a community-based, family-supportive and women-enabling approach to reduce deaths during childbirth and improve infant health outcomes,” said Muhajarine.

His team will study cases of near-fatalities to understand and mitigate the contributing factors and will establish baseline data on mortality rates to evaluate the project’s effectiveness.

About 25 U of S undergraduate and graduate students, including those in medicine, nursing, nutrition and physiotherapy, will work on the project.

The plan calls for training more than 1,000 new health care workers and improving the ability of practitioners in hospitals and maternity clinics to better respond to women’s needs with both improved technical skills and more supportive attitudes.

About a dozen staff members and consultants will be hired, as well as five community workers to work in communities to educate people about gender equity and women’s sexual and reproductive rights and empower women to use health facilities. 

“The key to this project is that it considers community and family factors in women’s lives, as well as medical factors,” said Kouri.

To improve the rights and health of adolescent girls and educate youth about gender equity and related issues, workers will join health ministry staff on visits to schools.

Three ambulances will be bought for district hospitals, along with 20 smaller specially equipped off-road vehicles in the communities. Local midwives, traditional healers and women’s leaders will be engaged to create a supportive network to ensure women reach skilled birthing care with the least delay.

Five small maternal clinics will be built in rural areas and five existing ones renovated. Ten “waiting houses” will be built, so that women who are nearing their due date can be re-located close to a hospital. Muhajarine’s research will assess whether waiting homes are effective in delivering better outcomes for women.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, noted that Canada’s new feminist international assistance policy focuses on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

“Canada believes that this is the most effective way to make a significant difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. Working in collaboration with Canadian researchers and local partners in Mozambique, Canada will help ensure that women and girls’ right to access quality sexual and reproductive health care services are respected,” Minister Bibeau said. 

Watch a short video on the project featuring footage from Mozambique.

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health-care-anywheretrue1547743704451pey849Health care, anywhereProviding efficient, effective health care to remote communities isn’t unlike travelling to Mars.Lesley PorterCollege of Medicine, Ivar Mendez1507837080000/articles/research/2017/health-care-anywherenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/health-care-anywhereimj1291547620174186imj1291547620174186show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/google-glass.jpgsite://news/images/2017/google-glass.jpgnewsgoogle-glass.jpggoogle-glass.jpgYesNoneNo/
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So says Dr. Ivar Mendez, unified head of the Department of Surgery at the University of Saskatchewan and Saskatoon Health Region.

Mendez, also a faculty member in the College of Medicine, recently travelled to Montreal to lend his expertise to the Canadian Space Agency. The organization’s American counterpart, NASA, has been given the go-ahead to travel to Mars, and the two groups were looking for advice regarding using technology to provide health care from a distance—in this case, a pretty far distance—because even the youngest, healthiest astronauts are not immune to injuries or illness in deep space.

“What will happen if something that is serious, in terms of health care, happens?” he asked, adding that it takes 21 minutes to transmit data to and from the red planet. “Someone can have an appendicitis or somebody can break their leg. So how can we take care of them?”

TextRobotic successPullquoteI truly believe there are certain technological advances that will allow us to provide better care for our patients.Dr. Ivar Mendez/Align right

Closer to home, Mendez is known for embracing technological innovations to improve the patient experience, particularly for those in underserved and remote communities.

Not long after starting at the U of S in 2013, he spearheaded an initiative that brought remote sensing robots to northern communities in Saskatchewan. Controlled by a smartphone, the robots can manoeuvre autonomously to perform a medical triage and determine patient treatment.

This, in turn, also provides relief to a centralized, overloaded health-care system, said Mendez—and he has the numbers to back it up. Over the course of one year, the small community of Pelican Narrows—population 1,700 and located a six-hour drive northeast of Saskatoon—saved approximately $400,000 in costs associated with health care and travelling to larger centres for medical service.

The larger concept, labelled point-of-care diagnosis and treatment, calls for a decentralized medical system—that is, the clinician comes to where the patient is, albeit virtually. This area is of particular interest to Mendez, and was one of the main reasons he moved to Saskatchewan—a large, expansive province where medical practitioners aren’t readily available to the most vulnerable citizens.

“I truly believe there are certain technological advances that will allow us to provide better care for our patients,” he said.

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Following the success of the remote sensing robots, Mendez turned his interest to another emerging technology: Google Glass.

Released by the tech giant in 2013, the head-mounted hardware resembles standard eyeglasses. The spectacles can connect to the Internet and contain a small camera that can feed to a monitor—essentially showing the user on the other end what they are seeing, at eye level, in real time. Seeing its potential beyond games and chatting, Mendez partnered with an American firm to pilot a specific type of glasses for telemedical purposes.

TextImage/images/2017/ivar-mendez-computer.jpgsite://news/images/2017/ivar-mendez-computer.jpgnewsivar-mendez-computer.jpgivar-mendez-computer.jpgDr. Mendez examines a virtual patient using Google Glass.Above content

“I felt that for the next step, in terms of our ability to reach many more places, a wearable system that you can wear and communicate with is probably the next stage,” said Mendez.

As with most gizmos and gadgets, the glasses’ technology has evolved considerably since its debut, he added. Lag time, often an issue with real-time video, is mere milliseconds, allowing the viewer to perform intricate tasks like examining a wound. Mendez also touted the mobility of the product, which provides a higher degree of independence and flexibility for health-care practitioners.

“A paramedic or nurse or colleague can actually be using their hands without the need to hold anything,” he explained. “You are in good communication with them, and you are seeing what they’re seeing. At the same time, they have feedback of what they’re showing you because they can look at the other screen.”

Not surprisingly, Mendez has the same aspirations for the Google Glass project as he did with the robots, and hopes to see the two technologies working in tandem soon.

“These are not just isolated things that we’re doing,” he said. “We’re doing this in a systematic manner to bring technology to the point that we will truly be able to take care of people wherever they are.”

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Mendez and his team will continue to apply technological breakthroughs to remote health-care issues. Currently, he and his team are developing a telepalpation device that will allow a surgeon to palpate an abdomen on a patient 1,000 kilometres away—in order to see the rigidity of the abdomen up close.

“We are really advancing on these peripheral technologies that will allow us to not only see the patient, talk to the patient, do an ultrasound, listen to their chest, but touch them,” he said, adding that the technology is being developed in conjunction with the College of Engineering.

Another area of importance, he explained, is using virtual reality (VR) to create a richer reality environment for medical students. Most recently, he was part of a study with 80 medical students learning the complex anatomy of the human brain. Half of the students used traditional methods (lectures, textbooks and diagrams), while the other half used a VR brain structure to learn the intricate neuroanatomy. “They could actually enter the brain and see the relationship with the different anatomical nuclei,” he said.

Preliminary results showed that the students using the VR technology were able to retain the information to a greater degree. As an academic and a professor, embracing this dynamic technology for learning purposes is just as crucial for educating the next generation of physicians—and instilling the importance of technology in them.

“I think that’s going to be a very important part of teaching, to be able to understand complex relationships in many dimensions,” he said.

Back to the Canadian Space Agency, Mendez is exploring how technology can serve an astronaut in a voyage into deep space. One of the areas is going to be the issue of artificial intelligence in terms of constantly monitoring people.

“To be able to predict that you will have a heart attack in the next 24 hours, or to be able to control your sugars and have an algorithm that will determine the risk you have so that an intervention could happen and you can prevent a stroke, for example—those are the things that an astronaut will need some sort of autonomy and intelligence on,” he said. “I think that’s going to be part of the future.”

Photos by David Stobbe.

major-nserc-grants-nurture-new-researchtrue1547743704451pey849Major NSERC grants nurture new researchClimate change research may not be what first comes to mind when discussing the field of mechanical engineering. James ShewagaNatural Sciences and Engineering Research Council1507844580000/articles/research/2017/major-nserc-grants-nurture-new-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/major-nserc-grants-nurture-new-researchimj1291547620179934imj1291547620179934show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/carey-simonson1.jpgsite://news/images/2017/carey-simonson1.jpgnewscarey-simonson1.jpgcarey-simonson.jpgCarey SImonson, one of 60 U of S faculty members and 27 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows awarded NSERC funding last month.NoNoneNo/
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But as global temperatures rise, so too does the world-wide demand for more energy-efficient cooling systems. That is where University of Saskatchewan mechanical engineers like Carey Simonson come in.

Backed by $423,465 in federal grants from the (NSERC), the U of S researcher will be studying ways to improve energy efficiency of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems—commonly known as HVAC units.

“There are many people around the world working on improving the energy efficiency of HVAC systems and my research here at the University of Saskatchewan is unique, but it certainly is part of the global enterprise,” said Simonson, who is one of 60 U of S faculty members and 27 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who were awarded a total of $10.7 million in NSERC research funding last month.

The major funding announcement was made on campus by Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary to Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, part of a renewed federal commitment to fostering new research all across the country, including significant support for U of S initiatives.

“This major investment advances research in fundamental, high-quality science that is vital to building Canada’s economic future and training the next generation of leaders,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president of research.

For his part, Simonson will lead efforts to combat climate change at home and in the workplace from an engineering perspective. Simonson notes that Canadians spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, with heating and cooling of homes and buildings accounting for up to 50 per cent of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries. With rising temperatures, that consumption and demand continues to rise dramatically.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that the global demand for cooling in buildings will increase 30 times over this century and that’s due to climate change, but also due to increasing demand from developing countries,” he said. “Temperatures are rising, but there is also a global demand for cooling for food security reasons as well. And as engineers, we need to come up with ways to do that, without intensive energy consumption.”

Simonson’s work on energy efficiency continues a history of nearly a century of research at the U of S, with the new NSERC funding building on that legacy.

“With respect to (applications for NSERC) Discovery grants alone, we have achieved record success this year, an almost 70 per cent success rate, our highest ever, up from about 54 per cent four years ago,” said U of S President Peter Stoicheff, noting that the university has exceeded the national success rate of 64 per cent for landing NSERC Discovery grants.

“This is exactly the direction that we want to go. We are seeing continuing increases in the numbers of U of S faculty holding NSERC funding, which is highly encouraging.”

Simonson said the NSERC grants not only help fund research, but also help recruit and retain top students from around the world, who in turn help enhance Canadian innovation in the workforce.

“Three quarters of my (graduate) students come from other countries but most, about 85 per cent, remain in Canada after training,” he said. “These students are our future leaders and they will make Canada a better place.”

gamble-doubles-down-on-campus-collaborationtrue1547743704451pey849Gamble doubles down on campus collaborationThere’s collaboration, and then there’s collaboration on the scale that Dr. Jonathan Gamble and his team are working on.Marg SheridanCollege of Medicine1507845180000/articles/research/2017/gamble-doubles-down-on-campus-collaborationnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/gamble-doubles-down-on-campus-collaborationimj1291547620190971imj1291547620190971show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/johnathon-gamble.jpgsite://news/images/2017/johnathon-gamble.jpgnewsjohnathon-gamble.jpgjohnathon-gamble.jpgDrs. Jonathan Gamble, Jean Du Rand, Jayden Cowan, Barbara Ambros and Valentina Carrazzo.NoNoneNo/
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Gamble, specializing in anesthesiology and pediatric critical care in the U of S College of Medicine, has been working with a group of doctors, researchers and veterinarians for the past two years on an extensive multidisciplinary hemodynamics study.

“The cornerstone to all acute care medicine is resuscitation,” Gamble explained. “I think a lot of what is thought of resuscitation is what you see on TV. But resuscitation is actually a bigger process than that, and when we resuscitate people what we really are trying to do is ensure that we help the patient to circulate oxygen in the blood to the organs and make sure all of the tissues are functioning.

“But the cornerstone to the first part of this is what we call hemodynamic resuscitation, (and) that’s often based upon a measurement of blood pressure.”

Gamble said most physicians use that blood pressure measurement as a surrogate for cardiac output—how much blood is being pumped out of the heart—because it’s relatively easy to measure in a clinical setting. It can be measured non-invasively, and is often assumed to be an accurate reflection of cardiac output.

However, blood pressure may not be the best way to guide resuscitation. It may be that cardiac output is the more accurate way of guiding resuscitation. And if that’s the case, the medical instrument industry has a wide array of equipment designed specifically for measuring cardiac output.

That industry is the primary focus of this study: how accurate are the machines used to measure cardiac output being used by our physicians and hospitals?

“The medical device industry is quite robust,” Gamble said. “So we’re trying to determine how accurate these devices are that clinicians use to help measure cardiac output against a gold standard.”

That gold standard is a machine called a peri-aortic flow probe, which has a small blue ring that sits around the aorta to monitor actual blood flow, but obviously needs to be surgically implanted and is therefore not something that can be used by most acute care doctors.

“This measures cardiac output in a very accurate way, but a very invasive way,” Gamble said. “So this blue ring sits around the aorta, the vessel that immediately comes from the heart, so all the blood that comes from the heart goes past the aorta and it can measure (the) flow.”

The second focus of the study is to assess how well blood pressure reflects cardiac output. This is done by comparing blood pressure measurements to peri-aortic flow probe. And both of these research topics bring us back to the collaborative portion of this project: the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). To test both the machines and resuscitation, Gamble and his team—which includes physicians and researchers from anesthesiology, veterinary medicine, neuro- surgery, general surgery, perfusion, neurophysiology, and the Department of Chemistry—turned to the WCVM for help.

The team is using a porcine model to test both projects at once: hooking up the machines to the subject to test their accuracy, and monitoring the blow pressure and flow as they run through different stress levels experienced during surgical procedures and illnesses, in order to monitor the hemodynamic resuscitation and tissue function.

“We don’t know how much flow is enough, but we wanted to be able to actually measure function—or an indication of function—at the tissue level,” Gamble said. “And the way I see the world, if we don’t resuscitate the brain, there’s no point resuscitating the individual. But it’s hard to measure actual cellular function.

“But at the end of the day the cardiovascular system is designed to supply oxygen to the tissue, and the tissue absorbs that oxygen. If the tissue is not getting enough oxygen, it’ll extract more oxygen and we can measure the saturation.”

The eventual goal is to make it easier for anesthesiologists, critical care physicians and emergency medicine physicians to ensure adequate blood flow to avoid accidental tissue death by figuring out what the ideal blood flow indicator is, while also determining which of the top three industry-supplied medical devices is the most accurate.

“(If) we can use our indicator to change, to intervene or not intervene, or escalate interventions based on actual tissue oxygen level (during surgery), we can fundamentally change how we look at resuscitation.”

This has implications in terms of lives saved, as well as financial considerations, as the medical device industry is gigantic. Every time one of the monitors is used it costs at least $200, which is significant, especially if the device isn’t telling the physicians everything they need to know to make an informed decision.

And the University of Saskatchewan is one of very few places in Canada where research like this can logistically happen. With a medical school, veterinary college and chemistry department all in close proximity, the ability to carry out the testing is available to only one other university in Canada. And that ability to collaborate with so many specialists is almost as exciting to Gamble as the research itself.

“I think it’s great that we’re taking advantage of all of these features the University of Saskatchewan has at its disposal, and bringing them together.”


Marg Sheridan is an online communications co-ordinator in the College of Medicine.

aw-canada-invests-in-u-of-s-research-centretrue1547743704451pey849A&W Canada invests in U of S research centreA&W Canada has made a substantial investment in the Canadian beef industry with a $5-million donation toward the University of Saskatchewan’s Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE).Roxanne McHattieLivestock and Forage Centre of Excellence1512157080000/articles/research/2017/aw-canada-invests-in-u-of-s-research-centrenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/aw-canada-invests-in-u-of-s-research-centreimj1291547620217265imj1291547620217265show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/aw-announcement.jpgsite://news/images/2017/aw-announcement.jpgnewsaw-announcement.jpgaw-announcement.jpgPresident Peter Stoicheff and Deans Doug Freeman (veterinary medicine) and Mary Buhr (agriculture and bioresources), alongside A&W representatives Susan Senecal (incoming president and CEO), Jefferson Mooney (chairman emeritus) and Trish Sahlstrom (senior vice-president and chief commercial officer).NoNoneNo/
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The LFCE will be a multisite, multi-disciplinary research centre that focuses on the livestock production chain including forage, cow-calf, beef cattle production and environmental research.

“A&W is deeply committed to the Canadian beef and forage industry,” said Jefferson Mooney, chairman emeritus, A&W. “Our investment is an investment in the future of Canadian food and best practices to make that food.”

The donation will be used to fund the construction of the Livestock and Food Building at the LFCE site near Clavet, Sask., create a community outreach and engagement program, and to establish a visiting fellowship in One Health research.

“A&W, the University of Saskatchewan and Canadian ranchers all believe in good food, farmed with care. Together, we are forging new tools and techniques for healthy, sustainable growth,” said Susan Senecal, chief operating officer, A&W. “We are united in a passion for great beef.”

The Livestock and Food Building will be a significant part of the heart of the livestock operations at the LFCE and a major location for research activities. The building will also act as a hub for the community outreach program, which will offer presentations and seminars for both industry representatives and consumers.

Mary Buhr, dean of the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources, said this strategic relationship will add another dimension to the university’s One Health initiative and research that focuses on the link between beef production practices, environmental wellbeing, and human health and nutrition.

“The LFCE will take a holistic approach to understanding the relationship between human health, animal health and our environment,” Buhr said. “A&W’s extraordinary support is a demonstration of the power of teamwork to significantly improve the impact of innovative research and outreach on the livestock and forage industries.”

Douglas Freeman, dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, said the development of the LFCE wouldn’t be possible without the extraordinary partnership.

“Two areas of preeminence at the U of S converge with the LFCE: agriculture and One Health,” he said. “The centre also represents a unique partnership between the university, government and industry. The scale of partnership and collaboration are extraordinary. Working together we can accomplish so much more and have a major impact on health, production and food security. We’re excited to develop this new partnership with A&W and work together to achieve the promise and potential of the LFCE.”

Two new facilities for the LFCE are expected to be completed in the spring of 2018 and will complement current livestock and forage research sites. The LFCE, a partnership between the U of S, the livestock and forage industries, and the Saskatchewan and federal governments, will unite livestock and forage field laboratories and science labs in a collaborative centre with a total cost of $37.5 million.

Other funding contributions to date include $10 million from the federal and provincial government through the Growing Forward 2 program, $4.47 million from Western Economic Diversification Canada, $10 million from the U of S, and $1 million from the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

beagles-on-board-five-facts-about-the-research-dogs-at-the-u-of-strue1547743704451pey849Beagles on board: Five facts about the research dogs at the U of SHave you seen this bevy of beagles being led through the bowl? Immensely cute, they are also aiding in some important research. Here are five fun facts to help you get acquainted with these adorable dogs. University Communications WCVM1503609600000/articles/research/2017/beagles-on-board-five-facts-about-the-research-dogs-at-the-u-of-snewssite://news/articles/research/2017/beagles-on-board-five-facts-about-the-research-dogs-at-the-u-of-simj1291547620237535imj1291547620237535show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/Beagle1.jpgsite://news/images/2017/Beagle1.jpgnewsBeagle1.jpgYesNoneNo/
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1. The dogs are doing their duty for science. These pups are part of a pet food nutrition study that is being headed up at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) here at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

2. They are helping to reduce hunger and weight gain. The ongoing theme of the research is to explore health benefits of using a grain-free formulation for test diets using locally grown pulses (pea, lentils or fava beans) as the carbohydrate source instead of the corn or rice that is more traditionally used.

3. They are very well taken care of. The beagles are kept healthy and happy with daily strolls - rain, shine or snow.

4. This is the second canine cadre on campus. The WCVM will keep the dogs for four to five years, then find homes for them. This current batch of beagles will be adopted out next year.

5. Not a dog person? WCVM also currently has eight research cats for the same project. The felines aren’t a fan of outdoor walks, but there is a hoard of volunteers that play and cuddle with the cats every day. 

student-unfolds-secrets-of-boreal-forest-mosstrue1547743704451pey849Student unfolds secrets of boreal forest mossGrowing up camping and hiking, Mélanie Jean loved nature but didn’t think much of the squishy green moss carpeting forests.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, Department of Biology1499356080000/articles/research/2017/student-unfolds-secrets-of-boreal-forest-mossnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/student-unfolds-secrets-of-boreal-forest-mossimj1291547620264994imj1291547620264994show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/melanie-jean.jpgsite://news/images/2017/melanie-jean.jpgnewsmelanie-jean.jpgmelanie-jean.jpgMélanie Jean examines a piece of moss with a magnifying glass (photo by Alexandre Truchon-Savard).NoNoneNo/
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"Now I know mosses have a whole secret world,” says Jean, a University of Saskatchewan biology PhD student. “It’s like discovering a mini forest in the forest.” 

Not just pretty, mosses contribute up to 30 per cent of Canada’s boreal forest total growth every year, while maintaining the organic floor necessary for evergreens to grow. 

Jean presented evidence at two major ecology conferences showing that a combination of fire and climate is changing where moss grows. Without mosses, some evergreen forests will not grow back, something scientists had not known until now.

“Only if we reduce climate change can we help keep forest life cycles as they were before,” she said.

Fewer evergreens in the boreal forest, which covers almost 90 per cent of Canada’s forested areas, would significantly impact the timber and tourism industries. It would also severely affect northern communities’ hunting and traditional land uses, and threaten wildlife such as caribou and songbirds.

“Large-scale changes in the boreal forest will have global implications for the pace of climate change and how we can adapt to it,” said biology professor Jill Johnstone, Jean’s supervisor. “This is of great policy importance during this century of rapid environmental change.”

Johnstone said severe fires worsened by climate change burn down deeper into the evergreen forest’s organic floor. With the mineral soil exposed below, evergreen plants can’t grow back as they usually do after fires and are eventually replaced by broadleaf trees such as birch and aspen.

“I found that mosses, too, grow back in this new forest but only for about 20 years after fires,” said Jean. “After that, they struggle to survive because of fallen tree leaves that slowly kill the moss.”

She found that fallen leaves block the sunlight, crush mosses, and leak chemicals normally present in trees that are detrimental to these plants. She said moss thrives in evergreen forests precisely because these trees produce small needles instead of large leaves.

Mosses also insulate the boreal forest’s permafrost soil, making the forest a good carbon sink. The forest stores more carbon than it releases in the soil, which helps combat greenhouse emissions. Without mosses, the permafrost would melt and release the carbon captured, hastening climate change.

By combining field experiments and ecological modelling, Jean and Johnstone have studied forests of different types in a long-term research site in Alaska. She did her work in Alaska because, unlike Canada, there are more roads available to reach remote areas.

“All my results apply to the Canadian boreal forest too,” said Jean.

Her project has been funded by the federal agency NSERC, the U.S. government, and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

“Mélanie’s work has substantially advanced our understanding of how boreal ecosystems work,” said Johnstone. “There are only two or three labs worldwide that are doing this type of research.” 

TextVideo/’s research story won the 2017 U of S Making a Difference video competition.Above content

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

battling-natures-nasty-sidetrue1547743704451pey849Battling nature’s nasty sideMycotoxins disrupt life itself, and finding how to combat their devilish ways is a passion for Natacha Hogan.Glenn CheaterCollege of Agriculture and Bioresources, Natacha Hogan1490796120000/articles/research/2017/battling-natures-nasty-sidenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/battling-natures-nasty-sideimj1291547620296092imj1291547620296092show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/natacha-hogan.jpgsite://news/images/2017/natacha-hogan.jpgnewsnatacha-hogan.jpgnatacha-hogan.jpgNatacha Hogan, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry ScienceNoNoneNo/
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When told the subject of her research has a bit of an alien predator vibe, Natacha Hogan is quick to agree.

“Oh, I like that,” said the assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science. “When you look at the structures of these mycotoxins, some really are scary looking. Many are very complex structures with multiple rings fused together and many functional groups hanging off the sides. They sort of look like spiders.”

Hogan’s view may be coloured by knowing what mycotoxins do.

These poisonous substances are produced when fungi infect a plant—although their purpose is a subject of debate. Researchers have noted greater volumes are produced when growing conditions are poor, such as when plants suffer from heat stress or insect damage. When plants activate response mechanisms to deal with the stress or damage, they open themselves up to fungal colonization and mycotoxin accumulation. One theory is that mycotoxins actually prevent the host plant from making enzymes that combat the fungi, which allows it to spread. 

That’s a little creepy, but things get worse—much worse—when mycotoxins are ingested.

“When these toxins get into animal cells, they can do a lot of nasty things,” said Hogan. “They affect the ability of animal cells to make proteins. So rapidly dividing cells are most dramatically affected—such as immune cells, ones during early embryonic growth and cells that line the gut.” 

Along with reduced growth, decreased immune function and reproductive issues, deoxynivalenol or DON (one of several mycotoxins produced by Fusarium fungi) can cause nausea and vomiting—which is why it’s often called "vomitoxin.” It also causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. In humans, it can cause acute gastroenteritis, and also affect growth and immune function. That’s why most countries rigorously test for DON levels in human food, and have strict limits on allowable levels—one part per million in North America, half that in Europe and Asia. There are also maximum levels for livestock feed, but since lesser grades are used for animal feeds, the potential for problems is much greater.

The economic impact in the livestock sector is measured in the billions annually, and that has spawned a global effort to develop fusarium-resistant cereal varieties, come up with effective ways to keep fusarium-damaged grain out of feed and protect animals who ingest it.

Hogan’s passion is learning how mycotoxins wage their terrible war on living organisms.

TextPullquoteI love trying to understand what goes on in an animal when toxicity occurs ... I know that sounds horrible. But it’s fascinating to look at how normal physiology works and then what happens when you have a compound that disturbs that.Natacha Hogan/Align left

“I love trying to understand what goes on in an animal when toxicity occurs,” she said before quickly adding, “I know that sounds horrible. But it’s fascinating to look at how normal physiology works and then what happens when you have a compound that disturbs that.”

It was this fascination that persuaded the Prince Edward Island native to abandon her long-held dream of becoming a large animal vet and instead pursue a PhD in toxicology. She initially worked on man-made, industrial toxicants, but mycotoxins and their effect on livestock gave her a chance to marry her two interests.

Her work includes finding acceptable risk thresholds for mycotoxins in feed and reducing contamination by using state- of-the-art seed-sorting technology to physically remove fusarium- infected kernels from feed batches. But another focus is testing feed additives designed to prevent the cells of animals from absorbing mycotoxins like DON.

“The tricky part is that the last thing you want to do is change the nutritional value of feed and alter the uptake of vitamins, minerals, and energy sources,” she said. “So there’s a lot of work being done to figure out what we can add to feed that can remove, detoxify, or prevent the uptake of mycotoxins, but does not bind to nutrients in feed.”

Anything showing potential to reduce their toxicity is being tested. That list includes physical, chemical and biological methods, products derived from clay, diatomaceous earth, microorganisms and even the cell walls of yeast.

“Several manufacturers make these kinds of products,” she said. “For example, protein and lipid constituents on yeast cell walls provide binding sites for DON molecules. This prevents absorption of mycotoxin into cells, across the gut wall and distribution throughout the body. Adding yeast can improve immunity, increasing resistance to infection and regulate the micro-environment of an animal’s digestive tract. So yeast and its components can protect against mycotoxin toxicity from multiple angles. Or at least that’s the idea.”

Unfortunately, there’s another problem.

“When you make feed from grain, you can have a whole complement of mycotoxins,” said Hogan. “So one product may only prevent absorption of one type—which is great, but the best product will have binding and detoxification ability against a wide range of mycotoxins.” 

But while the task is huge, so is the resolve.

“This is one of the biggest issues in Western Canada for both grain and livestock producers—we’ve had what you might call some bumper years for fusarium in recent years. It’s certainly a concern for producers, veterinarians, toxicologists and industry.”

The incidence of fusarium spikes in wetter years, but the overall trend since the turn of the century is up. That’s likely a result of the increasing popularity of one of the most positive developments in Prairie agriculture in recent decades—no-till farming. Leaving straw and other plant material on the surface of a field reduces erosion and boosts soil health, but it also provides fungi with a refuge from soil micro-organisms that feed on them.

And scientists know there are lots of fungi producing a vast range of mycotoxins—more than 300 are now known and more are being discovered all the time as detection methods improve.

But Hogan is hopeful the threat of these nasty organisms can be contained.

“What’s really great is that mycotoxin research is often a collaborative effort between academia, industry and government,” she said. “Everyone wants to find the smoking gun, the way to overcome the risk that mycotoxins pose to animal production and human health.”


Glenn Cheater is the owner of High Bluff Media in Winnipeg and Edmonton.

medicine-cihr-grant-helping-shed-light-on-perinatal-accessCIHR grant helping shed light on perinatal accessA Canada-wide project is looking at provincial data to help create a national perinatal health strategy.Marg SheridanCollege of Medicine1490901180000/articles/research/2017/medicine-cihr-grant-helping-shed-light-on-perinatal-accessnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/medicine-cihr-grant-helping-shed-light-on-perinatal-accessimj1291547620400228imj1291547644711170show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/roxanne-laforge.jpgsite://news/images/2017/roxanne-laforge.jpgnewsroxanne-laforge.jpgroxanne-laforge.jpgNoNoneYes/
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research-if-your-pet-has-this-tapeworm,-it-could-kill-youIf your pet has this tapeworm, it could kill youU of S researcher offers advice on how to reduce risks for humans and pets to get a potentially deadly tapeworm.Emily J. Jenkins1512393120000/articles/research/2017/research-if-your-pet-has-this-tapeworm,-it-could-kill-younewssite://news/articles/research/2017/research-if-your-pet-has-this-tapeworm,-it-could-kill-youimj1291547620701124imj1291547644650324show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/fox-in-the-shade.jpgsite://news/images/2017/fox-in-the-shade.jpgnewsfox-in-the-shade.jpgfox-in-the-shade.jpgA coyote cools off in the shade of a leafy suburb. Wildlife interactions with pets and humans can transfer disease, including the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis. (Winston Wong/flickr), CC BY-NC-SANoNoneYes/
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innovation-enterprise-shifts-tech-transfer-modeltrue1547743704451pey849Innovation Enterprise shifts tech transfer modelJohannes Dyring is reshaping the approach the University of Saskatchewan takes in getting knowledge and inventions into the marketplace—and a new name sums up the transformation.Murray LyonsIndustry Liaison Office, Johannes Dyring1486737120000/articles/research/2017/innovation-enterprise-shifts-tech-transfer-modelnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/innovation-enterprise-shifts-tech-transfer-modelimj1291547620720854imj1291547620720854show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/johannes-dyring.pngsite://news/images/2017/johannes-dyring.pngnewsjohannes-dyring.pngjohannes-dyring.pngJohannes DyringNoNoneNo/
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“We’re now called Innovation Enterprise (IE) and that means we’re not just passively patting someone on the back when they have a new idea,” said Dyring, managing director of what was formerly known as the university’s Industry Liaison Office. “We’ll actually get engaged. We will invest. We will take risks, and we will collaborate with many stakeholders to build entrepreneurial teams.”

He said IE represents a fundamental shift away from the old mindset of a university technology transfer office.

“The traditional role of the university is to create new knowledge and invite others to come in to use that knowledge and turn it into some kind of product,” he explained. “That’s a very, very difficult thing to do for the private sector when that knowledge is often highly specialized.”

With the new approach, the university will be more proactive in turning great ideas into commercial realities. He notes that many researchers already have strong connections to industrial networks and know where innovations they have developed might fit into the marketplace.

IE can help by providing in-house technical, legal and financial expertise and experience to move an idea forward, possibly into a business start-up. IE has the experts to assess, protect and market intellectual property developed by the university research community. As part of a broad consultation with stakeholders in academy, government and industry, the IE team has been re-engaging with the business community to see how specific industry research needs can be met by the university research cluster.

“At Innovation Enterprise we’re doing something new and very exciting,” Dyring said. “We’re turning new knowledge and ideas—innovations and inventions—into solutions, new products and services.”

TextVideo/ is innovation enterprise? Dyring explains IE and its role at the Uof S.Above content

Dyring came to the U of S from Sweden in 2015 after serving as CEO of a company established to commercialize innovations developed by the Swedish University of Agriculture.

He sees a large untapped potential at the U of S with its six signature research areas, its diverse research infrastructure, and the many leading researchers the university has attracted. He is particularly interested in engaging students at all levels who are excited about being part of innovation. 

Find out more about IE at


Murray Lyons is a communications contributor with Research Profile and Impact.

dalai-transforming-restaurant-waste-into-fueltrue1547743704451pey849Dalai transforming restaurant waste into fuelWhen most people look at discarded vegetable oil—browned and gritty from frying food—they likely see nothing more than waste.HenryTye GlazebrookCollege of Engineering, Ajay Dalai1486737600000/articles/research/2017/dalai-transforming-restaurant-waste-into-fuelnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/dalai-transforming-restaurant-waste-into-fuelimj1291547620724488imj1291547620724488show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/ajay-dalai.jpgsite://news/images/2017/ajay-dalai.jpgnewsajay-dalai.jpgajay-dalai.jpgAjay DalaiNoNoneNo/
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But to Ajay Dalai, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, the cooking process creates a byproduct that has newfound potential as a source of fuel and biolubricant.

“We have made lots of contributions in biodiesel production from waste vegetable oil, such as the oil you get from restaurants,” Dalai said.

Transforming restaurant waste into fuel is only one of the projects thathas helped Dalai become a recognized member of his field, including a longstanding position as Canada Research Chair in Bioenergy and Environmentally Friendly Chemical Processing, and an induction to the Royal Society of Canada.

In 2016, he was elected to the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom, a world-renowned community of chemists dedicated to advancing their field of science. It was this most recent appointment that led Dalai to do a lecture tour of the U.K., visiting the University of Edinburgh, Heriot Watt University, University of Aberdeen, Imperial College in London and Cambridge University, where he met with, learned from and shared his expertise with other chemists and engineers.

“The idea there was to discuss our contributions to the field of renewable energy and petroleum refining technology and also the environmental pollution control,” he said, adding that these are areas in which a group of U of S professors specialize. “You go and build on those strengths and learn more from some of the other fine people who are working in my field—bring them to the table and start working together with them.”

Dalai said these kinds of opportunities are vital to creating new opportunities to bring academics and researchers together.

“When I got this fellowship and travelled to the U.K., people really wanted to talk to me and collaborate with me and discuss with me about their facilities,” he said. “I think it opened up avenues to network with people from outside of Canada.”

While Dalai has worked on many different projects over the years that he believes contributed to his appointment with the Royal Society of Chemistry, he said his work with vegetable oil has attracted the most attention. The process is not entirely new for biodiesel production, but is largely limited on an industrial scale by the limited batch proportions on which it is reliant.

What sets Dalai and his team apart is their technique’s continuous mode of operation. Dalai has been working for 15 years on converting vegetable oil into biodiesel using solid acid catalysts and producing no byproducts outside of glycerol. For years, he has been focusing on the purification of this material and on the production of sustainable chemicals from glycerol. The result is a biodiesel that uses significantly less water and is much more environmentally friendly.

“You want to use less water in chemical processes to generate less waste water,” Dalai said. “This new method is a very environmentally friendly way of converting the waste oil into a diesel fuel product without using water.”

The resulting fuel is also much closer to being carbon neutral than other energy products. While energy sources such as potash and coal pull carbon out of the ground and release it into the air as new pollutants, biodiesel made from Dalai’s method releases carbon dioxide (CO2) that was originally stored in plants, which in turn absorb it from the air as part of the photosynthesis process.

“That is where the motivation is coming from: You take the carbon from the air, into the fuel, and by using it you are simply putting that CO2 back,” he said.

Ultimately, it is this push toward sustainability that Dalai said drives his research.

“When you look at our province and at Canada at large, we really want to show to the world that, though we are emitting a lot of CO2 per capita, we are aware of that problem and we are working towards finding technologies in-house which can help us to have low CO2 emissions down the road,” Dalai said.

“I think that’s a more international perspective, and we need to be a good citizen of the world by producing and using sustainable energy and chemicals.”

new-screening-technique-will-allow-crop-breeders-to-develop-drought-resistant-varieties-fastertrue1547743704451pey849New screening technique will allow crop breeders to develop drought resistant varieties fasterScientists from the Canadian Light Source (CLS) have teamed up with researchers from the University of Saskatchewan to develop a new technique to examine drought tolerance in wheat.Ashley DopkoCanadian light source1512585840000/articles/research/2017/new-screening-technique-will-allow-crop-breeders-to-develop-drought-resistant-varieties-fasternewssite://news/articles/research/2017/new-screening-technique-will-allow-crop-breeders-to-develop-drought-resistant-varieties-fasterimj1291547620780084imj1291547620780084show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/chithra-karunakaran-karen-tanino-team.jpgsite://news/images/2017/chithra-karunakaran-karen-tanino-team.jpgnewschithra-karunakaran-karen-tanino-team.jpgchithra-karunakaran-karen-tanino-team.jpgFrom left to right: Ian Willick, Perumal Vijayan, David Muir, Chithra Karunakaran and Karen Tanino (photo provided by CLS).NoNoneNo/
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Chithra Karunakaran and Karen Tanino’s team developed a simple non-destructive method to screen hundreds of wheat leaf samples in a day, reducing the time and cost associated with traditional breeding programs to select varieties for drought tolerance. Their findings were published in the November issue of Physiologia Plantarum.

“Developing these types of tools better enables physiologists to complement breeding programs,” said Tanino, a professor of plant sciences at the U of S.

“By identifying key traits of interest, which can be targeted and rapidly screened, we can enable breeders to accelerate crop improvement.”

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian wheat production is anticipated to decline by 19.5 per cent in 2017, in part due to the dry conditions experienced in the prairies. As global temperatures shift and rainfall patterns become more erratic, drought will continue to contribute to low yields and loss of food production.

Using the wax of a flag leaf as their test subject, the team members examined the morphological characteristics of the plant, as well as the chemical signatures, comparing the drought-resistant Stettler wheat variety to the Superb, which is more vulnerable to drought conditions. The flag leaf is the final leaf to emerge during plant development and is crucial for attaining high yields.

“The agriculture community knows that leaf wax plays a role in conserving water and acts as a physical barrier to disease,” said Karunakaran, manager of environmental and earth sciences at the CLS, “but before this we hadn’t understood why that’s happening on a molecular level.”

Using the bright light produced at the CLS, Karunakaran and her team were the first to link micro and macronutrients in the leaves in relation to their ability to tolerate drought, finding higher levels of zinc in the drought-resistant Stettler. These results could have significant implications for future breeding programs, and also raise questions about the role of zinc in fertilizer.

Current breeding programs base drought tolerance on crop yields, using field trials to determine results. The new method will allow scientists to characterize drought-tolerant varieties much earlier, resulting in reduced costs and taking the new variety from the lab to the field much faster.

Now that methods and protocols have been established, this project will extend to new varieties, eventually looking at other crops such as canola, allowing Canadian farmers to stay competitive in a global market.

This research was supported by the Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund.   

researchers-develop-technique-to-reuse-carbon-dioxide-and-methane,-slowing-climate-changetrue1547743704451pey849Researchers develop technique to reuse carbon dioxide and methaneReusing carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane waste emissions from industrial sources is closer to reality, thanks to recent findings from the Canadian Light Source and the U of S.University CommunicationsCollege of Engineering, Canadian Light Source1504036200000/articles/research/2017/researchers-develop-technique-to-reuse-carbon-dioxide-and-methane,-slowing-climate-changenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/researchers-develop-technique-to-reuse-carbon-dioxide-and-methane,-slowing-climate-changeimj1291547620805148imj1291547620805148show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/yongfeng-hu-hui-wang.jpgsite://news/images/2017/yongfeng-hu-hui-wang.jpgnewsyongfeng-hu-hui-wang.jpgyongfeng-hu-hui-wang.jpgCLS scientists Yongfeng Hu and Hui Wang.NoNoneNo/
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COand methane are the most significant greenhouse gases resulting from human activity, said Hui Wang, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan.

Capturing CO2 and methane emissions from industrial sources and reusing them could reduce the threat on the world’s ecosystem by slowing climate change, said Wang, the principal researcher of a paper published in Catalyst Today.

CO2 and methane can be triggered to undergo chemical reactions with each other to create synthesis gas or syngas. Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which can be used to synthesize a variety of liquid fuels or ammonia.

This reaction between CO2 and methane, also called ‘dry reforming of methane,’ has not been fully scaled-up for commercial use due to lack of an inexpensive and industrially viable catalyst. Catalysts are used to speed up chemical reactions.

Wang’s research group has patented a technology to make a highly active, stable dry-reforming catalyst from cheap metals including nickel, cobalt, magnesium and aluminum. The current technology provides for making a catalyst in powder form, but the goal of the project is to make the powder form into a sphere-shaped catalyst, which is easier to handle in industrial operations.

To do this, Wang and his research team used commercially available aluminum-oxide spheres and impregnated them with “layers” of the catalyst metals. Several sets of these catalyst balls were made using different techniques to impregnate them with solutions of salt forms of the metals in order to study which technique gave the best results.

The X-ray absorption spectroscopy facility at CLS enabled the researchers to identify, at the atomic level, which procedures for impregnating the spheres created the best characteristics of an industrial catalyst.

“Without the CLS we couldn’t have been able to fully understand this,” Wang said.

The work is an important step toward creating a shaped-catalyst for commercializing the CO2 reforming of CH4 technology.

Read more at the Canadian Light Source.

the-science-of-medical-marijuanatrue1547743704451pey849The science of medical marijuanaAs the country prepares for the legalization of cannabis next year, the U of S is ramping up research into the healing effects of medical marijuana.James ShewagaCollege of Pharmacy and Nutrition1512743640000/articles/research/2017/the-science-of-medical-marijuananewssite://news/articles/research/2017/the-science-of-medical-marijuanaimj1291547620843476imj1291547620843476show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/robert-laprairie.jpgsite://news/images/2017/robert-laprairie.jpgnewsrobert-laprairie.jpgrobert-laprairie.jpgRobert LaprairieNoNoneNo/
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Assistant professor Robert Laprairie is leading a new lab in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition that explores the effects of cannabinoids to help treat a wide range of diseases and disorders, after being appointed to a five-year term as GSK-CIHR Research Chair in Drug Discovery and Development on August 1. With medical marijuana use on the rise and recreational marijuana slated to become legal in Canada on July 1, 2018, Laprairie said the research field has quickly become more compelling and crucial.

“The research that will be conducted in my own lab, and in collaboration with other researchers at the U of S, is of the utmost importance,” said Laprairie, who is from Saskatoon and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Honours in Biochemistry in 2010 at the U of S before moving on to earn a master’s and PhD and complete a postdoctoral fellowship at The Scripps Research Institute in Florida in July. “Cannabinoids and marijuana are becoming an increasingly important part of the health and well-being of Canadians. In order to ensure that cannabinoids and marijuana are used appropriately as medicine, and in an effort towards harm reduction, this research will benefit the university, province and country.”

Laprairie’s research will support the work of the Cannabinoid Research Initiative of Saskatchewan, a multidisciplinary collaborative research project featuring experts in the Colleges of Pharmacy and Nutrition, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine at the U of S. The new $5-million endowed research chair is supported by funding from GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Pathfinders Fund for Leaders in Canadian Health Science Research, in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the U of S College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. It is one of only two such chairs in all of Canada within pharmacy schools.

Laprairie’s lab will focus on developing new synthetic cannabinoid compounds and characterizing the many cannabinoids present in marijuana. These may be used to help treat pain, addiction and anxiety, as well as everything from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder to Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

“I am extremely excited to get going in proper fashion,” said Laprairie, who also teaches pharmacology, pathophysiology and neuroscience courses at the U of S. “I have been applying to multiple granting bodies (CIHR, Epilepsy Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) and I am working to establish strong collaborations here at the U of S."

“The college has an excellent support network for new researchers such as myself and this will enable me to become very productive early on,” said Laprairie.

The recent additions of the likes of Laprairie and professor Ekaterina Dadachova—the Chair in Radio- pharmacy at the Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation—have helped bolster the research expertise and profile of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, according to dean and professor Kishor Wasan.

“We are extremely excited to successfully recruit research scientists of the calibre of Laprairie and Dadachova,” said Wasan. “These recruitments demonstrate the international reputation of our college’s research program and the impact we are making on the global stage. The recent additions of as two highly-funded research chairs are already making an impact on our research activity and research scope.”

u-of-s-researchers-discover-vampire-bugs-fatal-flawtrue1547743704451pey849U of S researchers discover vampire bugs’ fatal flawUniversity of Saskatchewan researchers have found a unique blood-cooling system in the head of “kissing bugs” that transmit life-threatening Chagas disease—a finding that may help develop next-generation pest control tools to thwart these blood-sucking critters. Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, International, gradresearch1512744720000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-discover-vampire-bugs-fatal-flawnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-discover-vampire-bugs-fatal-flawimj1291547620854703imj1291547620854703show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/xiaojie-luan-juan-ianowski1.jpgsite://news/images/2017/xiaojie-luan-juan-ianowski1.jpgnewsxiaojie-luan-juan-ianowski1.jpgxiaojie-luan-juan-ianowski.jpgJuan Ianowski (right) and Xiaojie Luan using powerful synchrotron X-rays to study a disease-spreading insect (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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“These insects are developing resistance to insecticides, so we need to better understand their biology to find new ways for killing them and limit the spread of Chagas disease,” said U of S physiology professor Juan Ianowski.

Untreatable and often undetected, Chagas disease affects six to seven million people, mostly in Latin America where it spreads mainly through Rhodnius prolixus, known as the “kissing bug” for its habit of biting around its victim’s mouth. 

Infected bugs deposit the Chagas disease parasites into a victim’s blood system when feeding. The human immune system cannot kill the parasites which keep mutating and cause severe heart problems that lead to death within 10 to 30 years.

Ianowski and his PhD student Xiaojie Luan have been the first to provide evidence that the special circulation system in the vampire bug’s head prevents the heat of the incoming blood meal from harming the bug. Their findings, published last week in the journal eLife, may be used to develop chemicals that could disrupt the insects’ heat exchange system to kill the critters. 

The research was done at the U of S Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron in collaboration with researchers from France and Brazil.

“We needed very high imaging resolution and the CLS was the only place that had X-rays powerful enough to visualize how the blood moves from the insects’ mouths to their bodies,” said Luan, who developed a new imaging technique at the synchrotron to scan the live insects.

The researchers showed that meal blood and the insect’s blood, which are at different temperatures, flow in opposite directions and slowly exchange heat—the secret of the insect’s survival.

“We’ve seen similar mechanisms in the body of other insects, but this is the first time we found it in the head of an insect,” said Ianowski.

Luan, who moved from China to pursue his post-secondary education at the U of S, took images and shot videos of more than 50 insects feeding. He used insects that Ianowski grew in the lab, where thousands of them are kept in jars.

“My insects, of course, don’t have the Chagas disease parasites and are completely harmless,” said Ianowski.

“Some Latin American species can survive cold to an extent, so one day we may have them close to here,” said Ianowski. “That’s why it is crucial that we keep researching.”

With climate change, he said the Latin American insects are moving North, and some people in the U.S. who never went abroad have been infected. Immigration of infected people could also be a factor.

The U of S team was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and were led by Claudio Lazzari, a researcher at the University of Tours in France.


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.


sph-charlene-thompson-scholarshiptrue1547743704451pey849Recovery and reconciliationA $108,000 research award will help PhD student Charlene Thompson to challenge health inequities in Indigenous communities from a new perspective. Cat BonnerSchool of Public Health, gradresearch, Aboriginal1495530000000/articles/research/2017/sph-charlene-thompson-scholarshipnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/sph-charlene-thompson-scholarshipimj1291547621195977imj1291547621195977show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/charlene-thompson.jpgsite://news/images/2017/charlene-thompson.jpgnewscharlene-thompson.jpgcharlene-thompson.jpgNoNoneYesNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/news/charlene-thompson.jpgsite://sph/images/news/charlene-thompson.jpgsphcharlene-thompson.jpgNoNoneNo/
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Talking to Thompson, her desire to address the continuing imbalance is clear.

 “I have a great fondness and appreciation of Indigenous cultures, and the health inequities people continue to face are not fair. I see my research as an opportunity to be part of the reconciliation process, and serve these communities in a way that is meaningful to them.”

A student in the School of Public Health (SPH), Thompson was awarded the three-year Aboriginal Research Methodologies grant by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which will support her ground-breaking project to develop a model for improved delivery of health programs in Indigenous communities that, for the first time, incorporates feedback from the communities’ frontline health workers.

“Little previous research has engaged frontline health workers directly, and their input is essential to truly understand what needs to change,” she said.

Working collaboratively with Elders, leaders and community members within two Indigenous communities, Thompson hopes to speak with health professionals such as nurses and community health workers to gain perspectives on what they need to successfully deliver better healthcare programs.

Thompson explained that developing a model based on frontline workers’ priorities will help pinpoint the community’s specific needs and target improvements to healthcare programming in the right places, leading to a healthier population.

The ultimate aim is to take positive steps towards closing the gap in health inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Given the uniqueness of each community, Thompson says there is no universal solution, but she hopes her project will yield a useful starting point for other communities.

Stepping back from a career in nursing, Thompson admits that the decision to pursue her PhD was not an easy one.

A practicum placement with the First Nations Lung Health Project during her Master of Public Health degree inspired her to continue her education in Indigenous health, and opened her eyes to the benefit of community-based research.

“I saw a fresh perspective of research, a collaborative approach that allows communities to drive their own action based on their needs,” she said.

A big part of this, Thompson explained, is for researchers to respect the individual traditions and values of an Indigenous community, and to enter into it with an open mind, prepared to listen.

“It should be up to the community how its research findings are communicated,” she explained. “As academics, we need to work harder to find a way of bridging our work with Indigenous traditions, so that we avoid any dominance from colonial systems.”

Thompson’s next step is to find the Indigenous communities she will work with.

“My goal is to connect with communities who are open to trying this project out to see if we can make a positive impact,” she said. “I would also like to build long-term working relationships, so I can continue to be of service to the community after the project has finished.”

With the finances in place to back her research, Thompson is equally grateful for the strong support she has received from her supervisor, SPH faculty member Michael Szafron, and her PhD advisory committee.

“I am fortunate to have experts around me who understand what I am trying to achieve,” she said. “I think that is key to successful research work.” 

/articles/2017/charlene-thompson-scholarshipshow-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNosite://sph/articles/2017/charlene-thompson-scholarshipsphcharlene-thompson-scholarshipArticle headlineRecovery and reconciliationA $108,000 research award will help PhD student Charlene Thompson to challenge health inequities in Indigenous communities from a new perspective. 2017, IndigenousCat Bonner23-May-2017 9:00 AM
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u-of-s-bat-men-shed-light-on-bat-super-immunitytrue1547743704451pey849“Bat Men” shed light on bat super immunityUniversity of Saskatchewan (U of S) researchers may have unlocked the secret behind bat “super immunity” to deadly respiratory diseases such as SARS.Federica GiannelliWestern College of Veterinary Medicine, gradresearch1495733940000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-bat-men-shed-light-on-bat-super-immunitynewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-bat-men-shed-light-on-bat-super-immunityimj1291547621205545imj1291547621205545show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/arinjay-banerjee.jpgsite://news/images/2017/arinjay-banerjee.jpgnewsarinjay-banerjee.jpgarinjay-banerjee.jpgU of S student Arinjay Banerjee (right) and professor Vikram Misra (left) posing with a bat finger puppet (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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Coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) cause serious and often fatal disease in people, but bats seem unharmed.

Veterinary microbiology PhD candidate Arinjay Banerjee and his professor Vikram Misra have now found some clues.

In an article published this week in Nature’s Scientific Reports, they conclude that unlike with human cells, bat cells actively suppress inflammation when they are infected with viruses.

“This knowledge might lead to new therapies for slowing down disease progression in humans and might even reduce death rates in the future,” said Misra, but he cautions further research is needed.

Not much is known about bat “super immunity,” said Banerjee. “We are among only a few groups worldwide working to decipher it.”

In 2003, a SARS outbreak in Toronto, which had originated in Asia, caused more than 40 deaths in Canada and 400 infections. Banerjee explains SARS and MERS are deadly to humans because they cause extensive lung inflammation leading to severe tissue damage. Both viruses are thought to have spilled over from bats to people and other animals.

“In people these diseases work in a way that’s like revving your car at very high rpms for a long time — you end up destroying the engine,” said Banerjee. “Bats seem to have evolved to suppress the revs, even when you floor the gas pedal.” 

Dubbed the “Bat Men,” the team in Misra’s lab used cells from Prairie bats to develop the first commercially available cell line (a layer of cells that continuously replicate) ever developed for North American bats.

This cell line was tested by microbiology professor Yan Zhou at U of S VIDO-InterVac and by researcher Vincent Munster at U.S. National Institutes for Health laboratory in Montana. They found that the cell line can effectively grow coronaviruses such as SARS, MERS, Ebola and pig epidemic diarrhea viruses.

Misra and Banerjee injected the cell line with a synthetic molecule resembling a SARS bat coronavirus, and studied the bat cells’ immune response in comparison to human cells.

They found both types of cells activate anti-viral genes for combatting this infection. But unique to the bat immune system, a protein called c-Rel stops a key “inflammation-triggering” signal, whereas in humans severe inflammation causes tissue damage.

As a very ancient animal species, bats may have evolved with survival strategies for certain diseases, said Misra.

“We need a One Health approach—integrating the health of people, animals and the environment — to deal with problems such as emerging infectious diseases,” said Banerjee.

Now the “Bat Men” are working with microbiology professor Darryl Falzarano at VIDO-InterVac to test MERS infection on bat cells. They want to understand why the virus doesn’t “shut down” the bat immune responses as it does in humans.    

This research is funded by the federal agency NSERC and the Saskatchewan Innovation and Opportunity Scholarship, and also involved U of S veterinary pathology professor Trent Bollinger and lab technician Noreen Rapin. 


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2016 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

going-viraltrue1547743704451pey849Going viralMaybe it starts with a mild fever, a scratch at the back of your throat or a cough you just can’t shake. Nothing a few days of bed rest won’t fix, hopefully.HenryTye GlazebrookVaccine and Infectious Disease Organization–International Vaccine Centre, VIDO-InterVac1500047040000/articles/research/2017/going-viralnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/going-viralimj1291547621243762imj1291547621243762show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/virus.jpgsite://news/images/2017/virus.jpgnewsvirus.jpgvirus.jpgYesNoneNo/
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But for an unlucky few, these are the first signs of a measles infection.

Measles is just one among a list of diseases that includes whooping cough, mumps and chickenpox, each of which was long considered nearly vanquished but has had a resurgence, as the anti-vaccination movement has grown.

“Measles we got two years ago, down in Regina, especially, but also a number of people in Alberta,” said Andrew Potter, director and CEO of Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan. “Measles in Canada is exceedingly rare. They managed to trace it to somebody who went to Disneyland. You go to Disneyland and there’s a bunch of kids and, bingo, it just spreads like wildfire.”

TextVideo/ Potter, CEO of VIDO-InterVac, discusses diseases and the anti-vax movement.Above content

Vaccines, which stimulate the immune system with a micro-dose of a communicable disease to spark a response that leaves the human body better equipped to handle future encounters, are facing growing backlash in some circles. For Potter, who is also a professor of veterinary microbiology, this trend brings to mind worrisome memories of his own life prior to widespread immunization.

“When I was kid I had mumps, I had measles, I had whooping cough, I had them all,” he said. “The whole principle behind vacci­nation is that you end up essentially immune, not for life but for many, many years—sometimes decades.”

Potter sees two main drivers behind the rise of the anti-vac­cination movement. The first, a marketing push from parties aiming to make an easy buck off a trendy topic, he is quick to brush off.

The second driver, however, comes from a much more familiar place of fear, even love: those with family diagnosed with autism, desperately searching for answers.

TextPullquoteVaccines have saved more lives than any other medical intervention in history. It’s that simple.Andrew Potter, director and CEO of VIDO-InterVac/Align left

“They’re looking for something to hang their hat on, and vaccines are as good of a thing as any,” Potter said. “If you imagine having a child who’s anywhere from one year old up to four years old, autism is usually diagnosed at that time. And what else has happened at that time? They’ve had a ton of vaccines. Making that correlation is a real easy thing for people to do, and I understand that fully.”

Potter largely attributes the trend to a confusion of correlation and causation, with many people watching the rise in both the number of vaccinations and diagnoses of autism as linked, simply because of their similar trajectory. He points to a similar pairing he likes to highlight in response, stressing there’s no confirmed link between cases of autism and vaccines.

“If you plot the number of cases of autism, you have an absolutely perfect match with the consumption of organic food—and most people I think would probably agree organic food is not a bad thing.”

The reality is that not all people are going to get vaccinated, sometimes due to their own issues of health, religion or other circumstances. But Potter emphasized the importance of retaining what’s known as herd immunity.

“If you vaccinate a certain percentage of the population, it protects all the others,” he said. “You have kindergarten, the classic breeding ground of disease. If you have 85 per cent of those kids vaccinated, you’re not going to have a problem, if you throw an unvaccinated kid in there. However, if that goes down to, let’s say, 60 per cent, suddenly you’ve got yourself an issue. The percentage varies for each disease.”

The solution, Potter said, is to open a dialogue around the importance of vaccinations and to simplify the process of getting immunized, pointing to non-injection implementation methods and greater accessibility as ideas that have helped curb disease resurgences in the past. And disease reduction is ultimately what’s most important. What’s at stake, he said, is more than most people realize at first glance.

“Vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical intervention in history,” he said. “It’s that simple. They are the single most cost-effective way. Preventing disease is way cheaper than treating disease.”

developing-new-technology-for-cheaper-biofueltrue1547743704451pey849Developing new technology for cheaper biofuelNew University of Saskatchewan chemistry research could pave the way for cheaper gas and booze.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, international1500062580000/articles/research/2017/developing-new-technology-for-cheaper-biofuelnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/developing-new-technology-for-cheaper-biofuelimj1291547621250204imj1291547621250204show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/leila-dehabadi.jpgsite://news/images/2017/leila-dehabadi.jpgnewsleila-dehabadi.jpgleila-dehabadi.jpgLeila Dehabadi puts corn at the centre of new, more efficient technology for separating water from ethanol (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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PhD chemistry student Leila Dehabadi has developed a new way to separate water from ethanol, the key component in alcoholic beverages and biofuel, using starch-based materials such as corn. The method could reduce costs because it doesn’t involve using additional energy to isolate the ethanol.

“Compared to distillation, this new approach based on green chemistry and engineering will be a significant saving to biofuel and alcohol production in Saskatchewan and globally by changing the way water is separated from ethanol mixtures,” said Lee Wilson, U of S chemistry professor and Dehabadi’s supervisor. 

In traditional distillation methods, fermented plants create a mixture of water and ethanol which is then heated to separate out the ethanol. However, some water remains, Dehabadi said. 

She solved this problem by using non-toxic starch-based materials that do not require energy to remove water. Published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering in 2016 and 2017, her results show the new technology is 40 times more effective than materials previously studied and achieves an efficiency comparable to traditional distillation. 

Dehabadi has modified different types of starch (corn) and cellulose (plants) to create materials with varying chemical compositions and textural properties.

During trials, she found that her materials act like “selective sponges,” and remove water better than cellulose-based ones.

When immersed in a mixture of water and ethanol, her new materials suck up 80 times more water than ethanol.

“You can repeat the process in a ‘loop’ to get more ethanol,” said Wilson.

Present in staple foods such as corn, potatoes and cereals, starch makes these new materials inexpensive to produce. They are also easily “tunable” which means companies would be able to adjust the materials’ water removal ability based on specific production needs.

“If all goes well with the research, I hope to commercialize our starch-based materials in 5 years,” said Wilson.

In collaboration with the U of S College of Engineering, Wilson and Dehabadi have also been testing these starch-based materials for use in a new class of air conditioning systems.

“The materials can be used in these systems to remove moisture and humidity more efficiently,” said Dehabadi, who receives funding from the Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund.

Dehabadi’s published results have shown her materials remove moisture 13 per cent more efficiently than products currently available on the market. Dehabadi and Wilson will focus on improving this application as their next research step.

Dehabadi chose to come to the U of S from Iran because of the university’s expertise in biofuels and bio-energy from animal and agricultural waste and because of her desire to work on research projects with applications in industry.

“My friends who attended the U of S talked highly about the lab facilities, high standard of education and possibilities of having a good career after graduating,” she said.

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

u-of-s-researchers-in-global-food-security-awarded-grants-from-microsofttrue1547743704451pey849U of S researchers in global food security awarded grants from MicrosoftTwo University of Saskatchewan computer scientists are among the first grant recipients of Microsoft’s AI for Earth program.University CommunicationsDepartment of Computer Science1513019820000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-in-global-food-security-awarded-grants-from-microsoftnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-in-global-food-security-awarded-grants-from-microsoftimj1291547621310085imj1291547621310085show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/tony-kusalik-ian-stavness.jpgsite://news/images/2017/tony-kusalik-ian-stavness.jpgnewstony-kusalik-ian-stavness.jpgtony-kusalik-ian-stavness.jpgKusalik and StavnessNoNoneNo/
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The program is aimed at empowering people and organizations to solve global environmental challenges by increasing access to artificial intelligence (AI) tools and educational opportunities that will accelerate innovation.

Valued at $10,000 each, the grants enable the research teams to use new Microsoft technology to improve plant breeding by creating new ways to analyze plants and automatically identify traits related to plant growth, health, resilience and yield. The investment will help researchers better analyze plant genomics associated with crop traits, such as flowering time yield, and resistance to stress from drought.

Ian Stavness, associate professor in the U of S Department of Computer Science, will use Microsoft Azure cloud computing resources to create new ways to analyze images and videos of plants and crops to automatically identify traits related to plant growth, health, resilience and yield.

“Having a computer recognize these traits has potential to increase speed, reliability, and precision of trait identification and will provide new opportunities for crop breeders and farmers to directly compare large numbers of individual crops with differences in genetics, growing environment and crop management,” said Stavness.

Using the Microsoft technology, computer science professor Tony Kusalik aims to uncover the relationship between plant genes and desirable traits.

“We hope the new Azure AI cloud computing platform will help us to enhance deep learning to recognize complex patterns in plant genes so that we can find desirable ones,” said Kusalik. “Finding the links between plant genes and favourable crop traits will help breeders speed up their breeding programs.”

Stavness, Kusalik and their teams of researchers, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate research assistants are part of an innovative research and training program at the Plant Phenotyping and Imaging Research Centre (P2IRC) that is working to transform crop breeding and provide innovative solutions to national and global food security. The U of S P2IRC is managed by the Global Institute for Food Security and is funded by the Canada First Excellence Research Fund.  

AI for Earth, launched in July 2017, is a Microsoft program aimed at empowering people and organizations to solve global environmental challenges by increasing access to AI tools and educational opportunities, while accelerating innovation.

Via the Azure for Research AI for Earth award program, Microsoft provides selected researchers and organizations access to its cloud and AI computing resources to improve and expand work on climate change, agriculture, biodiversity and/or water challenges. The grant process was a competitive and selective process and was awarded in recognition of the potential of the work and power of AI to accelerate progress.

global-water-futures-announces-21-new-projectstrue1547743704451pey849Global Water Futures announces 21 new projectsThe U of S-led research aims to predict Canada’s future hydrology and support decision-making.Mark FergusonGlobal Water Futures, Global Institute for Water Security, John Pomeroy1513019940000/articles/research/2017/global-water-futures-announces-21-new-projectsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/global-water-futures-announces-21-new-projectsimj1291547621312417imj1291547621312417show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/canmore-lab.jpgsite://news/images/2017/canmore-lab.jpgnewscanmore-lab.jpgcanmore-lab.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Global Water Futures (GWF), the world’s largest university-led freshwater research program, has announced 21 new projects across Canada—valued at over $10 million in total—to address critical water security challenges, from the melt of mountain glaciers and the thaw of northern permafrost, to prairie food production, river basin prediction and the health of the Great Lakes. 

“With the hydrology of Canada and all cold regions changing dramatically due to climate change, these 21 new projects will help us understand, diagnose and predict change, and develop new tools, such as sensors, analytical procedures, and computer models to support water-related decision making,” said John Pomeroy, director of GWF and professor of hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

“The outcomes of this torrent of new science will include a better understanding of snow and rain storms, floods and droughts, as well as how to better measure and manage the quality of source waters; how deep groundwater is affected by the surface; how water affects human health in Indigenous communities; how to improve water governance; and even how to encourage global water citizenship,” he said. “This new knowledge will let us develop a picture of what Canada’s water might look like and how we can best manage water for the future.”

The U of S will lead nine of the new projects, with the University of Waterloo leading six, McMaster University and Wilfrid Laurier University each leading two, and the University of Quebec at Montreal and University of Manitoba each leading one.

Funded by a Canada First Research Excellence Fund grant, GWF now has 33 projects underway across Canada, valued at over $170 million and involving 15 universities and 172 partners. 

Over the next three years, GWF will train and hire 450 researchers and scientists, many as graduate students, to work on these projects and provide core support for the research program.

“We have entered the ‘Great Thaw’ due to rapid climate change, and with economic growth and changing ways in which we use the land, we now have more damaging droughts, fires, floods, algal blooms, and water quality advisories than in the past, yet also emerging opportunities for food and energy production through enlightened water management,” said Pomeroy.

He noted that water is “Canada’s most precious natural resource—one that drives our economy, supports our communities and is the basis for our ecosystems and life itself.” 

For more information on these projects, visit the GWF website.


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  1. Collaborative Modelling Framework for Water Futures and Holistic Human Health Effects, Lalita Bharadwaj, University of Saskatchewan
  2. Old Meets New: Subsurface Hydrogeological Connectivity and Groundwater Protection, Grant Ferguson, University of Saskatchewan
  3. Omic and Chemical Fingerprinting Methodologies using Ultrahigh-Resolution Mass Spectrometry for Geochemistry and Healthy Waters, Paul Jones, University of Saskatchewan
  4. Short‐Duration Extreme Precipitation in Future Climate, Yanping Li, University of Saskatchewan
  5. Diagnosing Policy and Governance Effectiveness for Agricultural Water Management During Times of Change, Philip Loring, University of Saskatchewan
  6. Crowdsourcing Water Science, Graham Strickert, University of Saskatchewan
  7. Adaptation Governance and Policy Changes in Relation to a Changing Moisture Regime Across the Southern Boreal Forest, Colin Laroque, University of Saskatchewan
  8. Hydrological Processes in Frozen Soils, Andrew Ireson, University of Saskatchewan
  9. Improved Estimates of Wetland Evaporation, Warren Helgason, University of Saskatchewan


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  1. Linking Water Governance in Canada to Global Economic, Social and Political Drivers, Rob de Loe, University of Waterloo
  2. Evaluation of ice models in Large Lakes using Three-Dimensional Coupled Hydrodynamic-Ice Models, Kevin Lamb, University of Waterloo
  3. Linking Stream Network Process Models to Robust Data Management Systems for the Purpose of Land-Use Decision Support, Bruce MacVicar, University of Waterloo
  4. Winter Soil Processes in Transition, Fereidoun Rezanezhad, University of Waterloo
  5. Linking Multiple Stressors to Adverse Ecological Responses Across Watersheds, Mark Servos, University of Waterloo
  6. Significance of Groundwater Dynamics within Hydrologic Models, Walter Illman, University of Waterloo
  7. Southern Forests Water Futures, Altaf Arain, McMaster University
  8. Sensors and Sensing Systems for Water Quality Monitoring, Ravi Selvaganapathy, McMaster University
  9. Global Water Citizenship - Integrating Networked Citizens, Scientists and Local Decision Makers, Colin Robertson, Wilfrid Laurier University
  10. SAMMS: Sub-Arctic Metal Mobility Study, Brent Wolfe, Wilfrid Laurier University
  11. Storms and Precipitation Across the Continental Divide Experiment (SPADE), Julie Theriault, University of Quebec at Montreal
  12. Diagnosing and Mitigating Hydrologic Model Uncertainty in High-Latitude Canadian Watersheds, Tricia Stadnyk, University of Manitoba


research-provides-hope-for-brain-cancertrue1547743704451pey849Research provides hope for brain cancerNewly-funded research in the College of Medicine could shed light on glioblastoma, the most common primary brain cancer in adults.University CommunicationsCollege of Medicine, Ron Geyer1487258040000/articles/research/2017/research-provides-hope-for-brain-cancernewssite://news/articles/research/2017/research-provides-hope-for-brain-cancerimj1291547621314288imj1291547621314288show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/ron-geyer.jpgsite://news/images/2017/ron-geyer.jpgnewsron-geyer.jpgron-geyer.jpgRon GeyerNoNoneNo/
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Ron Geyer and his research team were awarded an Innovation grant from the Canadian Cancer Society of almost $200,000. They plan to develop new imaging probes to better visualize and detect tumours in the brain. If successful, the probes will help doctors diagnose glioblastomas and guide surgical removalleading to better patient outcomes.

Glioblastoma is the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain cancer in adults. It also has "a dismal cure rate," Geyer told Global Saskatoon, as most patients survive only 1 to 2 years after diagnosis.

Most notably, Gord Downie—frontman of legendary Canadian band The Tragically Hip—was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2016.

Read more at Global Saskatoon.

10-steps-to-get-involved-in-undergraduate-researchtrue1547743704451pey84910 steps to get involved in undergraduate researchThe fall term one is coming to a close and you may have missed out on making the most of it. Get a head start on your academics and your career by launching your undergraduate research profile in term two. Undergraduate Research1513090920000/articles/research/2017/10-steps-to-get-involved-in-undergraduate-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/10-steps-to-get-involved-in-undergraduate-researchimj1291547621382491imj1291547621382491show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/penguin-research.jpgsite://news/images/2017/penguin-research.jpgnewspenguin-research.jpgYesNoneNo/
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  1. Jump into the FYRE. You don’t have to go far to find a course-based opportunity that can get you some credit and jumpstart your research experience. Search and register for classes in the new year with the attribute “undergraduate research”.
  2. Wise-up with a workshop. Uncover the skills and know-how you need to start or further your research. Experienced students give workshops all year long on everything from how to approach a professor to presenting your research. Check out upcoming topics and register now through the Library-PAL program.
  3. Sample the Symposium. The USSU will host the annual Undergraduate Project Symposium on February 5. Submit your own project by December 15 for a chance win a chunk of the thousands of cash prizes. Mark your calendar for the showcase to take in what other student researchers, scholars, and artists across campus are accomplishing.
  4. Scope-out a Summer Assistantship. UofS faculty members from each college hire undergraduate students as research assistants every summer. If you’re looking for a summer job – who isn’t? – and you have what it takes to land a position, arrange to talk to a prof soon.
  5. Talk to a Prof. It doesn’t take much to strike up a conversation with one of our world-class researchers. Build your confidence by checking out faculty profiles, reading-up on their research, and setting up a professional chat to expand your network and uncover opportunities.
  6. Glance at the Journal. The UofS Undergraduate Research Journal (USURJ) accepts submissions of undergraduate work from all disciplines on a rolling basis. Submit your strongest paper to the Journal and find out what it’s like to get published.
  7. Rise to the challenge. Academic and research challenges are happening across the country and globe, all year long and can elevate your CV. Keep an eye out for competitions and contests and be ready to take on the right one for you.
  8. Research far and wide. Go global by landing a research experience outside of Canada. Student researchers are coming and going from the UofS. Read about student researchers who’ve gone abroad and reach out to opportunities to become one yourself.
  9. Find funding. Why pay to do research when hundreds of awards are out there? Check out the funding opportunities on campus, throughout Canada and around the world, and start early.
  10. Share your story. Do any (or all!) of the above and you might just have a story worth telling. Submit your story and join other undergraduate research champions at the UofS’s Undergraduate Research Initiative. 

Get involved in Undergraduate Research. 

the-fungus-among-ustrue1547743704451pey849The fungus among usA natural strain of fungus discovered by U of S researchers could have the power to clean oil spills and return life to Alberta’s oilsands.University CommunicationsDepartment of Biology1508858940000/articles/research/2017/the-fungus-among-usnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/the-fungus-among-usimj1291547623161854imj1291547623161854show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/susan-kaminskyj.jpgsite://news/images/2017/susan-kaminskyj.jpgnewssusan-kaminskyj.jpgsusan-kaminskyj.jpgSusan KaminskyjNoNoneNo/
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“The current methods of restoring these sites are not as cost efficient or energy efficient as they could be, and can cause more environmental disruption,” said Susan Kaminskyj, a professor in the Department of Biology. “Our biotech innovation should help to solve this type of problem faster and with less additional disturbance.”

Kaminskyj led a research team that included three biology students and a post-doctoral fellow in the U of S College of Arts and Science. Results from their work, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, were published in the journal PLOS ONE

About 800 square kilometers of Alberta’s Athabasca oilsands are covered in coarse tailings: some of the leftover materials from refining surface-mined bitumen. Contaminated with an oily residue, lacking nutrients and resistant to absorbing water, coarse tailings are a hostile environment to both plants and soil microbes. 

But after tailings lie exposed for a decade or so, a few weedy plants often manage to take root. One of these, a dandelion, was obtained by the U of S team in 2007 upon being discovered growing naturally on a coarse tailings site. From its roots, former graduate student Xiaohui Bao isolated a unique strain of fungus. 

The researchers soon found that the fungus—which they named TSTh20-1—has a remarkable property. When its spores are applied to plants, those plants grow and thrive on coarse tailings.

“There are lots of micro-organisms out there that eat hydrocarbons for a living. But what is really neat about this one is that it’s in symbiosis with a plant,” said Tim Repas, one of the paper’s authors. “It’s not only eating the hydrocarbons, but it’s letting the plant survive in these environments.” 

In Kaminskyj’s laboratory, more than 90 per cent of seeds treated with TSTh20-1 sprouted on coarse tailings, while none of the untreated seeds sprouted. Tomato seedlings treated with the fungus flourished on tailings even without fertilizer and grew to produce tomatoes.

TextImage/images/2017/susan-kaminskyj-tomato.jpgsite://news/images/2017/susan-kaminskyj-tomato.jpgnewssusan-kaminskyj-tomato.jpgsusan-kaminskyj-tomato.jpgTomato seedlings treated with the fungus (right) flourished on tailings.Above content

As the plants grew, they also cleaned the soil beneath them. Petrochemical residues in the tailings were broken down, creating a healthier growth environment.

The fungus was even able to grow directly on diesel, crude oil and similar materials as its only nutrient source—the first time this ability has been seen in a member of this fast-growing group of fungi. The researchers concluded that TSTh20-1 has excellent potential to restore many types of petrochemical spills as well as coarse tailing sites.

Seeing these properties together in one organism is exciting, said Repas, a recent master of science in biology graduate who now works as an environmental scientist. It means the TSTh20-1 fungus is “multitalented.”

“So we can do the remediation and the reclamation of a site at the same time,” Repas said.

Ordinarily, remediation—removing contaminants from a site—is done separately from reclamation—restoring the land to near its original state. In the event of a spill, contaminated soil is often scraped up and hauled away in a lengthy and expensive process. New soil is then brought into the area and seeded with native plants.

“With our process, they could just lay down our treated seeds and then check on the site every so often,” said Kaminskyj. “They could put less energy, more effectively, into a much larger space.”

The next step is proving the method works in the real world. The team has already started tests at two petrochemical spill sites in Alberta and British Columbia and expects to begin seeing results next year.

The researchers are also seeking industry partners who would like to test the process at oilsands tailings sites or at oil spills.

Another area of further investigation will be the mechanism by which TSTh20-1 achieves its effects. One clue is the increased levels of enzymes called peroxidases that the team found being secreted by plants colonized by the fungus.

“Peroxidases can break down any kind of chemical bond, and they appear to be deeply involved in decontaminating the petrochemical component of tailings,” said Kaminskyj.

Knowing more about how TSTh20-1 works could help with identifying additional organisms that grant similar benefits to plants. The researchers are currently studying 10 new candidates isolated from plant roots.

hiv-virus-fighter-linked-to-cancer-mutationstrue1547743704451pey849HIV virus fighter linked to cancer mutationsUniversity of Saskatchewan researchers have found the onset of breast, lung and other cancers may be connected to malfunctions of the immune system as it combats specific viruses such as HIV.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, College of Medicine1508866260000/articles/research/2017/hiv-virus-fighter-linked-to-cancer-mutationsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/hiv-virus-fighter-linked-to-cancer-mutationsimj1291547623225780imj1291547623225780show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/madison-adolph.jpgsite://news/images/2017/madison-adolph.jpgnewsmadison-adolph.jpgmadison-adolph.jpgMadison Adolph and Linda Chelico (left) uncovered how enzymes in the immune system may “go rogue” and cause cancer (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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“Our findings could change the way we treat cancer,” said microbiology professor Linda Chelico. Her research, funded by the federal agency NSERC, was recently published in Nucleic Acids Research and a related project was published in Nature Communications.

Chelico and PhD student Madison Adolph have found evidence that three enzymes in the APOBEC3 family, which guards the immune system with seven enzymes in total, may “go rogue,” triggering mutations in human DNA that may lead to cancer over time.

The results could open up the possibility for developing inhibitors that suppress these enzymes when they malfunction, or developing special tests to monitor their levels in the body.

Scientists have previously known that these enzymes are linked to cancer mutations and may also appear in cancer patients not infected by viruses. But until now they had not known how the enzymes mutated the human genome.

“The enzymes we study are very important for building a defence against viruses, but some specifically activated to fight HIV infection may end up being expressed in the wrong place at the wrong time, causing unintended mutations,” said Chelico. 

The enzymes bind to the DNA of the HIV virus and try to mutate it to shut down the virus replication in the body. But HIV has its own defence mechanism.

Unable to fight HIV, the enzymes keep scanning human DNA and may incorrectly get turned on in the wrong cell type, causing mutations to healthy cells. This happens even in the presence of the body’s repair mechanisms that are supposed to protect human DNA from damage.

“This is off-target behavior for the enzymes because they typically attack only single-stranded virus DNA,” said Adolph. “We have identified for the first time the biochemical features that allow these enzymes to bind to tiny regions of human DNA that are single-stranded.”

Adolph spent the past four years trying to isolate from cells the enzyme APOBEC3B, the main contributor to these mutations, and was unsuccessful for a long time. But she did not give up because she knew the process was key to understanding the mechanisms behind these enzymes.

“We were the first research team to study these enzymes outside cells, which is their natural environment. We were able to analyze how they cause mutations, instead of looking at already mutated cancer genomes as previous researchers did,” said Adolph.

Despite the promising results, the researchers caution that what triggers the malfunction of the enzymes is still unknown. The U of S team has yet to establish whether the enzymes initiate cancer or make it worse by causing further mutations to the DNA of cells.

“We have started a new research phase where we mix healthy cells and these enzymes together in the lab to see what happens, but we are still at a very early stage,” said Chelico.


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

the-worms-that-changed-the-worldtrue1547743704451pey849The worms that changed the worldIn the shallow waters of a sea in northern China 500 million years ago, a dazzling new array of creatures was swimming: part of an explosion of animal diversity that would forever change the course of life on Earth.Chris PutnamDepartment of Geological Sciences1500305340000/articles/research/2017/the-worms-that-changed-the-worldnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/the-worms-that-changed-the-worldimj1291547623279374imj1291547623279374show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/worm-fossils.jpgsite://news/images/2017/worm-fossils.jpgnewsworm-fossils.jpgworm-fossils.jpgClose-up view of fossilized branching burrows preserved in rock formed from an ancient seabed in what is now northern China (submitted photo).NoNoneNo/
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Quietly, in the seabed beneath them, another revolution was underway.

For perhaps the first time, tiny creatures were pushing their way through the sediment to create complex mazes of burrows, slowly but profoundly altering the environment around them. Evidence of these early “ecosystem engineers” was published in the April issue of Scientific Reports by researchers from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and Henan Polytechnic University in China.

The floors of Earth’s ancient oceans looked very different than they do today, said Luis Buatois, a professor in the U of S Department of Geological Sciences and one of the study’s authors. Sediment lay mostly undisturbed where it fell, and few living things larger than bacteria could survive in the dense, oxygen-deprived seabed.

But sometime in the early Cambrian period, slightly over 500 million years ago, this began to change. Animals gained the ability to bioturbate—to move through the sediment and rework it. Today, the ocean floors are being constantly churned and renewed by bioturbators.

Examining carbonate rocks formed from an ancient seabed in the Zhushadong Formation in China’s Henan Province, the joint Canadian/Chinese research team discovered fossilized branching burrows left by Cambrian creatures: the earliest evidence ever found of this kind of burrow, and a snapshot of an important turning point in the evolution of life.

The paper’s authors include Li-Jun Zhang (postdoctoral fellow, U of S Department of Geological Sciences/Henan Polytechnic University), Gabriela Mangano (professor, U of S Department of Geological Sciences), Buatois, and researchers from Henan Polytechnic University.

Burrow fossils of this age uncovered before now, explained Buatois, have shown only shallow horizontal trails that would not have moved much sediment around.

“But here we see animals that were really able to go down into the sediment—sometimes they went more than 30 cm, which is a lot—and they were able to produce these branching systems. So in terms of locomotion and behaviour, this was a much more advanced type of creature than the ones we have seen before.”

These creatures, likely a type of wormwere beginning to transform the undersea landscape. Their movements unlocked buried nutrients and loosened the sediment, allowing water and oxygen to seep much deeper into the seabed.

Like modern earthworms whose activity in the soil promotes the growth of plants, these early bioturbators would have created new habitats for other organisms. Forms of life that had been adapted to the old undersea landscape were evicted and lost to time, while new creatures—ones more similar to the sea life that we see today—were able to thrive.

The research team’s work reveals a crucial early step in the “burrowing revolution” that followed, in which multitudes of new lifeforms evolved to penetrate the seabed for food or protection.

“What we expect to see in a case like this is a kind of feedback loop,” said Buatois. “The activity of these animals would have resulted in other animals exploiting the resources they generated, so the final product was one of increased complexity.”

Previous research has indicated that bioturbation may have been one of the key factors that drove what is known as the Cambrian explosion, the sudden and rapid growth in animal diversity that occurred during the Cambrian period.


Chris Putnam is a communications officer in the College of Arts and Science.

remote-imaging-advances-medical-diagnosestrue1547743704451pey849Remote imaging advances medical diagnosesPatients in remote communities are a step closer to getting ultrasound imaging without having to travel long distances.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, College of Medicine1513263540000/articles/research/2017/remote-imaging-advances-medical-diagnosesnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/remote-imaging-advances-medical-diagnosesimj1291547623345839imj1291547623345839show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/scott-adams.jpgsite://news/images/2017/scott-adams.jpgnewsscott-adams.jpgscott-adams.jpgScott Adams demonstrates the long distance ultrasound imaging on a patient (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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University of Saskatchewan researcher Scott Adams has proven that MELODY telerobotic sonography, a French-developed system that allows doctors to do long distance ultrasound imaging, is feasible for abdominal and prenatal imaging. Adams is part of the first research team to test this technology in North America.

“The new telerobotic system could help save time and money. Patients may get earlier diagnoses while reducing the strain on major referral hospitals,” said U of S medical imaging professor Paul Babyn, Adams’s supervisor along with surgery professor Ivar Mendez. 

In two preliminary studies, one involving 18 patients and the other 30 pregnant women, Adams found that the telerobotic system is reliable for visualizing organs, and matches results and examination times obtained with conventional ultrasound.

Adams has published his results on the 18 patients in the Canadian Association of Radiologists Journal and recently presented his findings on prenatal imaging at an international radiology conference in the United States.

Bought with a $300,000 gift from the Leslie and Irene Dubé Foundation, the MELODY system consists of three parts: the ultrasound probe and robotic arm, placed in a community clinic, that can be manoeuvred on a patient’s body by an assistant with no prior experience using ultrasound; a control room at the U of S where radiologists or sonographers robotically control the probe and adjust the ultrasound settings; and video conferencing software. 

“Saskatchewan is now a leading province in the application of remote technology in the country,” said Mendez. “People from across Canada have come to learn what we’re doing to develop models that could potentially be implemented in all jurisdictions.”

The new technology could make a difference for small towns and remote Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. Without the need to transfer patients long distances for medical assessments, the healthcare system could save millions of dollars, said Adams, a U of S resident physician and health sciences graduate student. 

“The new system was able to adequately visualize organs and abnormal findings. Abdominal and fetal measurements were similar to that obtained using conventional ultrasound,” said Adams.

With experience, the time to perform a telerobotic scan will be similar to a regular ultrasound, he said.

The cost of installing this technology is not higher than current high-end regular ultrasound units.

Because the preliminary results obtained in Saskatoon on the telerobotic system are promising, Adams, Babyn and Mendez are now assessing the system’s potential benefit to patients in remote communities.  

The research team has moved the device to Stony Rapids, a Saskatchewan Indigenous community 80 kilometers south of the Northwest Territories border. This project is part of the Remote Presence Robotics Program for health care at the U of S and Northern Medical Services.

“Robotic ultrasound imaging is an ever-developing technology. We hope our studies will help develop an evidence base for scale-up and spread of this technology to improve patient care in Saskatchewan, Canada and beyond,” said Adams.

They expect the first results by the beginning of 2018.       

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

u-of-s-leads-country-in-research-fundingtrue1547743704451pey849U of S lands top spot in research funding increaseThe University of Saskatchewan is leading the country in research income gains, according to new figures from a Canadian innovation firm. University Communicationsinternational1509027900000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-leads-country-in-research-fundingnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-leads-country-in-research-fundingimj1291547623416983imj1291547623416983show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/aerial-campus.jpgsite://news/images/2017/aerial-campus.jpgnewsaerial-campus.jpgaerial-campus.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Research Infosource Inc. released its annual ranking of Canada’s top research universities and their funding sources. While the national average held steady at 2.2 per cent since last year, the U of S had a substantial increase—27.8 per cent—the largest increase of all Canadian universities.

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In turn, this propelled the U of S from 13th to 11th place on the list of Canada's top 50 research universities, with research funding during the 2016 fiscal year valued at over $215 million. The U of S also ranked well in terms of graduate research, placing second in the category. 

Research Infosource Inc. is Canada's source of R&D intelligence. Drawing from proprietary databases, Research Infosource publishes Canada’s Innovation Leaders, which includes Canada's Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders, Canada's Top 50 Research Universities, Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals and Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges. As well, Research Infosource publishes specialized reports and The Innovation Atlas of Canada™—a web-based research and innovation mapping and data information product.

Read more at Research Infosource

agbio-thinking-smalltrue1547743704451pey849Thinking smallA University of Saskatchewan researcher is hoping to solve a very big problem with some very little 'guys.'Glenn Cheater1508929800000/articles/research/2017/agbio-thinking-smallnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/agbio-thinking-smallimj1291547623428372imj1291547623428372show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/AGB002 FionaBuchanan-6653.jpgsite://agbio/images/AGB002 FionaBuchanan-6653.jpgagbioAGB002 FionaBuchanan-6653.jpgFiona Buchanan's research involves feeding mealworms to baby chicks (photo by Christina Weese). NoNoneYesNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/AGB002 FionaBuchanan-6653.jpgsite://agbio/images/AGB002 FionaBuchanan-6653.jpgagbioAGB002 FionaBuchanan-6653.jpgNoNoneNo/
TextBeef geneticist Fiona Buchanan looks to the insect world to solve one of cereal farmers' biggest problems.Image/images/AGB002 FionaBuchanan-6711.jpgsite://agbio/images/AGB002 FionaBuchanan-6711.jpgagbioAGB002 FionaBuchanan-6711.jpgGraduate student Carlos Ochoa Sanabria (left) and Fiona Buchanan feeding meal works to chicks. Photo by Christina WeeseBelow content

As eureka moments go, it didn’t entirely follow the script.

There was the flash of inspiration and a flush of excitement when a check of the literature showed that, yes, this could be the real deal.

But Fiona Buchanan’s exhilarating news wasn’t immediately embraced.

“I told my lab manager Kayla Madder, ‘We’re going to get into mealworms’ and she said, ‘Oh no, we’re not,’” recalled the U of S professor.

Raising creepy crawlies was, she admitted, not something you’d expect a beef cattle molecular geneticist to do. But she was able to convince Madder that mealworms aren’t “gross” and raising them actually has an upside.

“They’re not maggots, the beetles can’t fly, and on winter days when it’s minus 30 out, she’s in a room that’s 25 degrees and has high humidity. So, she loves these guys,” said Buchanan.

Colleagues were also a bit skeptical at first, but then quick to see how raising the larvae of darkling beetles could be a game-changer for Prairie wheat farmers, who have been hit hard by soaring rates of a disease called Fusarium head blight.

“Last year, 80 per cent of the cereal crop on the Prairies was infecte —80 per cent,” noted Buchanan. “So, what do you do with all this infected product?”

One possible, but entirely unexpected, answer to that question arrived out of the blue one day when Buchanan and her husband, a grain farmer, were having breakfast with a farmer friend named Dale Hicks. When Hicks mentioned he had heard of an insect that could eat Fusarium-infected wheat with no ill effects, a light bulb went on. As soon as she got back to her office, Buchanan started searching the research literature. Sure enough, there was a paper on a small study that found mealworms could not only survive, but thrive on what would be extremely harmful doses for mammals.

It was, to say the least, a surprising find. Fusarium head blight, which is caused by a fungus, produces mycotoxins, including one called vomitoxin that causes nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain in humans. In livestock, it’s linked with long-term health issues, including decreased feed intake, ultimately impacting growth. Mammals can only tolerate minute amounts—five parts per million (ppm) for cattle and poultry, two ppm for humans, and just one ppm for dairy cows and swine.

Those extremely low tolerance levels mean there’s not a lot you can do with Fusarium-infected wheat. Or, at least, until now.

The paper Buchanan found hinted at a solution, but it was a small-scale study on just 30 mealworms given feed artificially infected with four types of Fusarium, none of which are the major variety causing wheat farmers on the Prairies so much grief. Moreover, two of those types caused high mortality rates in the mealworms.

So Buchanan and masters student Carlos Ochoa Sanabria set up an experiment with a much larger sample (10,000 mealworms) and fed them wheat with a range of mycotoxin contamination from Fusarium graminearum found across the Prairies.

The results were everything the team—which included toxicologist Natacha Hogan, insect physiologist Cedric Gillott, and feed processing expert Rex Newkirk, all from the U of S—hoped for.

“These mealworms eat this infected grain quite happily—in fact, they actually prefer it,” explained Buchanan. “It doesn’t affect their weight gain, their survivability is actually higher, and they convert it into a sustainable, safe source of protein and fat.”

Just how mealworms manage this feat isn’t known. Perhaps there’s some sort of detoxifying bacteria in their gut, or maybe it’s something in the genetic makeup of the insects.

“Frankly, I don’t really care—I’m just happy they are munching up wheat that’s currently worth nothing but could now have a value if this pans out,” Buchanan said.

Additional studies are planned: Frass (insect poop) will be tested to see if the toxin passes through the mealworms or whether they are somehow able to convert it into something else. Buchanan’s team also has to further investigate whether the critters, when given the choice, will choose healthy plump wheat kernels over shrivelled, infected ones.

A study on the effect on chickens is also in the works. But since the toxin levels in the mealworms drops to 0.13 parts per million (even when the feed has nearly 100 times that level) and the mealworms offer crude protein (with the right amino acid profile) and fat, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Neither will production. Buchanan started with 500 mealworms (you can order them online), but now has tubs full of them.

“These guys are very easy to raise,” she said. “They like to eat wheat, and they eat it dry. All we have is these big plastic tubs with wheat kernels covered with paper towels that we spritz twice a week. And that’s all there is to it.”

Many vacated buildings in rural areas (especially if they’re near a seed cleaning plant that could supply infected grain and/or screenings) would be suitable for raising these “mini livestock.”

“I personally think the chickens would enjoy eating them live and, let’s face it, chickens and fish should be eating grubs anyhow because it’s part of their natural diet,” said Buchanan, although she acknowledged it’s more likely they’ll be processed into pellets.

It all seems like an odd journey, sparked by a comment over coffee to a cattle geneticist. But it’s also a return to a long-held area of interest for the transplanted New Zealander, who came to U of S in 1995. She did her masters on a fungus that infects mosquito larvae, and has a paperweight in her office encasing a giant weta—a mouse-sized insect from her homeland that sports huge mandibles and nasty looking spikes on its back legs.

“They’re herbivores but when they fall out of a tree on somebody, you should hear the screaming,” she said with a laugh. “I love insects, they’re great.”

If mealworms live up to their promise, Prairie wheat growers will be saying the same thing.

/news/2017/thinking-smallshow-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackYessite://agbio/news/2017/thinking-smallagbiothinking-smallArticle headlineThinking smallU of S researcher aims to solve a very big problem with some very little 'guys'Department of Animal and Poultry Science, College General, Theme OneGlenn Cheater25-Oct-2017 11:10 AM
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hatching-an-ideatrue1547743704451pey849Hatching an ideaBackyard chickens are permitted in a number of Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Victoria, Whitehorse and some boroughs of Montréal.Lesley PorterCollege of Nursing1504883880000/articles/research/2017/hatching-an-ideanewssite://news/articles/research/2017/hatching-an-ideaimj1291547623547968imj1291547623547968show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/backyard-chickens.jpgsite://news/images/2017/backyard-chickens.jpgnewsbackyard-chickens.jpgbackyard-chickens.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Wanda Martin would like to see Saskatoon on that list.

Martin, an associate professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan, is leading research examining the barriers encountered in urban agriculture, specifically with backyard chickens.

TextImage/images/2017/wanda-martin-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/wanda-martin-headshot.jpgnewswanda-martin-headshot.jpgwanda-martin-headshot.jpgWanda MartinAlign left

“If you think about urban agriculture as a complete package, urban hens are part of growing and producing your own food,” she said.

The project, which is supported by the President’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (PSSHRC) Insight Grant, has a three-pronged approach: understanding why people support backyard chickens, exploring the concerns of those who don’t, and identifying barriers and restrictions in the current bylaws.

The project is closely linked to work Martin does as a member of Bridge City Chickens, a local group advocating for an urban hen pilot project in Saskatoon.

The group presented its proposal—allowing 30 households to have three to five hens in their yard over 18 months—to Saskatoon City Council this spring. The proposal was ultimately voted down.

She understands the hesitation to allow backyard hens, adding that when people hear of the practice, “they relate to that experience of being on the farm where you have intensive agriculture practices and barns that smell and roosters that make a lot of noise, particularly at 3 or 4 am. They have a hard time separating three to five girls (hens) in the backyard, versus hundreds in barn.”

TextPullquoteIf you think about urban agriculture as a complete package, urban hens are part of growing and producing your own food.Wanda Martin/Align right

However, there are responsibilities associated with keeping and caring for any animal, she said, such as maintaining a comfortable living space, feeding and waste clean-up. And unlike their male rooster counterparts—known for their alarming early morning crows—hens are about the same decibel as people talking.

Martin hopes the data from the PSSHRC project—which builds on an earlier project funded by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation—can provide insights and recommendations to civic leaders as the public becomes more engaged with community-based food systems.

Within the project are a number of themes, such as food security (particularly in lower-income neighbourhoods), local food production and food systems governance. Food sovereignty is another issue of critical importance, particularly in light of related global issues.

“We know we’re experiencing climate change and we know farmers always have ups and downs in terms of their growing ability,” she said, adding that only seven per cent of fruits and vegetables eaten in Saskatchewan are grown in the province. “We’re relying on a lot of places that are going to suffer a lot more than we’re going to suffer from climate change issues. So if we can develop a stronger community-based food system, then we are going to be protected from unforeseen circumstances.”

Similarly, Martin added that as food systems evolve and industrialize, younger generations can lose sight of how food gets from a field to their fork.

“They’re lacking the basic food literacy skills,” she said. “We understand that kids need to know more and get more involved.”

The social aspect of having something novel to maintain and attend to—not unlike gardening—is another draw of keeping urban hens. “You’re actually out in your yard more and so it does create more of a social cohesion when you have something there to focus on,” Martin added.

An avid gardener herself, Martin’s interest in urban agriculture was sparked while completing her PhD at the University of Victoria. Aside from leading nursing students through their community health practicums, she also maintained the campus community garden.

“I’ve gardened for as long as I possibly could, as long as I had the space to,” she said. “I like to see a seed become food.”

synchrotron-teams-up-with-swedentrue1547743704451pey849Synchrotron teams up with SwedenThe Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron, located at the U of S, is strengthening ties with the synchrotron in Sweden as it continues to advance science and innovation in Canada.University Communicationsinternational, Canadian Light Source1487793000000/articles/research/2017/synchrotron-teams-up-with-swedennewssite://news/articles/research/2017/synchrotron-teams-up-with-swedenimj1291547623625031imj1291547623625031show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/canada-sweden.jpgsite://news/images/2017/canada-sweden.jpgnewscanada-sweden.jpgcanada-sweden.jpgThe Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada's minister of science; Robert Lamb, CEO of CLS; Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Sweden's minister for higher education and research; and Christoph Quitmann, director of MAX IV Laboratory.NoNoneNo/
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Governor General David Johnston and His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, presided over the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Canadian and Swedish national synchrotron light sources.

MAX IV Laboratory, located in Lund, Sweden operates synchrotron facilities with broad scientific programs, and shares scientific and technical goals similar to that of the CLS.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with our colleagues in Sweden to exchange our expertise and ensure that the Canadian and Swedish people benefit from our mutual advancements and discoveries,” said Rob Lamb, CEO of the CLS.

MAX IV and CLS will collaborate closely on the development of technologies that will enhance the performance of their user facilities, and increase interactions and cooperation between the light source communities of Sweden and Canada.

See more at the CLS.

u-of-s-study-aims-to-improve-depression-treatmenttrue1547743704451pey849U of S study aims to improve depression treatmentUniversity of Saskatchewan research may hold promise for producing newer, faster-acting antidepressants using a protein naturally produced by the brain. Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, Kyle Brymer, gradresearch1496422320000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-study-aims-to-improve-depression-treatmentnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-study-aims-to-improve-depression-treatmentimj1291547623734294imj1291547623734294show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/kyle-brymer.jpgsite://news/images/2017/kyle-brymer.jpgnewskyle-brymer.jpgPhoto by Dave StobbeNoNoneNo/
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Current medications work on only about half of patients and take around one month to work, often with significant side effects.     

“There is an urgent need for new antidepressants that work more quickly and in a higher proportion of patients,” said neuroscience professor Lisa Kalynchuk. 

Presented at an international conference, Kalynchuk’s research in an animal model shows that a protein called reelin has an antidepressant effect in just one day. Her PhD student Kyle Brymer has been the first to demonstrate this protein can also reverse structural changes in the brain caused by depression.  

“This research could change how depression is treated,” said Kalynchuk. “If research and trials go well on rats, our work may eventually lead to developing the first new drug in 50 years with a new way of acting in the body.”

Pharmacy professor Hector Caruncho, who teams up with Kalynchuk on her project, found that people with mental illness such as schizophrenia and depression have low quantities of reelin in their brains. This deficiency affects the release of chemicals that regulate communication between neurons, and affect the ability of neurons to connect, change and adapt over time in response to experience.  

Funded by the federal agency NSERC and Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the team aims to find out whether returning reelin to normal levels could work as an antidepressant in rats.

By injecting stress hormones, Brymer simulated depression in rats. Then, during trials, he infused reelin directly into the brain of the rats.

Brymer found that reelin acted faster than current antidepressants on most of the rats. He also found evidence that the protein could still affect the brains of these animals up to a week after just one infusion. This may set reelin apart from most antidepressants, which have to be taken daily by patients.

But the researchers caution that more long-term research on rats is needed to better determine how long reelin is effective and its potential side effects. And development of a drug for humans is still a long way off.

The team is now conducting further testing on rats to investigate less invasive but equally effective ways to treat with reelin.

The project is part of the U of S Neuroscience Cluster which brings together neuroscientists to enhance research collaboration in the new state-of-the-art health sciences building.

“I became interested in this research because my family has a history of mental illness,” said Brymer. “I want to find new ways of alleviating the distress caused by mental disorders that I have witnessed firsthand.” 

One in five Canadians will experience depression in their lifetime, the Canadian Mental Health Association says.

“Novel antidepressants are a hot topic in research right now,” said Brymer. “One of the reasons why we are dedicating lots of time to our project is to get rid of the stigma around mental illness.”


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit.  

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

study-examines-link-between-antidepressant-use-and-alzheimers-diseasetrue1547743704451pey849Study examines antidepressant use and Alzheimer’s linkA U of S researcher is looking at the relationship between antidepressant use and instances of Alzheimer's disease.University CommunicationsCollege of Medicine, Darrell Mousseau1483627080000/articles/research/2017/study-examines-link-between-antidepressant-use-and-alzheimers-diseasenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/study-examines-link-between-antidepressant-use-and-alzheimers-diseaseimj1291547623826911imj1291547623826911show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/darrell-mousseau.jpgsite://news/images/2017/darrell-mousseau.jpgnewsdarrell-mousseau.jpgdarrell-mousseau.jpgDarrell Mousseau is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine.NoNoneNo/
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Antidepressants rank among the most prescribed drugs in the world. However, they may be contributing to Alzheimer’s and other brain-destroying dementias, according to U of S-led research.

Recent research published in the journal Depression and Anxiety examines selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and their tendency to be prescribed for other uses, said senior author Darrell Mousseau from the College of Medicine.

“They’re being prescribed ‘off label,’ meaning for non-depression related situations. They’re being prescribed to very young children and to the very old,” he told the National Post

However, SSRIs are associated with a twofold increase in the odds of developing some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. The association is higher for those 65 and older.

“They’re almost becoming the antibiotic of this century: ‘If you’ve got a disease, take an SSRI. It’s going to help you in one way, shape or form.’”

Read more at the National Post.

highly-educated-pupstrue1547743704451pey849Highly educated pupsOne of the cutest research projects on campus was recently featured in Maclean's magazine.University CommunicationsWestern College of Veterinary Medicine, dogs1513785600000/articles/research/2017/highly-educated-pupsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/highly-educated-pupsimj1291547623878302imj1291547623878302show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/beagles-nom.jpgsite://news/images/2017/beagles-nom.jpgnewsbeagles-nom.jpgbeagles-nom.jpgYesNoneNo/
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The magazine profiled research beagles at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) and the important role they play in pet nutrition. 

WCVM professor Lynn Weber has been conducting research with the dogs since 2009. Initially, her team—which included graduate student Jennifer Adolphe, now an animal nutritionist working in Ontario—examined whether dried field peas were a healthier option in dog food than rice. 

"I got to learn how to formulate pet food and the role that nutrition plays in dogs," Adolphe told Maclean's

Weber's research group is currently working with a second team of beagles to further explore the health benefits of a grain-free diet by replacing traditional starches with pulse crops (such as lentils or fava beans). The third group of pups is expected to arrive next year.

Read more at Maclean's. 

u-of-s-researchers-awarded-10.7m-by-nserctrue1547743704451pey849U of S researchers awarded $10.7M by NSERCU of S faculty, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows were awarded $10.7 million by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for fundamental research projects.University CommunicationsNatural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Physics and Engineering Physics, College of Engineering1505320020000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-awarded-10.7m-by-nsercnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-awarded-10.7m-by-nsercimj1291547624046149imj1291547624046149show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/carey-simonson.jpgsite://news/images/2017/carey-simonson.jpgnewscarey-simonson.jpgcarey-simonson.jpgCarey SimonsonNoNoneNo/
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The announcement was made today at the U of S by Kate Young, parliamentary secretary to Science Minister Kirsty Duncan.

“This major investment advances research in fundamental, high-quality science that is vital to building Canada’s economic future and training the next generation of leaders,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research.

Mechanical engineer Carey Simonson has been awarded a total of $423,465 for NSERC Discovery and research tools and instruments grants to study how to improve energy efficiency of heat exchangers used in systems that heat, ventilate and air condition buildings.

He notes the heating and cooling of buildings accounts for 30 per cent to 50 per cent of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries. A 2014 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests the global demand for cooling is expected to increase 30-fold in this century due to climate change and increasing demand from developing countries. 

“This investment will help train many graduate students, and could lead to ground-breaking advancements in the field of heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology,” says Simonson. “Our research may lead to new technologies that address economic and environmental needs by reducing energy consumption, costs and environmental impacts of heating and cooling buildings.”

NSERC awards cover research as diverse as exploring the effectiveness of using beavers to restore aquatic ecosystems to using agricultural byproducts and forestry residues as feedstock to produce bioenergy. Some other examples of innovative U of S research projects:

  • $300,000 to veterinary microbiologist Janet Hill for research on the trillions of micro-organisms that inhabit every surface of humans and animals, and play a critical role in the health of their hosts. 

“Our research team is applying conventional and molecular microbiology techniques to detecting and monitoring these microbial communities,” Hill says. “Our discoveries will contribute to a general understanding of how and why microbiomes change and how we might learn to manipulate those processes to improve human, animal and environmental health, and to advance biotechnology.” 

  • $225,000 to chemist Tim Kelly for research on new material, processes and cell designs for emerging solar technology.

“We are currently studying a new type of solar technology, called the perovskite solar cell,” says Kelly. “These devices are efficient and easy to manufacture, but don’t last long. We are looking to identify how these solar cells degrade, and then develop ways of making them more stable.

“If we are successful, the technology would be a viable alternative to conventional crystalline silicon technology that’s now in common use.”

  • $105,000 to physicist Chary Rangacharyulu for research on developing isotopes that enable new ways of doing medical imaging with positron-emission tomography (PET) and single-photo emission computed tomography (SPECT).

“We are working to develop a single isotope that emits positrons and gamma rays, allowing us to combine the two imaging technologies,” said Rangacharyulu. “The goal is to provide radiologists multiple high-quality images obtained in a single setting, and minimize false positives.” 

The experiments on isotopes will be performed at the U of S cyclotron, Osaka University in Japan, and the TRIUMF laboratory at the University of British Columbia.  

Among the 27 students awarded scholarships and fellowships is U of S toxicology PhD student Vanessa Cowan who is working to determine the safe threshold in livestock feed of a plant fungus that infects most grasses and cereal grains in Canada.

The fungus produces a toxic compound called ergot alkaloids, which can reduce sperm and milk production in cattle, and lead to the loss of hooves and the tips of tails and ears. Cowan estimates the economic impact in Canada of such toxic compounds to be in the millions of dollars.   

“My research aims to protect animal health and productivity, influence regulations on livestock feed safety, and educate producers on the issue of ergot poisoning,” she said. 

combining-medicine-and-engineering-to-repair-a-damaged-hearttrue1547743704451pey849Combining medicine and engineering to repair a damaged heartRegenerating heart muscle tissue using a 3D printer—once the stuff of Star Trek science fiction—now appears to be firmly in the realm of the possible.University CommunicationsCanadian Light Source, College of Engineering1505320800000/articles/research/2017/combining-medicine-and-engineering-to-repair-a-damaged-heartnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/combining-medicine-and-engineering-to-repair-a-damaged-heartimj1291547624048386imj1291547624048386show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2016/mohammad-izadifar.jpgsite://news/images/2016/mohammad-izadifar.jpgnewsmohammad-izadifar.jpgMohammad IzadifarNoNoneNo/
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The combination of the Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron’s unique biomedical imaging and therapy (BMIT) beamline and the vision of a multi-discipline researcher from the University of Saskatchewan in confirming fiction as fact was published in the September issue of Tissue Engineering, one of the leading journals in this emerging global research field of tissue regeneration.

U of S researcher Mohammad Izadifar says he is combining medicine and engineering to develop ways to repair a damaged heart.

“The problem is the heart cannot repair itself once it is damaged due to a heart attack.” he explained.

Izadifar has conducted his research out of three places on campus: the College of Engineering, the CLS and the College of Medicine where he has been certified in doing open heart surgery on rats, having trained in all the ethical protocols related to these research animals.

And thanks to the confirmation photo images he has from his collaboration with the CLS, Izadifar has already proven the 3D printed human cells, which he has dubbed the “heart patch,” can start to grow as intended in theory.

Once implanted in the laboratory mice, the heart patch is invisible to regular medical imaging. Izadifar has developed an X-ray imaging technique at the CLS to monitor the 3D-printed heart patch after implanting them in the laboratory mice. The CLS-derived pictures submitted to the journal show a 3D-printed heart patch with human cells arranged in 200 micron-wide strands with the distance between each strand being 400 microns. One micron is one-thousandth of a millimeter.

Izadifar says the key in printing live human tissue is finding the right gel medium to become the “ink” for the printer.

His chosen “ink” or hydrogel is a natural, algae-based gel that is proven to be biocompatible with human body and also non-immunogenic, meaning the human body shouldn’t reject the gel. It is also biodegradable because, at some point, the body should just absorb the gel and get rid of it.

“My goal is to take stem cells from the patient and then, in-vitro, I expand and instruct them to become heart cells,” he explained. 

When the heart starts absorbing the patch, those cells grow and slowly turn the 3D printed patch from soft tissue into dense, heart muscle.  In the mean time, if everything is working as it should, the rat’s heart starts shooting out blood vessels into the heart patch so the new tissue gets a healthy supply of oxygen.

The key, says Izadifar, is getting the cells to align in the 3D printed heart patch, ensure they are tightly joined and that they are capable of conducting electricity, just like natural heart muscle.

“If it is to become heart tissue, the patch needs to be robust and conductive.

“With different 3D printing patterns, we can control the toughness, conductivity and cell alignment of the patch,” he said. “With the medical imaging technique that I developed at the CLS, we would be able to monitor the 3D-printed heart patch during the healing process.”

Read more on the CLS website.

saskatchewan-centre-for-patient-oriented-research-formally-launchedtrue1547743704451pey849Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research formally launchedA partnership established to support patient-oriented research in Saskatchewan health care has been provided major funding and in-kind support for the next five years.University CommunicationsSaskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research, Aboriginal1492545660000/articles/research/2017/saskatchewan-centre-for-patient-oriented-research-formally-launchednewssite://news/articles/research/2017/saskatchewan-centre-for-patient-oriented-research-formally-launchedimj1291547625568291imj1291547625568291show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/scpor.jpgsite://news/images/2017/scpor.jpgnewsscpor.jpgscpor.jpgPresident Peter Stoicheff at the launch of SCPOR.NoNoneNo/
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The announcement was made April 18 by Canada’s Minister of Health Jane Philpott at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

The Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) will receive a total of $62.7 million, half of which will come from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the other half through financial and in-kind support from the province and eight Saskatchewan health care partners.

Philpott described SCPOR as an initiative that is “promoting innovation, fostering collaboration and helping ensure we address the health care needs of people from Saskatchewan.”

While the research partnership that is now SCPOR began its work about two years ago, Tuesday’s announcement was considered its official launch, according to SCPOR support unit specialist Barb Colvin. The organization has already facilitated research into nutrition at long-term care residences as well as dementia in rural Saskatchewan.

What sets patient-oriented research apart is that patients are always on the research planning team, including helping to select the questions to ensure research is more in tune with patient needs, Colvin explained.

“Having the patient at the centre of care or research is a fairly new initiative that has been much talked about,” said SCPOR executive director Helen Kenyon, appointed to the position this past March. “SCPOR makes this happen so that patients, researchers, clinicians and policy makers come together to design solutions that will positively change care and the health care system for all Saskatchewan people.”

The current focus of SCPOR is on mental health and addictions and improving indigenous health outcomes, a research focus which fits with the Saskatchewan government’s health care priorities and will advance efforts “to put our patients first,” according to Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter.

SCPOR has developed Indigenous research and engagement platform to ensure members of Indigenous communities are included to help identify research needs and priorities in their communities and also ensure the research is culturally sensitive.

“This in particular will make a difference in Indigenous communities by ensuring that they are part of the research planning from the start,” said Peter Stoicheff, U of S president.

Administrative offices for SCPOR are located on the campus of the U of S, one of eight funding partners in Saskatchewan. Other organizations supporting SCPOR research are the University of Regina, the Saskatoon and Regina-Qu’Appelle health regions, Saskatchewan Polytechnic through its nursing program, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the Saskatchewan Health Quality Council and eHealth Saskatchewan.                    

u-of-s-flagship-research-centres-awarded-69m-to-advance-innovationtrue1547743704451pey849Flagship research centres awarded $69M to advance innovationThree unique-in-Canada research centres at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) have been awarded almost $69 million in federal funding.University CommunicationsCanadian Light Source, Vaccine Infectious Disease Organization, SuperDarn1483973880000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-flagship-research-centres-awarded-69m-to-advance-innovationnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-flagship-research-centres-awarded-69m-to-advance-innovationimj1291547625576712imj1291547625576712show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/cls-winter.jpgsite://news/images/2017/cls-winter.jpgnewscls-winter.jpgcls-winter.jpgYesNoneNo/
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This funding will enable them to stay at the forefront of international science in protecting human and animal health, developing new medical imaging techniques and providing critical radar mapping of electromagnetic “space weather” just above Earth’s atmosphere.

Canada’s Science Minister Kirsty Duncan today announced $328 million will be invested through the Major Science Initiatives (MSI) fund of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to support operations at 17 national science centres over the next three to five years, including three at U of S:

  • $48 million for the Canadian Light Source (CLS), which is using its brilliant synchrotron light to support ground-breaking research in health, the environment, materials and agriculture including unique work done in biomedical imaging and therapy that holds promise in areas such as advancing cancer therapy and treating osteoporosis;
  • $19.3 million for the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac), part of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), which is one of the largest, most advanced containment Level 3 facilities in the world and provides the infrastructure to safely study infectious diseases of animals and humans and develop vaccines to protect against these emerging health threats; and
  • $1.56 million for SuperDARN Canada, a U of S-led initiative operating five radar arrays across Canada that provide continuous mapping of “space weather” above Canada, data critical to being able to predict when electromagnetic storms above Earth could threaten technologies such as GPS, electrical grids and navigation systems. 
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"This major investment, which amounts to one-fifth of all the funding CFI announced today, affirms the value to Canada of the world-class science being done within these unique centres,” said U of S President Peter Stoicheff. “These centres support the work of hundreds of scientists and graduate students working within our signature research areas, bolstering the success of the U of S as one of Canada’s top research universities.”

The MSI program funds national facilities that enable Canadian researchers to undertake world-class research and technology development that leads to social, health, economic or environmental benefits to Canadians. This CFI funding is intended to cover 40 per cent of operating costs, with each research centre responsible for finding additional public and private funds. For more information, visit

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Gilles Patry, CFI president and CEO:
“Canada’s large-scale, world-leading research facilities, such as the Canadian Light Source, not only bring together some of our country’s best researchers but they also serve as hubs for international scientific collaborations. As science becomes more complex, major science initiatives are crucial to make sure bright minds from Canada and abroad are able to explore the frontier of science and find answers to some of the most pressing issues of our time.” 

U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad:
“These outstanding centres, whose operations were reviewed by independent panels of international peers, are attracting researchers from around the world to help solve pressing global challenges in human and animal health, global food and water security and effects of space weather on modern technologies.” 

Robert Lamb, director of the Canadian Light Source:
“This award affirms the role the CLS plays in Canadian science and our ability to adapt to scientific trends for the benefit of thousands of Canadian and international scientists who use the facility. Building on this are innovations that directly respond to Canada’s needs such as the launch of our first spinoff company, Canadian Isotope Innovations Corporation, which is developing a novel approach for producing medical diagnostics using the power of light.”

VIDO-InterVac Director Andrew Potter:
“CFI was a major contributor to the expansion of our containment Level 2 and 3 research facilities. This investment supports high priority human and animal infectious disease research targeting tuberculosis, pandemic influenza and other emerging pathogens, and will ensure solutions are developed that protect the health and livelihood of Canadians. ”

U of S space physicist Kathryn McWilliams, director of the SuperDARN Canada project:
“Electromagnetic storms give us the beautiful displays of the aurora borealis, but they can also damage key infrastructure on earth like pipeline, power grids and satellites in space. As an essential part of a global research partnership in 10 countries, the team at the U of S helps to continuously monitor how solar wind interacts with our planet. Interpreting this data is the first step to being able to predict and then mitigate the effects of extreme electromagnetic activity in the near space region.” 

u-of-s-receives-funding-for-poultry-barn-lightingtrue1547743704451pey849U of S receives funding for poultry barn lightingA Canadian restaurant chain has announced it will support the University of Saskatchewan to expand an important research project examining lighting enhancements and related health and welfare outcomes for broiler chickens.University CommunicationsCollege of Agriculture and Bioresources, donor1496865780000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-receives-funding-for-poultry-barn-lightingnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-receives-funding-for-poultry-barn-lightingimj1291547625582516imj1291547625582516show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/baby-chickens.jpgsite://news/images/2017/baby-chickens.jpgnewsbaby-chickens.jpgYesNoneNo/
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A&W is providing $45,000 in funding to the University of Saskatchewan researcher Karen Schwean-Lardner to expand the data collection on the impacts of energy efficient LED lighting on broiler chicken welfare and production this fall. They will examine the differences LED lights make on poultry behavior, welfare and health outcomes. Incandescent lighting has been phased out and much less is known about the welfare and behavioral impacts of LED lighting. 

The project’s broader research focus is to determine lighting effects on the mobility, behavior and physiological welfare of poultry by measuring the impact of the various wavelengths of barn lighting.

“Through our research, we are always looking for ways to improve food quality and production while maintaining high animal care and welfare standards. Partnerships in research like this allow us to find the sustainable caring solutions we need to feed a growing world,” said Mary Buhr, dean of the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

Schwean-Lardner is a global leader in poultry barn lighting. Her work is internationally cited and has helped to establish international standards of practice for lighting. She served as the Chair of the Scientific Committee for the Canadian Poultry Code of Practice, as well as being a member of the Poultry Code Development Committee through the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). NFACC’s Code of Practice development process ensures credibility through scientific rigor, stakeholder collaboration and a consistent approach.  

“At A&W we are constantly impressed with the leadership work Karen Schwean-Lardner and the University of Saskatchewan are doing in poultry welfare. We are proud to make a financial contribution to this research to allow the research team to further their understanding of LED barn lighting,” said Trish Sahlstrom, senior vice-president and chief commercial officer, A&W Canada.

Schwean-Lardner added: “The University of Saskatchewan is committed to research that will continue to reinforce Canada’s leadership in poultry welfare. Partners like A&W share a commitment to new research that can contribute to the development of new best practices.”

The College of Agriculture and Bioresources is one of Canada’s leading agricultural institutions.

sph-a-clean-futuretrue1547743704451pey849A clean futureDiane Adams hopes participating in a national fellowship to create clean energy strategies for Canada will help put an end to ‘energy poverty’ in Indigenous, rural and remote communities.Cat BonnerSchool of Public Health, Aboriginal, gradresearch1501103580000/articles/research/2017/sph-a-clean-futurenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/sph-a-clean-futureimj1291547625587415imj1291547625587415show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/sph-clean-energy.jpgsite://news/images/2017/sph-clean-energy.jpgnewssph-clean-energy.jpgsph-clean-energy.jpgThe group visited the oil sands facility at Christina Lake, Alta. (photo by Todd Korol/Public Policy Forum).NoNoneYesNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/news/YEF_Notley.jpgsite://sph/images/news/YEF_Notley.jpgsphYEF_Notley.jpgAdams (second from right) and her Your Energy Future colleagues with the Hon. Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta (centre), at the Public Policy Forum Western Dinner 2017 in Calgary (photo courtesy of Public Policy Forum).NoNoneNo/
TextImage/images/news/Participants_Adams.jpgsite://sph/images/news/Participants_Adams.jpgsphParticipants_Adams.jpgAdams hopes her participation in Your Energy Future will make a difference to lives in Indigenous, rural and remote communities (photo courtesy of Public Policy Forum).Align left

A Métis student in the University of Saskatchewan School of Public Health, Adams is one of 16 young leaders from across Canada appointed to the Your Energy Future program.

Participants in the year-long program, delivered in partnership by the Public Policy Forum and leadership development fellowship Action Canada, will become change-makers in Canada’s energy agenda.  They develop strategies to prepare Canadian people, communities and governments to successfully transition to a low-carbon, clean energy future.

Their recommendations will be presented to federal, provincial and territorial government policy-makers, leaders in the energy sector, and the Canadian public.

Travelling across Canada, learning about diverse energy sectors and visiting the communities most impacted by energy change, the group will meet with policy experts and community members, particularly young people, to gain their insights on energy, resources, and the implications of change.

 “Our goal is to make sure the transition to cleaner energy is done in a way that not only reduces Canada’s carbon emissions, but supports quality community development across the country,” explained Adams.  

A rare member of her generation to have experienced home life without electrical power, Adams has a deep respect for natural energy sources.

Growing up in a remote community outside Thunder Bay, Ont., that was what her family relied on.

“I still remember when our main energy source was chopping down trees and putting them in a fireplace,” she said. “Our life changed dramatically when we were hooked up to the electrical grid.”

TextImage/images/news/35342665031_8da4e691cc_k.jpgsite://sph/images/news/35342665031_8da4e691cc_k.jpgsph35342665031_8da4e691cc_k.jpgThe group visited the oil sands facility at Christina Lake, Alta. (photo by Todd Korol/Public Policy Forum).Above content

While working in a remote northern Ontario town, witnessing the devastating effects of poor health and environment on local Indigenous peoples fuelled Adams’ commitment to improve community wellbeing, and pursue studies in public health.

She is now completing Master of Public Health thesis studies in Indigenous water security. Water and natural energy sources are highly sacred in Indigenous communities, and Adams understands how deeply energy-related issues affect Indigenous peoples.

Her ultimate goal from participating in Your Energy Future is to ensure Indigenous communities benefit from Canada’s transition to clean energy in a way they did not during the oil boom.

“Communities often did not see new jobs or wealth from the developments in oil,” Adams explained. “Many continue to lack reliable electrical power infrastructure, and use diesel fuel, which is expensive to transport, for everyday needs such as generating electricity or heating their homes.”

These deficits impact community livelihoods as they deplete their resources to transport the fuel they need, leaving nothing to spend on more long-term, dependable energy solutions.

TextImage/images/news/Adams YEF.jpgsite://sph/images/news/Adams YEF.jpgsphAdams YEF.jpgThe group will spend the next year travelling around Canada learning about Canada's diverse energy sectors. Photo courtesy of Public Policy Forum.Align right

Adams is keen for solutions. She sees the potential for new clean energy policy to create improved quality of life in Indigenous communities.  She says this must include recognizing the significant detrimental effects of hydroelectricity, a popular “clean” energy source.  Hydro dams can decimate natural resources surrounding the communities, and by extension the lives of the inhabitants.

Participating in Your Energy Future is a chance for Adams to share her experiences with influential people, including her fellow participants.

“It is very important for me to be able to bring forward the perspectives gained from working directly within Indigenous communities, and to make sure their views are represented,” she said.

Overall, Canada has a clear, but challenging mandate ahead: significantly cut carbon emissions and transition to clean, renewable energy sources to mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change.

Your Energy Future is looking to 2050, but Adams says it is hard to imagine how Canada will achieve the reduction in oil consumption experts say is needed over the next 30 years- in rural communities and cities.

 “There are no easy answers, but there are many ways we could reduce the amount of oil we use in our urban communities - for example, driving electric cars,” she said. “We must look toward this inevitable future.” 

/articles/2017/a-clean-futureshow-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNosite://sph/articles/2017/a-clean-futurespha-clean-futureArticle headlineA clean futureDiane Adams hopes participating in a national fellowship to create clean energy strategies for Canada will help put an end to ‘energy poverty’ in Indigenous, rural and remote communities.2017Cat Bonner28-Jul-2017 9:13 AM
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u-of-s-led-global-water-futures-announces-16.2m-funding-for-11-projects-across-canadatrue1547743704451pey849U of S-led Global Water Futures announces $16.2M funding for 11 projects across CanadaThe University of Saskatchewan-led Global Water Futures (GWF) program has funded 11 initial research projects across Canada totaling nearly $16.2 million over the next three years to tackle some of Canada’s most pressing water-related challenges.University CommunicationsGlobal Water Futures, Global Institute for Water Security, Howard Wheater1496937960000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-led-global-water-futures-announces-16.2m-funding-for-11-projects-across-canadanewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-led-global-water-futures-announces-16.2m-funding-for-11-projects-across-canadaimj1291547625610273imj1291547625610273show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/global-water-futures-team.jpgsite://news/images/2017/global-water-futures-team.jpgnewsglobal-water-futures-team.jpgglobal-water-futures-team.jpgStaff and faculty from the Global Institute for Water Security, including Howard Wheater (second from left).NoNoneNo/
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These include protecting prairie agricultural lands from drought and floods, mitigating algae blooms in lakes, developing new monitoring systems for Canadian watersheds using drones and satellites, using environmental DNA to assess ecosystem health and understanding the impact that changes to mountain snow packs and glaciers will have on drinking water.

“All 11 of these ambitious projects involve researchers from more than one institution working together in new ways to tackle some of the most difficult problems we face today,” said GWF Director Howard Wheater, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security and director of the U of S Global Institute for Water Security.

Four projects are led by the University of Saskatchewan, three by the University of Waterloo, two by McMaster University, one by Wilfrid Laurier University and one is jointly led by the University of Manitoba and University of Victoria.

In total, 106 researchers from 15 Canadian universities are involved in the 11 projects. They are collaborating with 125 partners including international institutions, government agencies, industry partners, non-governmental organizations and Indigenous communities. More than 250 highly qualified personnel will be hired for the projects over the next three years.

TextPullquoteThis critically important research will contribute significantly to risk management solutions, provide disaster warnings, and diagnose and predict with greater accuracy what can happen to freshwater in Canada.Howard Wheater/Align left

Wheater noted that the projects span a wide range of critically important topics related to water issues in cold regions of the world during a time of climate change. He said the research findings will impact all Canadians. 

“This critically important research will contribute significantly to risk management solutions, provide disaster warnings, and diagnose and predict with greater accuracy what can happen to freshwater in Canada,” he said. 

Canada is experiencing climate change at significant rates and this is affecting everything from melting permafrost, glaciers and snow packs, to increased algae blooms, increased floods and droughts in certain regions, as well as the potential for further disasters such as the recent floods in Ontario and Quebec, the Alberta floods of 2013, and the Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016.

These projects were all selected through an international peer-reviewed process. The $16.2-million investment in the projects has leveraged another $26.4 million in cash from universities and partners, as well as $114.8 million in in-kind contributions from partners. 

More information about the projects and GWF is available on the website.


TextAbout Global Water FuturesImage/images/2017/global-water-futures-logo.pngsite://news/images/2017/global-water-futures-logo.pngnewsglobal-water-futures-logo.pngglobal-water-futures-logo.pngAlign left

Global Water Futures is the largest university-led water research program ever funded worldwide. The seven-year University of Saskatchewan-led research program, established within the U of S Global Institute for Water Security in 2016, is funded in part by a $77.8-million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

The $143-million program aims to transform the way communities, governments and industries in Canada and other cold regions of the world prepare for and manage these increasing water-related threats. GWF involves three key partners: the University of Waterloo, McMaster University and Wilfrid Laurier University. This program encompasses a total of 380 researchers, 15 Canadian institutions and 138 user groups and stakeholders. 

mushroom-cap-and-shield-professor-uses-fungi-to-protect-against-radiationtrue1547743704451pey849Mushroom cap and shield: Using fungi to protect against radiationPharmacy and nutrition researcher Ekaterina (Kate) Dadachova wants military services to put mushrooms on their menu.HenryTye GlazebrookCollege of Pharmacy and Nutrition, Kate Dadachova1497019380000/articles/research/2017/mushroom-cap-and-shield-professor-uses-fungi-to-protect-against-radiationnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/mushroom-cap-and-shield-professor-uses-fungi-to-protect-against-radiationimj1291547625648698imj1291547625648698show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/katerina-dadachova.jpgsite://news/images/2017/katerina-dadachova.jpgnewskaterina-dadachova.jpgkaterina-dadachova.jpgEkaterina (Kate) DadachovaNoNoneNo/
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Fungi such as mushrooms contain a high quantity of melanin, a dark brown or black pigment which provides colour and helps protect them from harsh environments such as those found in areas of radiation exposure.

If Dadachova’s current research moves forward into practical application, that melanin could mean a new avenue of radiation protection for soldiers.

“The published work from ours and other groups has shown that when mice were fed black mushrooms, which are widely used in Chinese and other cuisines, they were protected from really high doses of external radiation,” Dadachova said. “It’s not like you can eat a mushroom and be protected forever, but if you experience a radiation influx while the mushroom’s melanin is in your digestive tract, it protects it from really high doses of radiation.”

Dadachova, a pharmacy and nutrition professor who is also the Chair in Radiopharmacy at the Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation, currently has two research projects on fungi-produced melanin. The studies are being funded by two grants—a combined total of $700,000 USD per year for three years—through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), which is a part of the United States Department of Defense.

TextPullquoteIt’s not like you can eat a mushroom and be protected forever, but if you experience a radiation influx while the mushroom’s melanin is in your digestive tract, it protects it from really high doses of radiation.Ekaterina (Kate) Dadachova/Align right

It’s hoped that the first project will harness the melanin from fungi to produce protection from radioactive materials.

“It’s not unlikely that military personnel could find themselves in some kind of situation where there are elevated levels of radiation, maybe after a radiological accident or, God forbid, after a nuclear event,” she said. “The DTRA has an interest in developing fundamental research which can, in the future, benefit more applied research to be used for personnel.”

Though the project is aimed at military application, Dadachova said it has just as much potential for use in nuclear energy and medicine. “If a person develops cancer and they go for radiation therapy, they sometimes lose the ability to eat, to swallow, because of the side effects of radiation,” said Dadachova, adding that melanin could help protect the fragile organs of the digestive system.

“They cannot eat,” Dadachova said. “Some of them die of starvation because they cannot take those feeding tubes, and such cases occur often.”

Dadachova’s second research project is similar in subject matter, but takes the same fungi and looks at them not as possible protectors from radiation but as signifiers of the material’s spread.

Some species of mushroom have developed the unique ability to not only survive in a radioactive environment, but actually thrive in such severe conditions. These growths, known as radiotrophic fungi, are believed to use melanin as a tool to convert gamma radiation into energy for growth. And Dadachova believes this fungal life could be used as cost-effective, sensitive biological detectors of nuclear fallout.

“If there is some kind of illicit nuclear activity going on somewhere and you want to see if someone had performed, say, an underground nuclear test without notification, we want to see if we can train our fungi to recognize certain types of radioactive nuclides—they grow towards it and we can see because they are melanized.”

While her work is fairly grounded for the time being, Dadachova sees possible new and boundless frontiers awaiting its application if one merely tilts their view toward the stars.

“The radiation doses in space are enormous,” she said. “It’s good that the astronauts in the U.S. and cosmonauts in Russia are exploring space, but these people are not like anybody else; they’re selected to be really healthy partly because the doses of radiation they take are huge. Nobody, not even those as fit, as trained, as healthy as those astronauts, would be able to take those radiation doses for that length of time.

“If you’re thinking about prolonged space flight, like a mission to Mars, you need to protect those folks.”

students-app-maps-crop-healthtrue1547743704451pey849App maps crop healthA few months ago, Rahat Yasir visited a farmer from Tisdale. He listened as the man spoke of walking through the crops, painstakingly inspecting for signs of crop disease, pest infestation and areas in need of herbicide or fertilizer.HenryTye GlazebrookDepartment of Computer Science, gradresearch, students1497022680000/articles/research/2017/students-app-maps-crop-healthnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/students-app-maps-crop-healthimj1291547625657158imj1291547625657158show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/rahat-yasir-rashid-chowdhury.jpgsite://news/images/2017/rahat-yasir-rashid-chowdhury.jpgnewsrahat-yasir-rashid-chowdhury.jpgrahat-yasir-rashid-chowdhury.jpgRahat Yasir and Rashid Chowdhury created Project Beetle to help farmers survey crop health.NoNoneNo/
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The process may be a far cry from the work expected of a first-year master’s student in computer science at the University of Saskatchewan, but it is vital for Yasir, a young developer working on a mobile application that will help farmers survey crop health with unheard of efficiency.

“They are still doing the manual process,” Yasir said. “They are walking through the fields and checking each individual leaf to see if there are visual changes, and then they apply medicine all over the land. If they use our system, they won’t need to do that.”

Yasir is building the project, a mobile application dubbed Project Beetle, in partnership with fellow first-year computer science master’s student Rashid Chowdhury. It is designed as an easy-to-use application for mobile phones that will allow farmers direct access to diagnostic

information, identifying potential diseases through visual changes in their crops and predicting when and where larger outbreaks may occur.

One needs only to take a photo of a leaf and wait a few moments as the app scans it and provides a detailed breakdown of possible health issues, including potential diseases and nutritional information, as well as an estimate of how much of the surrounding crop is similarly affected.

In January, the app earned first place in the Emerging Agriculture Hackathon. The contest, an annual event hosted by the U of S Junior Chamber of Commerce, brings together students of technology and agriculture to compete and collabo rate on computer programming and related projects.

“We started almost four years ago,” Yasir said. “This project was originally designed for rice paddy crop diseases, then for this emerging Agriculture Hackathon we have updated the software, added predic tive analysis, and at the same time we have made it universal, so that it can predict any type of crop diseases for any type of crops.”

Project Beetle works through the use of artificial neural networks, which have made it possible for Yasir and Chowdhury to compress the entirety of their informational database on different crop diseases directly within the app itself. The result is an app that functions even without access to internet, though it does become more expansive when running online.

The next steps are to hopefully partner with others working in similar areas, or with government agencies from which the duo will be granted even greater access to data on crop diseases.

“If there is an existing system that’s already supporting problems, we could do a collaboration,” Yasir said. “Our tool is very handy and they could integrate it with their own very easily. And at the same time, our system would get access to their data. It would be a perfect collaboration. Once we get more data, our system will start to show us amazing results.”

Yasir and Chowdhury first met during their undergraduate program at North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and quickly banded together on a passion project that they believe has the potential to save billions of dollars in crop losses annually.

The two students have always been driven by a desire to curb world hunger, but their interest ignited when they started looking into global statistics that estimated nearly one billion people are starving annually, while 15-20 per cent of crops are lost due to preventable issues such as crop disease, lack of herbicides and improper fertilization.

“We came up with the idea that if we could develop something or come up with some solution that can reduce the number of crops lost to crop diseases or insects, then we would be able to make our world hunger-free,” Yasir said.

examining-elderly-bullyingtrue1547743704451pey849Examining elderly bullyingTheir worlds have already become smaller, in some cases limited to the immediate neighbourhoods surrounding the retirement home.Marg SheridanCollege of Medicine1497023100000/articles/research/2017/examining-elderly-bullyingnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/examining-elderly-bullyingimj1291547625659621imj1291547625659621show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/donna-goodridge.jpgsite://news/images/2017/donna-goodridge.jpgnewsdonna-goodridge.jpgdonna-goodridge.jpgDonna Goodridge, a professor in the Department of Respirology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.NoNoneNo/
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Men and women who were once mobile, busy and hard-working often find themselves contained by the physical limitations of their aging bodies, a consequence of growing old.

But for some, an old problem returns again as they wind up facing down an opponent they hadn’t contemplated in years: the bully.

“This is like bullying occurring in your own home,” said Donna Goodridge, a professor in the Department of Respirology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine. “And you may not have any kind of supports because there are (minimal) supports offered in the apartment itself.”

Which means there’s almost nowhere to hide.

The research being done in Saskatoon is revealing that incidences of peer-to-peer bullying in seniors’ communities is prevalent. Bullies are making fun of weight, clothing and appearances, and even mocking the use of physical aides like walking sticks, in the unavoidable common areas in the residences.

In her study, Goodridge and her team found that 39 per cent of respondents admitted to having seen a peer bullied within the past year, with nearly a third confirming that they were personally bullied. And those seniors who had been bullied were self-reporting the same health and mental-health symptoms that their youth counterparts were, with responses ranging from added stress and a sense of embarrassment, to a loss of sleep and sense of worry.

The difference, Goodridge explained, is that there are well-established programs to help try to curb youth bullying and, in a lot of cases, a bullied youth is more physically able to extricate themselves from the situation because they’re more mobile. For bullied seniors, they often have no way of avoiding their tormentors because they either have nowhere to go, or don’t have the mobility to leave.

And with a number of seniors fearful to leave their own homes, they start to become susceptible to perceived loneliness or, more worryingly, social isolation.

“Their home is (a) haven,” Goodridge continued. “When they’re not able to get to their doctors’ appointments because they’re worried that they might be bullied, they become scared to come out of their apartments and become socially isolated. And social isolation causes all kinds of problems, like premature institutionalization, because they can’t support themselves.”

It’s an issue that Goodridge expects will only get worse, as Canada’s senior population continues to grow. That increase in the number of seniors who will move into retirement complexes could lead to more bullying as residents who may never have had to live in an apartment-style community are forced to adapt to new social standards.

“The number of seniors is going to continue to increase hugely in the coming years,” she stressed. “This is something that we need to take a really proactive approach to and create those respectful environments where people do feel safe.”

Outside of designing retirement communities with an understanding that this is an issue, Goodridge recommends we adapt the anti-bullying strategies that are well established for Canadian youth. Visual reminders, like campaign posters and flyers, encourage respectful environments by stressing that bullying is not acceptable and bring the issue front-and-centre. Creating community rules and standards that broadly define what behaviour is considered to be bullying can also have an immediate impact.

Several retirement communities in Manitoba have taken steps to encourage mindfulness and self-care by hosting workshops that help residents deal with issues that they do not always have control over. Goodridge and the Saskatoon Council on Aging are currently working with Youville Centre in Winnipeg to develop a common strategy that combines a focus on creating respectful environments, along with developing a mindful approach to living.

“Engaging seniors, hearing about what other things they want to do, is really critical,” Goodridge said. “Because as outsiders we can come in and say, ‘This is the answer to your problem.’ But we really need to hear it from (them).”


Marg Sheridan is an online communications co-ordinator in the College of Medicine.

student-studies-vitamin-a-boosted-chickpeastrue1547743704451pey849Student studies vitamin A-boosted chickpeasIn developing countries, more than three million children are at high risk for permanent blindness due to severe vitamin A deficiency.Federica GiannelliCollege of Agriculture and Bioresources, Crop Development Centre, gradresearch, international1497026820000/articles/research/2017/student-studies-vitamin-a-boosted-chickpeasnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/student-studies-vitamin-a-boosted-chickpeasimj1291547625667234imj1291547625667234show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/mohammad-rezaei.jpgsite://news/images/2017/mohammad-rezaei.jpgnewsmohammad-rezaei.jpgmohammad-rezaei.jpgStudent Mohammad Rezaei found the secret to boost vitamin A in chickpeas (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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But University of Saskatchewan researchers think that the power of a little seed could make a difference.

“Chickpeas are a well-known source of protein and minerals,” said Bunyamin Tar’an, plant sciences professor and chickpea breeder at the U of S Crop Development Centre. “Now due to our latest research, we can add to the list that chickpeas are also a good natural source of vitamin A.”

His PhD student Mohammad Rezaei, an Iranian student attracted by U of S agricultural research excellence, has been studying how to increase the natural content of vitamin A in chickpeas. This would help Tar’an develop new varieties to combat dietary deficiencies.

“Developing new chickpea varieties will help keep Saskatchewan—and Canada—among the world’s top producers of pulses,” said Tar’an.

In a 2016 published study, Rezaei identified the genes in chickpea DNA that control the plant’s production of vitamin A. He used the chickpea whole genome sequence generated from the collaboration of Tar’an’s lab with many national and international research institutes and universities.

Rezaei said new chickpea varieties could boost Canadian exports to the Middle East and India, where chickpeas are the most common alternative to meat.

And with vegetarian lifestyles increasingly taking over Western countries, “vitamin A-boosted” chickpeas would also greatly benefit the health of Canadians. Research shows vitamin A enhances brain function, improves sight and skin health, and it may naturally slow down aging.

Rezaei has also found that green seed chickpea is the variety with the highest concentration of vitamin A currently available on the market. This concentration is even higher than the first developed variety of Golden Rice, a genetically modified organism (GMO) grown in areas where people struggle with vitamin A deficiency.

Rezaei’s next goal is to find the genetic markers ‒ key regions of the chickpea genome — associated with the vitamin A trait which ‘paints’ veggies yellow, orange and red.

He has been dissecting thousands of chickpea seeds from more than 250 known varieties carrying different concentrations of vitamin A to study how this trait is transmitted to their “children” and isolate the best lines.

Once Rezaei has identified the genetic markers, Tar’an would use them for a marker-assisted selection to speed up the process of developing new varieties. This technique would enable him to cross, pre-select and release only the most promising chickpea lines that carry the genetic markers associated with higher vitamin A production.

Funded by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Tar’an and Rezaei’s study is one of the many cutting-edge plant breeding projects led by the U of S Crop Development Centre (CDC) to improve and develop new crops.

“Since the 70s, the CDC has been under the international spotlight for releasing hundreds of new varieties of pulses including lentil, pea, chickpea, dry bean and faba bean, and for hosting some of the most successful pea and lentil breeding programs worldwide,” Tar’an said.


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

saskatchewan-researchers-working-towards-new-breast-cancer-treatmenttrue1547743704451pey849New research could lead to breast cancer treatmentNew cancer research being done at the College of Medicine is both a possible game-changer in terms of treating breast cancer, and the first cancer-related investigation being developed from bench-to-trial in the province.Marg SheridanCollege of Medicine, Saskatchewan Cancer Agency1484148660000/articles/research/2017/saskatchewan-researchers-working-towards-new-breast-cancer-treatmentnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/saskatchewan-researchers-working-towards-new-breast-cancer-treatmentimj1291547625673112imj1291547625673112show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/andrew-freywald-franco-vizeacoumar.jpgsite://news/images/2017/andrew-freywald-franco-vizeacoumar.jpgnewsandrew-freywald-franco-vizeacoumar.jpgandrew-freywald-franco-vizeacoumar.jpgAndrew Freywald (left) and Franco Vizeacoumar.NoNoneNo/
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“Several years ago we discovered that a molecule expressed on the surface of cancer cells suppresses the aggressive behavior of breast cancer,” said Andrew Freywald, a pathologist in the College of Medicine and one of the lead researchers on the project. “Breast cancer cells obviously don’t like to have this molecule, because it doesn’t benefit them, so they try to get rid of it. And, according to our analysis, in the majority of breast cancer tumours, the expression of this molecule is (either) missing or down-regulated compared to normal tissues.”

The original research was then published in Cancer Researcha high-impact research journalbefore Freywald teamed up with Franco Vizeacoumar from the Division of Oncology and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, who is an expert in cancer genomics and systems biology at the College of Medicine.

“We initiated a collaborative project with Professor Vizeacoumar, and his lab performed a genome-wide screen in breast cancer cells and found some molecules that, when inhibited, specifically kill cells that abnormally down-regulate, or lose expression, of this molecule,” continued Freywald. “Because it’s down-regulated in the majority of breast cancer tumours, we can use the inhibition of these molecules to selectively kill breast cancer cells that have down-regulated this molecule, (which) would give us a therapeutic advantageso we’d have new targets for treating breast cancer.”

“The key is that there are a number of genes like EPHB6 (Ephrin type-B receptor 6), that are differentially regulated in cancer and one of the biggest challenges is to find the way to use that differential regulation to our advantage,” said Vizeacoumar. “So our technology allows us to actually go in and turn off every single gene in the genome, and then ask a question: Which gene should I turn off so that it kills only cancer cells with certain features, without damaging the normal cells?”

Vizeacoumar and Freywald’s team then did an extensive validation of the new target molecules, SRC, which confirmed that inhibiting SRC was selectively killing cells and suppressing breast cancer tumors that had lost EPHB6, while not affecting normal cells or tissues in experimental animals, meaning that it was specifically eliminating breast cancer cells.

“And in this pre-clinical model we found that small molecules, inhibitors of SRC, can be very efficiently used to suppress breast cancer tumours of a very aggressive sub-type called triple negative breast cancer, which currently has no targeted therapy,” Freywald stressed.

And to add to the exciting nature of the promising SRC discovery was the fact that there are already FDA-approved SRC inhibitors, meaning that the research has created a direct path to move from experimental work towards clinical testing.

It’s not an easy, or cheap, process however. The genome-wide screening and validation is an expensive process and so are the studies in pre-clinical models called ‘patient-derived xenografts,’ which, but one upon which the entire cancer research program relies on. As cancer research requires a lot of funding, a lot of clinical trials that are undertaken in Saskatchewan, are usually initiated by researchers from other Canadian or international institutions.

“It’s my understanding that this is the first time that Saskatchewan Cancer Agency will be running a clinical trial initiated from discoveries made in Saskatchewan, to move into a clinical investigation,” explained Vizeacoumar. “So this will be the first bench-to-bedside translation, to happen in Saskatchewan.”

And alongside the recent publication and the patent, the team has filed for their new method of breast cancer treatment, the work has been progressing steadily. The next steps for the team is to come up with a strategy to test the levels of EPHB6 in patients’ tumours to determine, who has lost this molecule, and would therefore benefit from the trial, before they’re able to determine the required sample size.

governments-invest-in-agriculture-researchtrue1547743704451pey849Governments invest in agriculture researchThe Crop Development Centre (CDC) in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources is one of many groups receiving a boost from recent joint federal and provincial funding.University CommunicationsCollege of Agriculture and Bioresources, Crop Development Centre1484161140000/articles/research/2017/governments-invest-in-agriculture-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/governments-invest-in-agriculture-researchimj1291547625678363imj1291547625678363show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/wheat.jpgsite://news/images/2017/wheat.jpgnewswheat.jpgwheat.jpgYesNoneNo/
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The funding, totalling $7.7 million across 46 projects, was announced by Lyle Stewart, provincial agriculture minister, at the CropSphere show in Saskatoon on Tuesday.

The U of S will receive $3.7 million to boost pulse, oilseed and cereal crop research projects at the CDC.

“We won’t know the results of these projects tomorrow but make no mistake, the work will have an impact,” Stewart told The Western Producer.

“We welcome governments’ continued commitment to agricultural innovation,” said Kofi Agblor, managing director of CDC, said in a government news release. “The CDC has released more than 450 new varieties of crops since its inception, varieties that today account for significant acreage across the prairies, illustrating just how significant an economic contribution research makes to the agricultural economy. We look forward to continuing this important work.”

The money is part of Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial program focusing on innovation, competitiveness and market development to ensure Canadian producers and processors have the tools and resources they need to continue to innovate and capitalize on emerging market opportunities.

See more at The Western Producer.

kinesiology-researcher-comments-on-ibuprofen-riskstrue1547743704451pey849Kinesiology researcher comments on ibuprofen risksSaija Kontulainen, a professor in the College of Kinesiology, was recently cited in a Time magazine article on the risks of using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen to treat injuries.University CommunicationsCollege of Kinesiology1492794420000/articles/research/2017/kinesiology-researcher-comments-on-ibuprofen-risksnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/kinesiology-researcher-comments-on-ibuprofen-risksimj1291547625707219imj1291547625707219show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/saija-kontulainen.jpgsite://news/images/2017/saija-kontulainen.jpgnewssaija-kontulainen.jpgsaija-kontulainen.jpgSaija Kontulainen specializes in biomechanics and musculoskeletal health.NoNoneNo/
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The drugs are available without a prescription and are considered safe and effective, especially when treating minor to moderate headaches, muscles aches and joint pain. However, if they're used more frequently over a long period of time, they may pose a risk to other internal functions.

Ibuprofen, in particular, reduces inflammation, but it can also affect a group of chemicals called prostaglandins, which assist in bone formation. Weight training is known to boost prostaglandin production, but taking an NSAID after training can cancel out that benefit. 

“NSAIDs shut down the favorable mechanism of prostaglandin synthesis that’s needed for bone formation," she explained. "You lose that benefit to the bone, so the bone is pretty much the same as if you did no weight training."

Read more at Time.

harnessing-the-healing-power-of-medical-marijuanatrue1547743704451pey849Harnessing the healing power of medical marijuanaThe U of S is pleased to announce the appointment of Robert Laprairie to the position of tenure track assistant professor with a five-year term as GSK-CIHR Research Chair in Drug Discovery and Development. University CommunicationsCollege of Pharmacy and Nutrition1510074180000/articles/research/2017/harnessing-the-healing-power-of-medical-marijuananewssite://news/articles/research/2017/harnessing-the-healing-power-of-medical-marijuanaimj1291547625740098imj1291547625740098show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/robert-laprairie.jpgsite://news/images/2017/robert-laprairie.jpgnewsrobert-laprairie.jpgrobert-laprairie.jpgLaprairieNoNoneNo/
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He will also be teaching within the new Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program.

Laprairie’s research focuses on cannabinoids and how they work by interacting with specific cannabinoid receptors (e.g. CB1R) which exist throughout the brain and body. Cannabinoids are chemical substances found naturally in marijuana (e.g. THC and cannabidiol) but also in the human body’s endocannabinoid system where they play an essential role in regulating functions such as appetite, sleep, movement and emotions.

TextPullquoteThis research is critically important to the health of Canadians because medical marijuana use is increasingly common. We want to gain more insight into the use of marijuana as a medicine for a wide range of diseases.Robert Laprairie/Align left

By studying the wide range of cannabinoids found in marijuana, Laprairie’s lab aims to develop new synthetic cannabinoid compounds which may be useful for the treatment of addiction, pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. His research utilizes molecular biology, cell culture and animal models to study the pharmacology of cannabinoids.

“This research is critically important to the health of Canadians because medical marijuana use is increasingly common. We want to gain more insight into the use of marijuana as a medicine for a wide range of diseases,” said Laprairie.

The Research Chair was made possible through the support of GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Pathfinders Fund for Leaders in Canadian Health Science Research, in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The fund aims to help establish Canada as a world leader in research and development by providing opportunities for attracting and retaining top Canadian researchers and scientists to conduct important discovery work that promises to meet the health-care needs of Canadians.

“Over the past 15 years alone, GSK has helped establish 23 Research Chairs in the Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy at Canadian universities, including in respiratory health, virology, HIV, oncology, and the management of chronic disease,” said Amyn Sayani, director of research and development alliances for GSK. “Our partnership with CIHR allows Canadian academic institutions to independently identify and select promising new science from investigators in Canada in a number of therapy areas where Canada is recognized for its leadership.”

A Saskatoon native, Robert Laprairie holds a BSc Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Saskatchewan in addition to a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Neuroscience/Pharmacology and a PhD in Pharmacology from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. He was a postdoctoral fellow at The Scripps Research Institute, Department of Molecular Therapeutics, in Florida prior to joining the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the U of S. Laprairie is a member of the Drug Discovery and Development Research Group and the Cannabinoid Research Initiative of Saskatchewan (CRIS). He is a member of the Canadian Society for Pharmacology and Therapeutics (CSPT), the Canadian Consortium for the Investigators of Cannabinoids (CCIC), the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), and the International Cannabinoids Research Society (ICRS). He has written numerous publications and has won several awards and scholarships over the years, including the prestigious CIHR Postdoctoral award where he was ranked first in Canada.

new-scanner-advancing-medical-researchtrue1547743704451pey849New scanner advancing medical researchA new scanner in a small, spartan room at the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences building has implications far beyond its relatively innocuous appearance. Marg SheridanCollege of Medicine1484320200000/articles/research/2017/new-scanner-advancing-medical-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/new-scanner-advancing-medical-researchimj1291547625746189imj1291547625746189show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/humphrey-fonge.jpgsite://news/images/2017/humphrey-fonge.jpgnewshumphrey-fonge.jpghumphrey-fonge.jpgHumphrey Fonge with the new microPET/SPECT/CT.NoNoneNo/
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The scanner—a microPET/ SPECT/CT—is the first big building block in the new medical imaging research lab that will help to do research development of radiopharmaceuticals—pharmaceuticals labeled with isotopes that are used for diagnosis and therapy—at the U of S.

“The first phase of this program, which was funded by the provincial and federal governments, allowed the university to establish the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, which is currently being used to produce agents or drugs that are already approved,” said Humphrey Fonge, a clinical assistant professor in the department of medical imaging. “That kind of facility exists in almost every province in Canada.” But the new Preclinical Imaging Facility and Radiopharmaceutical Lab takes that work one step further by giving researchers in the College of Medicine the opportunity to design, and ultimately produce, their own drugs.

“Existing compounds that are currently used to diagnose patients (can be) kind of sub-optimal. In some cases, they don’t give the best diagnostic characteristic of the patients, and there are very few of such compounds that are used by Health Canada,” Fonge said, explaining the importance of continuing research into pharmaceutical production. “So what that means because it’s not a one-size-fits-all, physicians in certain cases cannot make the right diagnosis based on the existing diagnostic tools that they have.

TextPullquote[T]he research in this area is very intensive, and very rapidly growing, whereby we seek to develop newer agents that would (help) physicians improve diagnosis, compared to what they currently have.Humphrey Fonge/Align right

“So the research in this area is very intensive, and very rapidly growing, whereby we seek to develop newer agents that would (help) physicians improve diagnosis, compared to what they currently have.”

The need to advance that research is what led the team to this second phase of the program, which was the creation of this lab.

“It’s going to be designated for anyone, like a core facility,” Fonge explained. “Anyone whose research interest is to develop new diagnostic agents for molecular imaging. It’s similar to the concept in health sciences: shared labs.”

The work starts in the radiochemistry lab, where the researchers work on designing and producing the initial radiolabeled drugs for testing. After in vitro testing, they move on to the invivo studies, and that’s where the new scanner comes into play. Following injection of the radiolabeled drug in a living subject, the microPET/SPECT/CT picks up radiation from the subject which is being scanned, allowing a computer to stitch together the resulting images in a process called ‘construction.’

The end result is a composite that allows the researcher to understand the structural and molecular information of the organs, giving them the ability to clearly characterize the diseased organs/tissue.

“The nice thing about this kind of work is how interdisciplinary it is,” Fonge said. “I know on campus there are four principal investigators (PI) whose research is solely this, and three of them have just been hired in the last three months. There aren’t many universities in Canada that have that number of really high profile PI’s in this field, so the university being able to attract people like that is a good thing.”

The lab, which officially opened in mid-December, hasn’t finished growing quite yet. Fonge and his team—with support from the university—recently submitted an application for an $18 million Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) grant and will find out in June if they have been successful.


Marg Sheridan is an online communications co-ordinator in the College of Medicine.

grad-students-research-bats-disease-immunitytrue1547743704451pey849Grad students research bats’ disease immunityMost people react to bats in their neighbourhood in the same way that they would if a mouse skittered across the kitchen floor—with anxiety, disgust, maybe even a short squeal of terror.HenryTye GlazebrookWestern College of Veterinary Medicine, gradresearch, students1484320920000/articles/research/2017/grad-students-research-bats-disease-immunitynewssite://news/articles/research/2017/grad-students-research-bats-disease-immunityimj1291547625749957imj1291547625749957show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/sonu-subudhi.jpgsite://news/images/2017/sonu-subudhi.jpgnewssonu-subudhi.jpgsonu-subudhi.jpgSonu Subudhi studies bats' immunity to a variety of diseases.NoNoneNo/
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What many people don’t realize, however, is that those fanged, winged mammals are not only creepy-looking creatures. In fact, they may hold the key to bringing the severe effects of some disabling human illnesses down to a manageable minimum.

“When there is infection in the lungs, it causes an inflammation which leads to symptoms—fever, coughing and sometimes shortness of breath,” said PhD student Sonu Subudhi. “Human beings tend to show an enormous amount of inflammation to certain virus infections and that is one of the reasons why humans suffer from severe disease, which may have fatal consequences. In such cases, inflammation gets activated in people like crazy, but for some reason in bats it is kept very low.”

Subudhi is part of a team of researchers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine led by professor Vikram Misra. The group is currently studying the infection patterns of coronaviruses, a species of virus in bats that includes Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Coronaviruses have been an area of increasing importance to researchers as advancing technology has eased their spread, with the SARS outbreak of 2002-04 one example of how an infection can expand beyond geographic boundaries and become a world-wide problem.

“These viruses can be transferred from one person to the other, and people travel all around the world all the time,” Subudhi said. “A person may be unknowingly carrying the virus and travel to other countries.

“In 24 hours, one can be anywhere in the world, and we don’t have fool-proof screening procedures necessary to check whether a person has the virus or not. That makes things scary and that’s why we need to focus on these issues even if they might not be right here in Canada now. They could be in the future.”

The SARS outbreak tremendously increased researchers’ interest in bats, which were discovered to be carrying a strain of coronavirus similar to what was infecting humans. What sets these animals apart, said Subudhi, is how they react to the infection.

“We suffer from fever, cough, shortness of breath, and after you have had the infection for a while, if you’re not able to clear it, you could get pneumonia, which could progress to multi-organ failure. That’s how the virus could spread to all the organs and you may succumb to it,” he said. “In bats, that’s not the case. They somehow control the infection.”

Unlike humans and other animals, bats can carry viruses for months without ever succumbing to the illness. Subudhi attributes this to the mammal’s unique evolutionary history.

“Bats and viruses have evolved for a long, long time,” he said. “Bats have been on Earth for a much longer time than humans—years and years and years. They are much older than we are. Since they are such an old species, they have had more time to evolve with the viruses. They have co-evolved for all these years and this is where the persistent infection comes into play.”

Each of their unique traits highlight bats’ strong resilience to viral infections and opens the door to the possibility, however small, of replicating their defenses in humans. However, Subudhi said that such a goal is lofty at best, at least in the short term.

In the meanwhile, Subudhi is excited for what his research could mean for expanding the human ability to control the spread of illness and slow or prevent the spillover from animal hosts to people. Rabies, for instance, ran rampant until the discovery of a vaccine for both humans and animals, which has now reduced the disease to very low levels.

“There might be a possibility that, if we know these factors, we might be able to more effectively control it. If you don’t know what’s happening and how it’s spilling, there’s no way of controlling a spillover,” Subudhi said. “Once we know that, we might be able to control it.”

researchers-focus-on-falling-and-frailtytrue1547743704451pey849Researchers focus on falling and frailtyFall-related injuries continue to be the leading cause of emergency room visits and hospitalization for Canadian seniors, one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country.Lesley PorterCollege of Kinesiology, School of Physical Therapy, health sciences, interdisciplinary1484322300000/articles/research/2017/researchers-focus-on-falling-and-frailtynewssite://news/articles/research/2017/researchers-focus-on-falling-and-frailtyimj1291547625755523imj1291547625755523show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/joel-lanovaz-cathy-arnold.jpgsite://news/images/2017/joel-lanovaz-cathy-arnold.jpgnewsjoel-lanovaz-cathy-arnold.jpgjoel-lanovaz-cathy-arnold.jpgJoel Lanovaz and Cathy Arnold research fall-related injuries in older, frail adults.NoNoneNo/
TextPullquoteBy 2036, 25 per cent of our population will be over the age of 65, and the health-care costs associated with that are just escalating dramatically. All health-care systems are really struggling with how to cope with that.Cathy Arnold, School of Physical Therapy/Align right

Through interdisciplinary research, computer simulation, patient-oriented research and community partnerships, U of S researchers are looking to reduce falls and injury risks by educating and empowering older adults.

“Our research is focused on falls and injury prevention with falls,” said Joel Lanovaz, an associate professor in the College of Kinesiology.

This includes working with frail adults—those more vulnerable to catastrophic physical or mental impairments associated with aging—as well as the pre-frailolder adults who are susceptible to falls but may not be classified as frail, explained Lanovaz.

“The question is, how do you stop them from going down that spiral to become a frail adult that has to be taken care of with the next step in the health-care system?”

The area of falling and frailty research is growing as fast as the demographic of people experiencing it, explained Cathy Arnold, a faculty member in the School of Physical Therapy.

“By 2036, 25 per cent of our population will be over the age of 65, and the health-care costs associated with that are just escalating dramatically,” said Arnold, a former clinician who has also seen her fair share of injuries and has treated many older adults. “All health-care systems are really struggling with how to cope with that. It has a huge impact on long-term care and acute care and community care across the spectrum.”

Aside from the physical and economic effects, the senior’s social life may be impacted by the subsequent fear of future falls.

“They decrease their activity levels and social levels and interaction with others—it becomes a real spiral of frailty,” said Arnold, adding that simple tasks like grocery shopping get put on the back burner or delegated to caregivers.

To change attitudes about falling and to empower seniors, Arnold and Lanovaz and their co-investigators created FAST (Fall Arrest Strategy Training), a program aimed at decreasing injury risk when a fall is unavoidable. Aside from increasing arm strength, reaction time and trunk control, FAST teaches better landing techniques in the event of a fall. These techniques were integrated into another fall prevention program co-ordinated by the Saskatoon Health Region and subsequently taught at senior residences in the city.

By supplementing that program with their research, “it’s turned out to be a real excellent collaborative opportunity for both of us,” said Arnold. “They get some outcome measures for their program, and we utilize the sites and participants to recruit.”

Their research laboratory in the Kinesiology Building has a FOOSH (Fall On OutStretched Hands) apparatus, a diagonal structure made to simulate a fall. The participant is fitted with cables and falls forward, where their landing and post-impact reaction can be measured. Data from FOOSH led to the development of the FAST program, and further application of this research includes a computer simulation model, which can help understand differences in injury risk and the role of modifiable factors such as strength, said Lanovaz. “Our plan is to eventually map those models to match our participants and then we simulate them actually falling, which we can’t really do in real life,” he said. “We can ask those what-if questions with the computer simulations.”

Arnold and Lanovaz also plan to execute a patient-oriented study—encompassing patients, policy-makers, community groups, clinicians and researchers—looking at the determining factors of participating in a program such as FAST. According to Lanovaz, gender may be one of those factors.

“One of the questions the focus group is looking at pertains to the barriers to getting involved,” he explained. “Most of these programs, at the sites, the women are going to them and not the men, despite stats showing that the men fall as much as women do.”

Arnold and Lanovaz also recently presented their research to MPs in Ottawa as part of a health research symposium, focusing on the biology of frailty as well as its role in patients within a crowded health-care system.

“When these kinds of things come up, they’re very eager to learn,” Lanovaz said of the event, adding that many of the MPs had personal anecdotes or experiences with frailty, typically with parents or grandparents.

Similarly, Arnold believes in the importance of taking an interdisciplinary look at a growing issue impacting the physical, social and mental well-being of Canadians.

“It’s a huge health-care issue across the country and provincially,” she said. “Anything that would help to keep older adults at home and free of injury is important.”

u-of-s-nrgene-crop-research-partnership-maps-two-lentil-genomestrue1547743704451pey849U of S-NRGene crop research partnership maps two lentil genomesIn cutting-edge research aimed at breeding better lentils, a partnership between U of S crop scientists and world-leading genomic big data company NRGene of Israel has successfully sequenced two wild lentil genomes—the largest legume genomes ever assembled.University CommunicationsCollege of Agriculture and Bioresources, international1510154580000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-nrgene-crop-research-partnership-maps-two-lentil-genomesnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-nrgene-crop-research-partnership-maps-two-lentil-genomesimj1291547625786020imj1291547625786020show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/kirstin-bett-bert-vandenberg-.jpgsite://news/images/2017/kirstin-bett-bert-vandenberg-.jpgnewskirstin-bett-bert-vandenberg-.jpgkirstin-bett-bert-vandenberg-.jpgCrop scientists Kirstin Bett and Bert Vandenberg examine lentil plants.NoNoneNo/
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Largely due to advances in plant breeding at the U of S, Canada is the world’s leading exporter of lentils, delivering millions of tons of lentils to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh where this vegetable-based protein serves as a critical food source.

The research, part of the $7.9-million Genome Canada-funded “Application of Genomics to Innovation in the Lentil Economy (AGILE),” is led by U of S scientists Kirstin Bett and Bert Vandenberg. With the help of NRGene’s genomic assembly and analysis technology, the research is expected to empower future breeding efforts aimed at enhancing lentil yield and quality.

“NRGene’s technology has dramatically accelerated our research, which aims to shed light on lentil domestication and adaptation,” said Bett. “Through identifying beneficial traits from wild relatives and integrating them into the genome of the domesticated lentil, we can now develop lentil varieties with much improved vigor, resilience and productivity. Maintaining sustainable lentil production will play an important role in addressing the world’s need for an ecologically sound protein source that is also highly nutritious.”

Professor Bett’s group leads the international lentil genome sequencing initiative which has resulted in the release of a “reference genome” (a complete genome sequence) for a Canadian-cultivated lentil variety. Now with additional genomic information from the wild species, the researchers have a much broader view of genes and pathways that enable lentils to thrive in volatile climatic conditions.

She noted that to date, breeders have only been able to access a small fraction of the total germplasm diversity in existence, which hinders Canadian producers’ ability to meet growing global demand. With its focus on wild lentil genomes, the project is aimed at introducing genetic diversity with great precision and speeding up the breeding cycle to provide breeders with faster access to better lentil varieties.

The U of S Crop Development Centre (CDC), which to date has developed 400 commercial crop varieties, is working with NRGene to sequence several of the world’s major crops. A huge step forward in crop genomic research was the release this year of the wild Emmer wheat genome sequence generated using NRGene technology and involving U of S scientists. Emmer wheat is the wild form of all the domesticated wheat in the world. The work was published in Science in July of 2017. 

Knowledge gained from this innovative research is expected to have an immediate effect on the world food supply since the scientists at the CDC are directly applying genomics to breeding of superior varieties grown on millions of acres. NRGene data provides the underlying understanding that can lead to breeding seeds for higher yields with fewer resources.

“Our partners at the University of Saskatchewan are aggressively pursuing the quest to identify essential traits that strengthen the genetics of the crops that feed the world,” said NRGene CEO Gil Ronen. “We look forward to our continued partnership to disrupt the cycle of world hunger by offering hardier, more nutritious plants.” 

u-of-s-research-reveals-controversial-insecticides-are-toxic-to-songbirdstrue1547743704451pey849U of S research reveals controversial insecticides are toxic to songbirdsResearch at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has linked the use of insecticides to serious health issues in songbirds.University CommunicationsChristy Morrissey, Facility for Applied Avian Research1510244520000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-research-reveals-controversial-insecticides-are-toxic-to-songbirdsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-research-reveals-controversial-insecticides-are-toxic-to-songbirdsimj1291547625875000imj1291547625875000show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/bird-funnels.jpgsite://news/images/2017/bird-funnels.jpgnewsbird-funnels.jpgbird-funnels.jpgBirds at a research site in Emlen funnels, used to study their behaviour and migratory instincts.NoNoneNo/
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“Studies on the risks of neonicotinoids have often focused on bees that have been experiencing population declines. However, it is not just bees that are being affected by these insecticides,” said Christy Morrissey, U of S biology professor.

Research led by Margaret Eng, a post-doctoral fellow in Morrissey’s lab, is the first study to show that imidacloprid (neonicotinoid) and chlorpyrifos (organophosphate)—two of the most widely used insecticides worldwide—are directly toxic to seed-eating songbirds. The paper, published in Scientific Reports, shows these chemicals can directly affect songbird migration.

“These chemicals are having a strong impact on songbirds. We are seeing significant weight loss and the birds’ migratory orientation being significantly altered,” said Eng, who also worked with colleagues from York University. “Effects were seen from eating the equivalent of just three to four imidacloprid treated canola seeds or eight chlorpyrifos granules a day for three days.”

Neonicotinoids have become the most popular class of insecticides among farmers because they are very successful at killing pests and are easy to apply.

“In the past farmers might have placed an insecticide into a crop duster and would spray their fields with the insecticide. However, now farmers have access to seeds that in many cases are already coated with neonicotinoids,” said Morrissey. “Birds that stop on migration are potentially eating these seeds, but can also mistakenly ingest the chlorpyrifos pellets for grit, something they normally eat to aid in the digestion of seeds.”

During a spring migration, Morrissey and Eng captured sparrows, which were then fed daily for three days with either a low or high dose of imidacloprid or chlorpyrifos. Lab experiments showed that the neonicotinoids changed not only the birds’ migratory orientation, but the birds also lost up to 25 per cent of their fat stores and body mass, both of which are detrimental to how a bird successfully migrates.

“What surprised us was how sensitive and rapid the effects were, particularly to imidacloprid,” said Morrissey. “The birds showed a significant loss of body mass and signs of acute poisoning (lethargy and loss of appetite). The migration trials also showed that birds completely failed to orient or changed their northward orientation.”

“Many small migratory songbirds use agricultural land as a stopover to refuel on long flights. These neurotoxic insecticides are widely used in North America but their effects on migratory ability in birds have not been tested before ” said York U biology researcher Bridget Stutchbury. “Although neonicotinoids were thought to have a lower toxicity to vertebrates, it actually proved to be more harmful to these songbirds than the older organophosphate chemicals.”

Research took place at the U of S Facility for Applied Avian Research (FAAR), a facility devoted to ecotoxicology and avian health. The $2.3 million facility opened in May 2016 and FAAR is the only resource of its type in Western Canada.

“We were encouraged that most birds survived, and could recover following the cessation of dosing,” said Eng. “But the effects we saw were severe enough that the birds would likely experience migratory delays or changes in their flight routes that could reduce their chance of survival, or cause a missed breeding opportunity.”

Morrissey said that this research “could have major implications for regulation decisions of these pesticides. Imidacloprid and chlorpyrifos are highly controversial for their safety to the environment or to humans and a decision on a proposed imidacloprid ban in Canada is being considered, with the federal government expected to make a decision on imidacloprid and its use in Canada sometime in December.”

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app-based-research-encourages-physical-activitytrue1547743704451pey849App-based research encourages physical activityA new study on physical activity and public policy is moving research work from the lab to your smartphone.University CommunicationsJohnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy1493066460000/articles/research/2017/app-based-research-encourages-physical-activitynewssite://news/articles/research/2017/app-based-research-encourages-physical-activityimj1291547625875953imj1291547625875953show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/rec-volleyball.jpgsite://news/images/2017/rec-volleyball.jpgnewsrec-volleyball.jpgrec-volleyball.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Led by Tarun Katapally, a population health researcher and assistant professor at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, this new smart study to explores active living patterns among Saskatchewan residents.

Katapally, in partnership with Nate Osgood's computational epidemiology lab in the Department of Computer Science, has devised an app with built-in features such as GPS, an accelerometer, a camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a gyroscope. The app collects data on physical activity and movements patterns on research participants in Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw.

The goal is to provide residents with a tool that allows them to share their perspectives on active living behaviours—both barriers and catalysts—to influence policy in their communities.

“Active living isn’t just exercise. It could be incorporated into every aspect of life—walking/biking to work or to a grocery store, standing at your desk at work, going to a park with your family, among other daily activities,” said Katapally. “We’re hoping the results of the study will allow policy-makers to develop evidence-based active living policies and programs specific to their jurisdictions.”

Read more at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

u-of-s-champion-ready-for-3mt-regionalstrue1547743704451pey849U of S champion ready for 3MT regionalsFor Renbo Xu, one of the greatest challenges she faced in the University of Saskatchewan Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition was distilling three years’ worth of research down to three minutes.Chris MorinCollege of Agriculture and Bioresources, gradresearch, students1493145060000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-champion-ready-for-3mt-regionalsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-champion-ready-for-3mt-regionalsimj1291547625906099imj1291547625906099show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/renbo-xu.jpgsite://news/images/2017/renbo-xu.jpgnewsrenbo-xu.jpgrenbo-xu.jpgRenbo XuNoNoneNo/
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Xu, a master’s student in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, entered the competition because she wanted to get better at communicating her research on yellow peas and red lentils and their suitability in enhancing meat-based products. She also hoped to shed some light on the importance of food science.

“It’s not about cooking, but the science of how we produce these products and how this knowledge will make food healthier and better,” said Xu.

For her efforts, she was surprised to win first place in the university’s 2017 3MT competition last month.

The competition—the third such event held at the U of Schallenges graduate students to present their research in three minutes or less, using only one visual slide to illustrate their work.

It's a daunting task, said Derek Sutherland, one of the co-ordinators of the event. An 80,000-word thesis would take nine hours to present, according to the event’s organizers.

“It’s not just a public speaking exerciseit’s an exercise in conveying research to people who might not have an understanding of what you are talking about,” said Sutherland.

For Xu, even getting on to the stage is an intimidating exercise, given the emphasis such lightning-quick presentations place on clarity and professionalism.

“This competition was close to my thesis defence, but I really wanted to take this chance,” she said. “It was my first time competing and I was definitely not expecting to win.”

There were 38 competitors in the first round. Taking second place was Shailza Sapal, while Brian Kulyk nabbed third place. Xu will go on to represent the university at the regional finals, which takes place on April 28 in the Graduate Students’ Association Commons at the U of S.

While similar competitions occur at universities across Canada, this will be the first time the regionals have been held at the U of S.

“There is definitely some prestige behind the event,” said Sutherland. “There are certainly those out there across North America who will be paying attention to those competing.”

As the sole competitor representing her school, Xu adds that there is an added pressure during the presentations.

“We have to convince everyone that this research is important, and many people will not have the background on this knowledge,” said Xu, who will be squaring off against 13 other students during the regional event.

The public is invited to watch a livestream of the Western Regional Three Minute Thesis competition and cast online ballots for a people’s choice winner.

from-prehistoric-poop-to-dino-skeletonstrue1547743704451pey849From prehistoric poop to dino skeletonsForget for a moment the woolly mammoth tusks, dinosaur skeletons and other prehistoric discoveries that easily garner attention in the world of paleontology.HenryTye GlazebrookDepartment of Geological Sciences1510326000000/articles/research/2017/from-prehistoric-poop-to-dino-skeletonsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/from-prehistoric-poop-to-dino-skeletonsimj1291547625909699imj1291547625909699show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/michael-cuggy.jpgsite://news/images/2017/michael-cuggy.jpgnewsmichael-cuggy.jpgmichael-cuggy.jpgMichael Cuggy, senior lab co-ordinator and sessional lecturer in the Department of Geological Sciences.NoNoneNo/
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In Saskatchewan, one of the most exciting fossils that’s been unearthed is a piece of coprolite slightly larger than a foot in length.

Or, to put it slightly less eloquently, one big pile of dino dung.

“They’re pretty sure it’s from a Tyrannosaurus rex,” said Michael Cuggy, senior lab co-ordinator and sessional lecturer with the University of Saskatchewan Department of Geological Sciences. “You have to be a certain size of animal to make a certain size dung. You know it’s a carnivore because it has bones inside of it, and then by process of elimination it would have to have been a T. rex.”

That lump of dinosaur droppings is the first ever discovered that researchers believe to have come from a Tyrannosaurus rex, excavated in the quiet, quaint town of Eastend, Sask., where U of S faculty and students have worked on dig sites. Located just north of the Canada-U.S. border, the hamlet has garnered a reputation over the years as Saskatchewan’s foremost site for paleontologists, both professional and homegrown, to take their tools and get digging.

Cuggy said the reason for Eastend’s bounty of bones lies in its unique geology. While much of Saskatchewan’s land has been laid flat by past glacial movementits colossal weight pushing down fossils over untold years of crushing advancement and recession and leaving behind layer upon layer of soil overtop—the province’s southernmost cities remain comparatively hilly and bares rocky exposures that are ripe for excavation.

TextPullquoteUnderstanding what’s going on with living things now and how changing environments and climates and other events in the future could affect life, the only way to have a hope of doing that is to see how changes happened in the past.Michael Cuggy/Align left

“There probably are more fossils everywhere, but Eastend is by the edge of the Cypress Hills so it’s been pushed up and this exposes rock,” he said. “Other areas are too flat, and even the rivers are fairly gentle cuts. If you don’t have rock exposed, you can’t really find stuff.”

The region is perhaps most famously known for Scotty the T. rex, named after the bottle of scotch her founders shared in celebration of their astonishing find. The gargantuan beast was discovered on Aug. 16, 1991, when a classroom from Eastend joined a team of paleontologists on an educational dig just beyond the town’s limits.

“Apparently the high school principal found some bones which they then excavated a few years later,” Cuggy said. “As it turns out, it was the most massive, largest T. rex that’s ever been found in the world.”

Scotty is just one in a lengthy list of creatures from a land before time that have been found in Saskatchewan, including many brontotheres—large, rhinoceros-like mammals with multiple bumps and horns protruding from their heads—and a six-metre crocodile skeleton named Big Bert, unearthed in Carrot River.

Saskatchewan’s history with paleontology stretches back just over a century and a half, when researchers from Eastern Canada began scouring the west for fossils and other ancient artifacts.

In those days, and into the modern era, the province gained a reputation as a little sister of sorts to Alberta and its abundant deposits, where even the entire city of Drumheller was built upon a legacy of dinosaurs. Yet still, Saskatchewan was not without its merit.

“The southern area has Cretaceous rocks, so it has lots of T. rex and Triceratops that have been found, basically from the Alberta border right across through the Grasslands National Park area,” Cuggy said.

It can be easy to get caught up in the colossal skeletons that lay beneath our feet, imagining a prehistoric time when the animals they belonged to roamed freely in a world largely unrecognizable to the one we now inhabit. But Cuggy believes there are many important reasons to study paleontology beyond the innate sense of wonder.

“Understanding what’s going on with living things now and how changing environments and climates and other events in the future could affect life, the only way to have a hope of doing that is to see how changes happened in the past,” Cuggy said. “You have to study the past animals and plants that were on Earth to really comprehend this.

“It’s also just fun.”

u-of-s-researchers-explore-sleep-clock-disruptiontrue1547743704451pey849U of S researchers explore sleep clock disruptionHow much can you learn from saliva? One interdisciplinary research team is studying the bodily fluid to investigate the link between oral health and our body’s internal clock.Lesley PorterCollege of Dentistry, College of Medicine1510331340000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-explore-sleep-clock-disruptionnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-researchers-explore-sleep-clock-disruptionimj1291547625914230imj1291547625914230show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/silvana-petros-papagerakis.jpgsite://news/images/2017/silvana-petros-papagerakis.jpgnewssilvana-petros-papagerakis.jpgsilvana-petros-papagerakis.jpgDrs. Petros and Silvana Papagerakis are faculty members and professors in the Colleges of Dentistry and Medicine, respectively.NoNoneNo/
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The husband-and-wife team of Drs. Petros and Silvana Papagerakis are faculty members and professors in the Colleges of Dentistry and Medicine, respectively. Alongside a colleague from the University of Michigan, the team received $460,000 in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the first ever award received with principal investigators from the University of Saskatchewan and in the College of Dentistry. This will be used to fabricate a special dental retainer similar in shape to a teeth-whitening tray—designed to collect saliva samples over a 24-hour period.

From there, the samples are tested for melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle—better known as our circadian rhythm. Think of it as the body’s internal clock that signals the brain and other organs when it’s time to go to bed. Other processes, such as cell regeneration, hormone production and brain wave activity, are also linked to our natural timekeeper.

Not surprisingly, a multitude of ailments and afflictions—ranging from cancer, diabetes, lung disorders, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and Down syndrome, to obesity and coronary disease—are all linked to disrupted circadian rhythms.

But what’s causing this? At a macro level, societal changes ranging from dietary deviations and mental health issues, to irregular work hours and an increase in the use of technology—can trigger circadian disruptions.

“We know that the change in lifestyle has never been so dramatic as it has been in the last while,” said Petros, who also serves as the associate dean of research in the dental college. “But with the device, we can take the patients that have developed larger disruptions, and give them some things they can do to actually reset their clock.”

One particular source of disruption is the blue glow of a smartphone, which has been found to suppress melatonin in humans—a shift that Silvana is studying in oral cancer patients.

“What we’re seeing now are not more ‘traditional’ oral cancer patients,” she said. “It used to be predominantly male, old age, and people that have been drinking or smoking for years. Right now we see a shift to younger and younger patients.”

Another large cause of circadian disruption is irregular work hours. In 2007, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared shift work that disrupts circadian rhythms as “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

According to IARC epidemiological studies, those engaged in long-term night shifts are exposed to more light and experience sleep activity pattern disruption—both of which are likely to be linked to tumour development.

“We need night shifts—we are always going to need them, as a society,” said Silvana, adding that nearly one-third of the Canadian labour force does not work a regular day shift in industries such as health care, hospitality and transportation. “It’s just giving them the tool and the awareness.”

The team is in the process of patenting the retainer device, and Silvana sees potential in it as a personalized therapeutic tool, possibly linking it to a smartphone to monitor saliva and recommend the optimal time to take medication. “If you have something that

is time dependent, we can conduct the device to release drugs at a given time, or to measure a biomarker,” she said. “Then the biomarker can be linked to your device saying at what level your marker is at that time.”

Additionally, there is interest in the device from local stakeholders.

“We want to use it here in the dental clinic—that’s the goal—and maybe in the sleep clinic,” said Petros. “We’ve also talked to the health region and the hospitals here. They find it very interesting. They both told us that there is an increasing number of medical leaves that are fatigue-related.”

This study is the foundation of a larger initiative on campus towards precision health and technology, led by Petros and Silvana.

digging-into-the-lost-city-of-alexander-the-greattrue1547743704451pey849Digging into the lost city of Alexander the GreatUsing ancient, war-scarred elephant bones found in Iraq, a University of Saskatchewan archaeologist has helped to unearth what is believed to be the mysterious lost city of Alexander the Great.Chris MorinDepartment of Religion and Culture1510331520000/articles/research/2017/digging-into-the-lost-city-of-alexander-the-greatnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/digging-into-the-lost-city-of-alexander-the-greatimj1291547625915128imj1291547625915128show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/tina-greenfield-view-through-the-pass.jpgsite://news/images/2017/tina-greenfield-view-through-the-pass.jpgnewstina-greenfield-view-through-the-pass.jpgtina-greenfield-view-through-the-pass.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Participating in the excavation of this historical site was nothing less than a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Tina Greenfield, an expert in near eastern archaeology at the Department of Religion and Culture with St. Thomas More College.

Traveling to Iraq earlier this year as part of a heritage protection project launched by the British Museum and funded by their government, Greenfield was part of the team that uncovered the archaeological ruins of Qalatga Darband, a city considered to have been founded under the reign of Alexander the Great more than 2,000 years ago.

Having been brought on to the excavation project as the director of bioarchaeology, Greenfield developed a research program to investigate organic remains found in the deposits, which included animal bones, along with human and plant remains.

“I look at ancient economies to understand how people provisioned and fed the earliest cities and empires,” she said. “Analyzing these bones help tell us what daily life was like in these cities, whether a building was used for cooking, administration, or if it was a dwelling of a high-status occupant.”

Greenfield said this data also contributes to the body of evidence related to the exploits of Alexander the Great, considered by many historians to be one of the most powerful kings of the ancient world.

“Generally, you don’t get data from animal bones that would pinpoint a battle,” she said. “But when I was at the site this spring I found massive bones. I couldn’t figure out what they were at first, but we eventually found out they were elephant bones, which was a great find because we know that in wars at this time they were riding elephants into battle.”

Greenfield said that the wounds on the bones indicate how the animal died, and helps to tell the legend of Qalatga Darband, a story that has been shrouded in modern intrigue.

The hidden city first came to the attention of British archaeologists after viewing declassified footage captured by American spy satellites taken during the 1960s. The site remained unexplored for a number of years after due to safety concerns during Saddam Hussein’s rule over Iraq. However, Greenfield and a number of her colleagues were eventually able to convene at the ancient city as a part of a British Museum project that aims to preserve Iraqi heritage and educate Iraqi archaeologists on modern excavation techniques and scientific analysis of artefactual material.

Since excavating around the Hellenistic city, which is believed to have been founded in 331 BC, Greenfield said that a wealth of hidden historical artifacts and treasures have been uncovered that have shed light on evidence of the later Persian occupation and the earlier occupations from the Assyrian Empire (900-612 BC), which was the earliest true empire in the world.

“When we began to dig we saw artifacts specifically dating to the Hellenistic time period,” she said. “And then we realized we were standing on a major settlement that coincided with the rule of Alexander the Great. We know that his forces were in this region during this time, but unfortunately there was no tangible evidence. We believe we now have that evidence, from coins that show the leaders of this time period which help to place this exact city as to where battles between the Greek occupants and the Persians under the rule of Darius III took place. And we know Alexander was fighting these battles to control this area.

“There are incredibly rich deposits of what we believe are temple artifact remains, like Hellenistic statues of gods and people. All of these finds help us to better understand how the citizens of this city lived in this region. We are investigating the frontiers of this empire.”

Greenfield, who teaches courses on ancient Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean, ancient Egypt, and the Levant, eventually aims to establish a field school in Israel, which she hopes will inspire students to learn more about the archaeology and the ancient cultures that existed in the Holy Land.

“The conditions we work under when excavating aren’t always easy, especially at the foot of a mountain range in Iraqi Kurdistan. So you have to have a passion for this,” said Greenfield. “But those wow moments do happen when you find artifacts that help place these sites into a broader historical context. When you find what is believed to be a lost city of an ancient empire and charismatic ruler, it can be very exciting."

global-water-futures-Wheater Convocation Award Wheater receives U of S Distinguished Researcher AwardHoward Wheater has been awarded the University of Saskatchewan’s highest honour for research, the Distinguished Researcher Award, during a convocation ceremony June 8. Mark FergusonGlobal Water Futures, Global Institute for Water Security, Howard Wheater1497016200000/articles/research/2017/global-water-futures-Wheater Convocation Award newssite://news/articles/research/2017/global-water-futures-Wheater Convocation Award imj1291547625926949imj1291547644749950show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/howard-wheater-karen-chad.jpgsite://news/images/2017/howard-wheater-karen-chad.jpgnewshoward-wheater-karen-chad.jpghoward-wheater-karen-chad.jpgNoNoneYes/
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the-power-of-virtual-realitytrue1547743704451pey849The power of virtual realityVirtual reality (VR) enthusiasts can experience almost anything, from flying an airplane to landing on the moon to fighting zombies.University CommunicationsCollege of Medicine, Ivar Mendez1484583120000/articles/research/2017/the-power-of-virtual-realitynewssite://news/articles/research/2017/the-power-of-virtual-realityimj1291547625927856imj1291547625927856show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/3d-brain.jpgsite://news/images/2017/3d-brain.jpgnews3d-brain.jpg3d-brain.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Now VR technology is being harnessed by doctors, researchers and medical students at the U of S to digitally view and analyze the inside of the brain.

“We created this 3D brain where the surgeon can enter the brain, look at a brain tumor, can see the relationship of the brain tumor with other brain structures and potentially plan a surgical procedure,” said Dr. Ivar Mendez, the unified head of the Department of Surgery at the University of Saskatchewan and Saskatoon Health Region.

By using the VR environment, students can understand the structures of the brain and how the different areas pertain to everyday brain functions. 

“I truly feel that this technology is going to be a way in which all students will be learning new things,” Mendez added.

See more at Global Saskatoon.

vibrations-can-be-bad-for-farmers-backstrue1547743704451pey849Vibrations can be bad for farmers’ backsDays spent driving around on a tractor contribute to back problems for a significant number of farmers, University of Saskatchewan researchers have found.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, College of Medicine1497626340000/articles/research/2017/vibrations-can-be-bad-for-farmers-backsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/vibrations-can-be-bad-for-farmers-backsimj1291547626008110imj1291547626008110show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/xiaoke-zeng-catherine-trask.jpgsite://news/images/2017/xiaoke-zeng-catherine-trask.jpgnewsxiaoke-zeng-catherine-trask.jpgxiaoke-zeng-catherine-trask.jpgCatherine Trask (right) and Xiaoke Zeng study farmers’ exposure to body vibrations (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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Researcher Catherine Trask and recent master’s graduate Xiaoke Zeng have found that farmers experience prolonged “body shock” when riding horses or driving farming machinery on uneven terrain during an average workday. Whole body vibration is a major risk factor for developing back pain, they say.  

“Farmers are often unaware that body vibration from machinery use is a potentially harmful physical hazard,” said Trask, U of S Canada Research Chair in Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Health.  

Almost 20 per cent of Canadians are affected by back pain, costing the Canadian healthcare system up to $12 million per year. Compared to people in cities, people in rural areas are 30 per cent more likely to experience chronic back pain.

In a 2015 study on 2,600 Saskatchewan farmers, Trask’s team reported that almost 60 per cent experience low back pain, apparently a much higher incidence than in the general population. This causes farmers to reduce the amount of work they do daily in 30 per cent of the most severe cases — up to eight times more than in any other profession, a 2001 study on American farmers states.

“Low back disorders really impact farmers’ ability to do their jobs, especially lifting or carrying things around,” said Trask.   

Zeng has also found that the type of vehicle and daily use of multiple machines changes the extent of farmers’ exposure to vibration.       

She measured vibrations for tractors, grain trucks, pick-up trucks, combines, skid-steer loaders, ATVs, sprayers and swathers. Visiting 21 farms in 2015, she asked about 40 workers to mount special measuring equipment on their machinery seats.   

“Skid-steer loaders and all-terrain vehicles showed the highest vibrations,” she said. “Combines for harvesting crops and sprayers showed the lowest.”     

Zeng said farmers on small farms are more exposed to vibration doses daily because they are more likely to own machines with outdated suspension systems.    

With a bachelor of science in preventive medicine from China, Zeng joined Trask’s team two years ago. Her goal was learning new tools to better promote workers’ health, a topic she became passionate about when she studied coal miners’ harmful exposure to dust in China. 

To limit exposure to vibrations, Trask and Zeng advise farmers to:

  • use newer seats for their vehicles, additional cushion pads and back supports.
  • have hourly breaks for walking and stretching.  

In another related preliminary study — the first to measure vibrations for work-related horse riding in Canada, Zeng found that the vibration level was even higher than for skid-steer loaders.

But Zeng said the effects may not be as harmful and more research is needed on the topic, noting that horses are still a common alternative to machines for ranching.

Funded by the Canada Research Chairs program and Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the team’s research on whole body vibration has been published in three journals.

Follow Trask on Twitter or visit the research group's website.


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

powerful-possibilitiestrue1547743704451pey849Powerful possibilitiesWeaning the world from its fossil fuel addiction is a mammoth task that not only includes coming up with new ways to generate energy, but also storing it and transforming it for society’s needs, from smart phones, toasters and steel smelters to scooters, cars, trucks and trains.Michael Robin and HenryTye Glazebrook1489132560000/articles/research/2017/powerful-possibilitiesnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/powerful-possibilitiesimj1291547626023815imj1291547626023815show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/energy-cover.jpgsite://news/images/2017/energy-cover.jpgnewsenergy-cover.jpgenergy-cover.jpgNoNoneNo/
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Tim Kelly’s strategy is to go directly to the energy source that powers all life on Earth: the sun.

Kelly holds the Canada Research Chair in Photovoltaics in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Saskatchewan. He said solar energy has its limitations, as his father found out when he bought a small solar panel for the family cabin in Newfoundland. The idea was to use it to charge a battery pack to run the radio.

“He gives me a call once he gets back from the trip and says, ‘Hey Tim, these solar cells, they don’t work. It took forever to charge anything,’” Kelly recounted. “I said, ‘OK Dad, you’re in St. John’s. The prevailing weather pattern is rain, drizzle and fog.’”

Newfoundland may not be ideal for solar, but it’s a different story on the Prairies.

“The average installation in southern Saskatchewan or southern Alberta is as good as it gets anywhere in Canada,” Kelly said, explaining sunshine should be seen as another resource, like agri- culture, uranium and potash.

Kelly does provide caveats. For instance, it would be quite difficult for the average city dweller to go completely off-grid with a few rooftop solar panels.

“They can significantly offset your consumption,” he said, but to really make a difference a home needs to be optimized to conserve energy, with things like low-draw lighting and appliances, especially ovens, refrigerators and laundry equipment.

Then there’s the cost. While the price of solar has come down significantly, Kelly said average home installations can cost $10,000 or more. This means incentives such as rebates need to be in place.

“When you’re trying to argue with a homeowner, ‘I know you really want that nice kitchen renovation, but why don’t you put this solar panel on your roof instead?’” Kelly said. “The new islands in the kitchen tend to win that emotional battle.”

Another challenge is large solar farms covering significant areas— ideally on marginal lands or desert—are needed to produce the megawatts used by public utilities. But Kelly said it is still well worth pursuing.

“It’s an interconnected web, and solar can be one part of the solution,” Kelly said. “It can be a huge percentage of your overall grid needs.”

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Solar is an intermittent power source, cycling with day and night and with cloud cover that causes spikes in output. This is also an issue with wind power. Researcher Rajesh Karki evaluates the reliability and cost of incorporating wind and solar energy into the power grid.

Both physical and economic factors drive wind power, said Karki, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Ideally, turbines should be in locations with different wind conditions, so when one area is calm, wind is blowing in another. But the owners of wind turbines are paid by how much energy their machines can put into the grid, so they generally build where the best wind resources can be found. In Saskatchewan, this is largely in the southwest corner of the province.

“Most of the existing wind turbines are in one region, so that creates a problem of all turbines being affected by the same wind regime,” Karki explained.

Another restraint is turbine design, which Karki said is optimized for coastal areas. Such turbines need wind speeds of 45 kilometres per hour (kph) to produce their rated power output. Lubricants are also not designed for Canadian winters, stiffening up and stopping the turbines at temperatures of -20C and below. Icing, which changes the aerodynamic shape of turbine blades, is another major concern.

“The problem in Saskatchewan is when the demand is high, it’s usually on a very cold day,” Karki said. “If you’ve got a lot of wind power, say for example—(proponents) are talking about 50 per cent dependence on wind—then we would be out of power on a very cold winter evening.”

Turbines that can harvest lower wind speeds and are able to operate at colder temperatures are needed. As well, Karki explained that connecting Canada’s power grid better would allow for more use of wind power.

“The wind is always blowing somewhere,” he said.

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The Achilles’ heel of wind and solar and other renewables is intermittency—generating everything from excessive power to nothing at all, depending on the vagaries of time, weather and season. This is where another of Karki’s research areas— energy storage—comes in.

“This is a huge amount of energy, so just battery energy storage alone is not practical or feasible,” he said.

Karki is looking at strategies such as compressed air stored in underground reservoirs and massive flywheels that store energy as momentum.

But what all options have in common is cost: extra infra- structure and operating margins required by renewables including solar panels, wind turbines and grid-scale storage.

“If you look at the price of electricity in Europe … because they have invested a lot more in renewables, they’re paying maybe between two and three times what we pay here,” Karki said.

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Cheap and abundant, fossil fuels are most tempting to the developing world. While the developed world can afford the latest new LED lights, energy efficient appliances and electric cars, the poorest countries cannot.

“With wind and solar, these methods of electricity generation are much more expensive than coal,” said Jerzy Szpunar, Canada Research Chair of Advanced Materials for Clean Energy and a professor of mechanical engineering at the U of S. “We like clean energy, say wind for instance, but one has to realize that wind is not always blowing.”

Szpunar said that even with alternatives to fossil fuels being aggressively pursued to combat climate change—including carbon capture, solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and nuclear—mainstays such as coal remain “to this day, and probably for a long time, a major resource for the production of electricity.”

Unlike other low-emission sources of energy, nuclear power faces major hurdles such as funding and public perception.

France gets more than 75 per cent of its electricity from nuclear, but is not seen as green energy. Germany is lauded for its aggressive Energiewende wind and solar program that by some estimates supplies about 30 per cent of the country’s electricity. But since abandoning nuclear energy, Germany now burns far more coal from one of the largest strip mines on Earth.

“I think France considers it good business,” Szpunar said. “They are not only supplying so much of their electrical energy through nuclear power, they are also selling electricity—and quite a lot of it. They developed a very good reactor and they are also exporting many of them throughout the world. That is also a very good business for them.”

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Probably the biggest hurdle facing nuclear power is that of waste.

“At present, all of the countries that rely on nuclear energy store the byproducts temporarily,” Szpunar said. “They are expecting that the storage will be decided later on.”

He explained that there are some options for re-processing nuclear waste. “In France they recycle the waste, which does not mean they don’t need to store any materials, but just that the amount is minimized,” he said. “As a result, the amount of radioactive materials which have to be stored for a very long time is smaller than in the states, for instance, where there is no option for re-processed fuel.”

New technological options, such as a liquid salt reactor, could help to further reduce the amount of waste by-products.

“In the future, if these kinds of new reactor designs were implemented, then the amount of material which would have to be stored would be minimized probably by up to one thousand times less than at present,” he said.

Szpunar added that options typically viewed as eco-friendly, such and wind and solar power, have their own setbacks that have prevented them from being more widely implemented.

“When the wind isn’t blowing, the utility companies have to be ready to replace it with some other form of energy,” he said. “That can change, a lot, the price and cleanliness of clean energy. If that replacement is made using a coal plant, then that plant can’t be started all at once. They have to be running on low power, and running on low power creates almost as much pollution as high power.”

The bottom line, he stressed, is that all energy technologies have pros and cons, but society cannot afford to discard one out of hand because of a perceived challenge.

TextPower to moveImage/images/2017/ajay-dalai-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/ajay-dalai-headshot.jpgnewsajay-dalai-headshot.jpgajay-dalai-headshot.jpgDalaiAlign left

One of the great advantages of fossil fuels is portability. While electric cars have made inroads, nothing beats petroleum when it comes to moving mass commodities and products over long distances.

“How do you get your trucks running and planes flying?” asked Ajay Dalai, Canada Research Chair in Bioenergy and Environmentally Friendly Chemical Processing. “You need jet fuel and you need diesel fuel.”

Dalai and his team are working to challenge fossil fuel dominance.

“I believe no matter what you do, you still need liquid fuel from renewable sources,” he said.

One of Dalai’s and colleague Hui Wang’s patented processes uses a catalyst to turn methane and carbon dioxide—two abundant waste products—into synthesis gas or “syngas,” a versatile feedstock used to produce everything from plastics to jet fuel, diesel fuel and gasoline.

Dalai explains methane can come from different sources. It’s routinely burned as waste when it occurs in oil wells and is also produced when organic matter breaks down, for example, in landfills. Since it’s about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, it makes sense to not just let it escape into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide can also be a waste product from coal-fired power plants and is as a byproduct from fermentation used to create fuel ethanol. One Ontario company has licensed Dalai and Wang’s technology and is working to scale it up, using methane from biomass and carbon dioxide from an ethanol plant.

Dalai explained his group’s focus has shifted away from simply publishing papers—he has put his name to more than 400—to patents. These cover strategies to boost efficiency in ethanol and vegetable-based diesel production, and scrub mercury and carbon monoxide from power plant flue gases.

“We’re getting patents to move this (knowledge) into industrial partners’ hands as soon as possible,” he said.

Weaning the world from its fossil fuel addiction may not yield to a single solution, but to diverse ideas from many experts, borne of research, innovation, and political will.

new-u-of-s-canada-research-chair-working-on-smart-cancer-drugstrue1547743704451pey849New Canada Research Chair working on “smart” cancer drugsEric Price, a new Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Radiochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan, is leading work on developing a new generation of medical imaging technology and “smart” drugs for cancer treatment.University CommunicationsCanada Research Chair1484839980000/articles/research/2017/new-u-of-s-canada-research-chair-working-on-smart-cancer-drugsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/new-u-of-s-canada-research-chair-working-on-smart-cancer-drugsimj1291547626047241imj1291547626047241show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/eric-price-kirsty-duncan-kate-dadachova.jpgsite://news/images/2017/eric-price-kirsty-duncan-kate-dadachova.jpgnewseric-price-kirsty-duncan-kate-dadachova.jpgScience Minister Kirsty Duncan (centre) and new U of S researchers Eric Price and Ekaterina Dadachova discuss potential of “smart” drugs to target both cancer and infectious disease during tour of the university’s cyclotron facility.NoNoneNo/
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Selective in their targeting of cancer, these new drugs hold promise to reduce side effects compared with traditional chemotherapy, said Price, who has been recruited to the U of S chemistry department.

“These new radioactive drugs will be like sniffing dogs,” said Price. “They will be able to select specific cancer cells and kill them, while sparing healthy ones.”

Price’s research will also be applied to addressing the growing problem of bacterial infections that have become resistant to current drug treatments.

Price holds a five-year, $100,000-a-year Tier 2 Chair awarded for the research of exceptional, emerging researchers. His team includes three PhD students, a post-doctoral fellow, and three undergraduate summer students, and plans to expand the team in the future.

Price’s work is supported by new radiochemistry labs at the university’s Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences (SCCS). He also plans to use the university’s Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron for research aimed at finding more effective chelators—molecules that bind to radioactive isotopes and allow for more targeted delivery within the body.    

Price was among U of S research scientists and top administrators who met with Canada’s Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan on Wednesday during a tour of the SCCS radiochemistry lab.

Duncan also met new U of S researcher Ekaterina (Kate) Dadachova, who was recently recruited from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She holds the Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation Chair in Radiopharmacy and has also been appointed a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition.

Dadachova’s laboratory has pioneered new applications of radioimmunotherapy, a treatment mode which had previously been used exclusively in cancer treatment because of the way it delivers radiation directly to cancer cells. Dadachova’s team was able to successfully apply the therapy to treat experimental fungal, bacterial and HIV infections.

Dadachova has also been involved in several projects to create novel materials known as radioprotectors, nature-inspired agents that provide internal and external radiation protection for patients undergoing radiation therapy for cancer.

She also brings with her an active research program in using radioimmunotherapy for treatment of cancers, including melanoma. Preparations are already underway to establish animal and human clinical trials to support that work through a pharmaceutical partner and Royal University Hospital.

She said the university’s life sciences research cluster was one of the main reasons she decided to move her research to the U of S.

“The unique cluster, that includes the cyclotron and radiopharmaceutical production facilities, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, and Royal University Hospital, is very valuable for translating novel radiopharmaceuticals into animal patients, and eventually into human patients,” she said.

U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad said the appointments of Price and Dadachova underscore the university’s innovative leadership in cutting-edge nuclear medicine and imaging.

“This exciting research builds upon U of S pioneering work in developing the cobalt-60 technology which revolutionized cancer treatment around the world,” Chad said. “Today, 65 years later, our unique imaging facilities are again supporting cutting-edge research.”

In addition to the new CRC for Price, three other U of S CRCs have recently been renewed, resulting in a total $3.8-million CRC investment for the U of S announced in December. This investment is complemented by funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation for specialized laboratory equipment. The three researchers with renewed CRC funding are:

  • Ajay Dalai, CRC in Bioenergy and Environmentally Friendly Chemical Processing;
  • Markus Hecker, CRC in Predictive Aquatic Ecotoxicology; and
  • Philip Griebel, CRC in Neonatal Mucosal Immunology.
creative-campus-collaborationtrue1547743704451pey849Creative campus collaborationAn ongoing collaborative research project between the College of Medicine and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan is focused on improving the accuracy of medical imaging diagnosis.Marg SheridanCollege of Medicine, Department of Computer Science1489156380000/articles/research/2017/creative-campus-collaborationnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/creative-campus-collaborationimj1291547626062859imj1291547626062859show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/paul-babyn.jpgsite://news/images/2017/paul-babyn.jpgnewspaul-babyn.jpgpaul-babyn.jpgDr. Paul BabynNoNoneNo/
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The team is hoping to not only speed up how quickly thyroid nodules are diagnosed, but improve how accurate the diagnosis are.

“From the research side, we have strong potential to be able to reduce the overall system costs by avoiding unnecessary invasive procedures in some patients,” said Dr. Paul Babyn, the head of the department of medical imaging. “And that would obviously save that individual patient from having a biopsy or surgery when they don’t need it.”

The potential to improve the diagnosis process builds on Babyn’s previous work with Dr. Gary Groot (surgical oncology) and professor Ekta Walia (computer science) on thyroid tumours.

“We know that use of thyroid reporting systems, with the human doing the interpretation of the images, improves results,” Babyn explained. “Use of a scoring and reporting form provides information in a standardized fashion for both the surgeon and pathology and reduces variability.

“We know that there are limitations to the application of the human scoring system, as they require additional time and expertise not always available within a busy practice setting.”

The scoring system allows trained radiologists to classify thyroid lesions as either “not suspicious,” and therefore not in need of biopsy; “very suspicious,” and in need of an immediate biopsy; or “less suspicious,” but still in need of biopsy or follow-up. Getting it correct right off the bat can reduce the number of patients needlessly undergoing biopsies or surgical procedures.

“So there’s the potential for a machine learning system to provide a reproducible interpretation with the scoring system,” Babyn continued. “That would allow improved output for the radiologist, as well as improved clarity for the surgeons.”

Babyn had already been working with computer science researchers in the College of Arts and Science to review computer-assisted diagnosis for thyroid cancer. But with ongoing advances in deep- learning, they decided to apply some newer technology to the problem of thyroid nodule diagnosis.

TextImage/images/2017/jianning-chi-mark-eramian.jpgsite://news/images/2017/jianning-chi-mark-eramian.jpgnewsjianning-chi-mark-eramian.jpgjianning-chi-mark-eramian.jpgMark Eramian (right) and his research student, Jianning Chi.Align right

“We’re using techniques that are called deep-learning algorithms,” explained Mark Eramian, an associate professor in computer science who has been helping lead the research.

“We are analyzing the ultrasound images with the computer and trying to predict with high accuracy whether these are likely to be benign or whether we should do further, and more invasive, tests to be sure that they aren’t malignant.”

Traditional machine learning requires a person to determine the distinguishing features that a computer analyzes to make a determination—the kind of technology used by red-light cameras or with license plate recognition systems. But with deep learning, the distinguishing features are not deter- mined by a human. Instead machine algorithms are used to learn not only how to interpret the features to make the diagnosis, but also the features themselves.

“That allows many more possible distinguishing features to be considered than a human could reasonably consider in a lifetime,” Eramian continued. “We have a data set that is annotated so we know from the biopsies whether the nodules were malignant or benign, and learned features are attributed to those annotations. By considering and optimizing so many features, we end up with a better decision-making tool.”

Of the 2,500 images the team is using, 1,600 were selected as a training data set so that a deep neural network could learn the features and classifiers. Some 400 images, which the network had never seen before, were then used for testing so that it could make its prediction regarding the nodule, which the researchers could then compare to their results.

After having done 10 training/ validation/testing variations with the network, the team was getting an average accuracy of 92 per cent.

But Eramian explained that it’s not only the accuracy that’s important, but also the sensitivity.

“When you’re doing computer-assisted diagnosis of cancer, there are two ways to be wrong: you can say it’s malignant when it’s actually benign, or you can say it’s benign when it’s actually malignant,” Eramian explained. “The sensitivity is what percentage of the malignant cases were correctly labelled as malignant, and the specificity is what percentage of benign cases were correctly labelled as benign.

“Those two kinds of errors have very different costs: it is disastrous to conclude that a nodule is benign when it’s actually malignant, but the worst consequence of a benign module being labelled malignant is a biopsy that comes back negative. We can tune the classifier so that sensitivity is preferred over specificity. We might, for example obtain near-perfect sensitivity, successfully detecting malignant nodules, at the cost of labelling a small percentage of benign cases as malignant. Then we’re doing biopsies in those few benign cases, but probably still fewer than what we’re doing now.”

It’s not just a matter of Eramian’s team uploading images into the network, however. Since the images

have been sourced from hospitals and health systems from across the country, they arrive with varying imaging standards. Jianning Chi, a research assistant in computer science, has to manually match the scales (the pixels per centimetre) and image quality before they can be used. “We have to adjust the images to make sure they have the same scale, according to the network specifications,” Chi said. “I first detect the ticks (the measurement scale each ultrasound uses) on the images, and then resize the images so they have the same scale. I then locate the markers made by radiologists, which

show the regions of interest, before removing them from the image and filling in the gaps with approximations based on neighbouring textures, which ensures that the samples are noise-free.

“So I’ve been repurposing the samples to train the deep-learning network to improve its performance.”

The team expects to publish its research later this spring, which Babyn hopes will be followed by using the technology in clinical trials. 


Marg Sheridan is an online communications co-ordinator in the College of Medicine.

seri-living-wall-brings-education-to-lifetrue1547743704451pey849SERI living wall brings education to lifeWalking into the Sustainability Education Research Institute (SERI), the first thing that catches your eye is its living wall—a floor-to-ceiling display of plant life draped down both sides of a dividing partition between the main area and a small meeting room.HenryTye GlazebrookCollege of Education, Marcia McKenzie1489157280000/articles/research/2017/seri-living-wall-brings-education-to-lifenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/seri-living-wall-brings-education-to-lifeimj1291547626071696imj1291547626071696show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/marcia-mckenzie.jpgsite://news/images/2017/marcia-mckenzie.jpgnewsmarcia-mckenzie.jpgmarcia-mckenzie.jpgYesNoneNo/
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The experience is like stepping through a doorway to another world. SERI is nestled deep within the heart of the University of Saskatchewan’s Education Building, where it has carved out a home unlike any other on campus. Though it is only made up of a few small rooms and offices, the institute’s emphasis on using reclaimed and repurposed materials as focal points for its green-space headquarters has created an office both wholly unique and remarkable.

TextVideo/ talks about SERI and the living wall at the University of Saskatchewan.Above content

“We wanted to create a green-designed space that would also be a model for a different way of doing things,” said SERI Director Marcia McKenzie. “It’s not just the work that we’re doing, but also the space we are doing it in and how that exemplifies our commitments to sustainability. All the wood is reclaimed grain elevator wood, including the main feature wall as well as the tables. The metal table fixtures are piping, reclaimed as well. The cabinets are repurposed lockers from a high school, the light fixtures are repurposed from elsewhere on campus.”

SERI is a collaborative unit focused on research furthering the understanding of sustainability in education. The institute was founded in 2012 through $101,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, with an additional $150,000 in funding from the College of Education.

“Our mandate is to draw together faculty, graduate students and other members of the university and surrounding community who are working on research to do with land place, environment and sustainability in education, to bring them together in a single hub and build on that work moving forward,” McKenzie said.

While SERI is one of several U of S institutions that work in green areas, including the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS), the Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) and the Office of Sustainability, what sets it apart is its emphasis on wrapping concepts familiar to these other units inside of an all-encompassing focus on education.

“Whereas SENS is interdisciplinary across many different areas and GIWS is focused on water particularly, SERI is specifically centered on education,” McKenzie said. “It’s the only research centre in Canada with the focus on sustainability in education. All of our activities have those three threads of sustainability, education and research. Those are our niche; they set us apart.”

TextPullquoteIt’s the only research centre in Canada with the focus on sustainability in education. All of our activities have those three threads of sustainability, education and research.Marcia McKenzie/Align left

With the number of students, researchers and faculty members involved with SERI, there are a variety of projects connected to it at any given time. In recent years, the institute has begun hosting a biannual conference, jump-started its monthly Talking Sustainability seminar series and partnered on a new community journal focused on place, land and learning.

SERI has launched several research ventures, including a digital media project looking at Indigenous, newcomer and settler youths’ orientations to place and sustainability. McKenzie describes the study as an “action research project” intended to collect research data, as well as to train youth in digital media skills so they can amplify their own voices and opinions on sustainability issues within their communities.

The current flagship project at SERI is a $2-million Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council partnership grant examining sustainability policies and practices in formal education from kindergarten to post-secondary levels across Canada.

“We just finished collecting data at six different post-secondary institutions and 20 elementary and high schools across six different provinces and territories, to look at how they are engaging with sustainability in practice and then examining that in relation to their policy mandates,” she said.

Prior research projects of the Sustainability and Education Policy Network have included a census on sustainability uptake in policies across all 220 post-secondary institutions, 13 ministries of education and 374 school divisions across the country, as well as a national survey. McKenzie said addressing sustainability issues will continue to become more and more important as society moves forward.

“In terms of critical issues of our times, climate change is one of the most pressing issues we’re facing,” McKenzie said, adding that sustainability is among the priorities recently laid out in the U of S mission, vision and values statement. “Health, migration and all sorts of other associated issues are connected to a changing climate. It’s obviously a very important concern and effective education is key in responding.”

price,-dadachova-join-nuclear-medicine-expertstrue1547743704451pey849Price, Dadachova join nuclear medicine expertsThe University of Saskatchewan is known for its pioneering role in nuclear medicine with the cobalt-60 technology developed in the early 1950s that revolutionized cancer treatment around the world.Murray LyonsEric Price, Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences1489159920000/articles/research/2017/price,-dadachova-join-nuclear-medicine-expertsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/price,-dadachova-join-nuclear-medicine-expertsimj1291547626072779imj1291547626072779show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/eric-price-kirsty-duncan-kate-dadachova.jpgsite://news/images/2017/eric-price-kirsty-duncan-kate-dadachova.jpgnewseric-price-kirsty-duncan-kate-dadachova.jpgPrice (left) and Dadachova (right) with federal science minister Kirsty Duncan.NoNoneNo/
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The U of S is again on the leading edge of nuclear medicine, thanks to two researchers recently recruited from New York and the state-of-the-art facilities that support their work.

Eric Price and Ekaterina (Kate) Dadachova say the presence of an isotope-producing cyclotron, combined with a radiochemistry “hot” lab at the university’s Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences (SCCS), was the critical factor in bringing them to Saskatoon.

“What makes SCCS a unique facility is that it gives researchers the opportunity to design and ultimately produce new drugs,” said Ghislain Boudreault, manager of the SCCS. “These outstanding researchers are leading teams to design new targeted ‘smart’ drugs for cancer, and in particular are at the forefront of addressing antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, HIV and fungal infections.”

Recruited to the U of S chemistry department from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center research hospital in New York City, Price was named Canada Research Chair in Radiochemistry in December. Meanwhile, the Russian-born and educated Dadachova spent 16 years researching the use of radioimmunotherapy in cancer and pathogen treatment at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. But lack of access to an isotope-producing cyclotron was a hindrance to expanding the research.

“I came here because there is a major concentration of facilities,” said Dadachova, Fedoruk Chair in Radiopharmacy and a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. “I’ve never seen a place where you have in one location a research hospital, a veterinary hospital and a cyclotron, plus a synchrotron.”

With researchers Chris Phenix and Humphrey Fonge already working at the SCCS, the university now has a unique critical mass of researchers in nuclear medicine, Boudreault said. He noted the cyclotron produces fluorodeoxyglucose—or FDG—a radioactive sugar molecule that is delivered five days a week to Royal University Hospital where it is injected into patients undergoing diagnostic imaging Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans.

Because cancer cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal cells, they take up more of the radioisotope-containing glucose molecule. As a result, during radio- active imaging scans, the tumours glow in stark relief to the rest of the body. This provides a more accurate picture of how far a cancer has advanced compared with using X-rays or CT scans. Metabolic anomalies can be detected at a very early stage, which translates into earlier treatment and saving lives.

A similar approach can also be used to deliver a radioactive drug to cancer or infectious disease sites for treatment purposes, not just for detection of the disease. The key is to find a receptor within the tumour onto which the drug can attach itself. “If you have a molecule that will bind to that receptor, you can piggyback your radioactive isotope onto that,” Price explained. “Instead of having the patient undergo external beam radiation therapy, you can inject the radioisotope into the person and it’s going to go just to the tumour.”

A major area of Price’s research is to develop molecules that chemically tether new radioactive metals onto cancer-targeting proteins, so that they stay tightly attached.

“If the tether is not strong, the (isotopes) come free, and instead of going to the tumours, they go to the bones, the kidneys and cause damage,” he explained.

Dadachova is working with a drug company to continue work begun in New York on human trials of a new radioimmunotherapy for use in patients with metastatic melanoma. She hopes to get approval from Health Canada to continue this human trial with patients at RUH. She is also investigating how radioactive drugs injected into the body can target hard-to-combat pathogens, including fungal infections in immuno-suppressed people and bacterial infections that have become resistant to multiple types of antibiotics.

“There are a lot of multi-drug resistant pathogens. Especially for those patients who are immuno-sup- pressed, you can load them up with antibiotics but nothing will help,” she said. “That’s why we need alternatives for antibiotics and antifungals.”

She sees possibilities for using Western College of Veterinary Medicine research facilities, in collaboration with veterinarian Dr. Elisabeth Snead, to test how promising radioimmunotherapy could destroy fungal infections in companion dogs. This work, which would be a first, could lead to human trials in the future.

Her team in New York made medical news by using a radioimmunotherapy drug to target and destroy both latent and active samples of the HIV virus taken from patients, as well as killing HIV-infected cells behind the experimental human blood brain barrier. She said advancing this work to human trials is especially important because anti-viral drugs, which can suppress HIV for years, do not work in the brain—the place where the virus resides and causes inflammation of nerve tissues.

“A lot of HIV patients experience cognitive decline because the anti-viral drugs cannot cross into the brain. Patients end up in an Alzheimer’s-like state,” she said. “We have to find a way to penetrate the blood brain barrier and kill the infected cells there.”


Murray Lyons is a communications contributor with Research Profile and Impact at the U of S.

vido-intervac-helping-to-fight-zika-virustrue1547743704451pey849VIDO-InterVac helping to fight Zika virusThe Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the U of S has secured $700,000 for research using a new animal model to investigate how the virus causes disease and to test new drugs and vaccines for prevention.University CommunicationsVaccine and Infectious Disease Organization–International Vaccine Centre, VIDO-InterVac1489178580000/articles/research/2017/vido-intervac-helping-to-fight-zika-virusnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/vido-intervac-helping-to-fight-zika-virusimj1291547626083584imj1291547626083584show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/vladi-karniychuk.jpgsite://news/images/2017/vladi-karniychuk.jpgnewsvladi-karniychuk.jpgvladi-karniychuk.jpgDr. Karniychuk, who joined VIDO-InterVac last year, will work on research to treat and prevent Zika virus.NoNoneNo/
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Support for the three-year research project will be provided by Innovation Saskatchewan, Genome Prairie, through Genome Canada’s emerging issues program, the Public Health Agency of Canada and VIDO-InterVac.

The Zika virus outbreak in the Americas has been linked to microcephaly (incomplete brain development) in babies born to infected mothers. The virus, which is primarily spread by mosquitos, can also be sexually transmitted. Currently there is no vaccine or therapy available to combat the infection.

“Saskatchewan has always been a leader in biomedical and health sciences, and our government is pleased to invest in research and development in these fields,” Saskatchewan Minister Responsible for Innovation Jeremy Harrison said. “VIDO-InterVac has made a significant advance in developing an animal model to study the Zika virus, and our government support will help ensure the province’s continued leadership in this field.”

“VIDO-InterVac is at the forefront of tackling disease at the human-animal interface, including the development of new animal models,” said VIDO-InterVac Director Andrew Potter. “Developing alternative animal models for emerging pathogens such as Zika virus is a crucial first step in understanding the disease and bringing new vaccines and therapies to market.”

Preliminary results from the project are expected within two years.

“Genomics is a key tool in combatting the Zika virus,” said Genome Canada President and CEO Marc LePage. “Genome Canada is proud to support this important project that will use genomics to advance our understanding of the virus’ effects in the developing brain.”

The project is being conducted in VIDO-InterVac’s state-of-the-art containment facilities.

“This project will attract more global teams working on the Zika virus, and other important pathogens to use the world-class VIDO-InterVac facility,” said Genome Prairie President and CEO Reno Pontarollo.

The research is being led by Dr. Uladzimir Karniychuk, a research scientist and veterinarian who joined VIDO-InterVac in early 2016.


mutated-frog-gene-repels-predatorstrue1547743704451pey849Mutated frog gene repels predatorsThe incredible colour patterns of Colombian dart frogs have long been a mystery, but now University of Saskatchewan researchers have identified the gene responsible for the black blobs and stripes that make the colours stand out.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, international1510681680000/articles/research/2017/mutated-frog-gene-repels-predatorsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/mutated-frog-gene-repels-predatorsimj1291547626094438imj1291547626094438show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/andres-posso-terranova.jpgsite://news/images/2017/andres-posso-terranova.jpgnewsandres-posso-terranova.jpgandres-posso-terranova.jpgAndrés Posso-Terranova’s quest was to find evolutionary secrets of Colombian dart frogs.NoNoneNo/
TextPullquoteThese mutations associated with black colour show the footprints of natural selection. It confirms that dark patterns are beneficial for frogs’ survival, so it has been passed down through generations.Andrés Posso-Terranova/Align left

Post-doctoral researcher Andrés Posso-Terranova and his former supervisor José Andrés have found evidence that a single gene called MC1R controls the deep black color on the skin of these poisonous frogs. The researchers have found that the disruption of the gene is responsible for the black blobs and stripes. Their results have been published this week in the international journal Evolution.

“We knew the same gene stimulates the production of black pigment in other animals, but it’s also responsible for camouflage in mice and red hair in humans,” said Andrés, U of S biology professor. “There was no evidence of a correlation with coloration of frogs until now.”

The black patterns provide a sharp contrast to the dart frogs’ bright colours—red, yellow and orange—to send a highly detectable warning signal to predators such as snakes that the frogs are toxic, much like the coloring of wasps and bumblebees.

“These warning patterns are very effective and they are easily learned by predators,” said Posso-Terranova.

Dart frogs, traditionally used by Colombian Indigenous hunters to obtain poison for blowgun darts, make their powerful poison by eating toxic bugs. The poison is only dangerous to humans if it enters their bloodstream.

Deep in one of the wettest jungles of the Colombian Chocó province, the researchers photographed more than 300 frogs to classify them and collected genetic samples on over 90. Back at the U of S, they used state-of-the-art DNA technology to screen more than 15,000 genes that could be associated with coloration.

The researchers’ surprising discovery was that unrelated species of frogs in the north and the south of the province show mutations of the MC1R gene in the same DNA region, explaining why the frogs share similar black patterns even if they are not close relatives and live hundreds of kilometers apart.

“These mutations associated with black colour show the footprints of natural selection,” said Andrés. “It confirms that dark patterns are beneficial for frogs’ survival, so it has been passed down through generations.”

As a child growing up in Colombia, Posso-Terranova said there were so many frogs in his backyard but he has witnessed how fast they are disappearing due to global warming and a changing environment.

He cautions more research is needed, but hopes his project may help the Colombian government develop strategies to protect endangered frogs.

The frog study, funded by the federal agency NSERC and a Colciencias grant from the Colombian government, also found evidence that there are at least three endangered species, instead of the two identified in a 1976 study.

Conducting research in a country with an unstable socio-political situation wasn’t easy.

“Only thanks to recent peace negotiations between guerrilla groups and the Colombian government is it possible for scientists to access areas once off-limits,” said Posso-Terranova.


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

u-of-s-institutes,-researchers-awarded-5.5-million-in-federal-fundstrue1547743704451pey849U of S institutes, researchers awarded $5.5 million in federal fundsThe University of Saskatchewan has been awarded $2.7 million in funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada for water security and food security research, and a similar amount from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for 45 U of S faculty and students.University CommunicationsGlobal Water Futures, Global Institute for Water Security, John Pomeroy1510768800000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-institutes,-researchers-awarded-5.5-million-in-federal-fundsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-institutes,-researchers-awarded-5.5-million-in-federal-fundsimj1291547626134904imj1291547626134904show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/wd-announcement.jpgsite://news/images/2017/wd-announcement.jpgnewswd-announcement.jpgwd-announcement.jpgGWF Director John Pomeroy, VP Research Karen Chad, Minister Ralph Goodale, and GIFS Executive Director and CEO Maurice Moloney pose with graduate students and researchers set to benefit from federal research investments.NoNoneNo/
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A $1.37 million grant for the Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) to establish the Smart Water Systems Laboratory (SWSL) and a $1.35 million grant to the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) to create an Omics and Precision Agriculture Laboratory (OPAL) are part of what will be a $15.5-million investment in these signature areas of U of S.

“With the impact of climate change becoming starkly clear, food security and water security have emerged as key imperatives. The crucial federal investment toward these new state-of-the-art facilities will support cutting-edge research that will build a sustainable water future for Canada and help feed a hungry world,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad.

As researchers strive to mitigate environmental and water-related threats, the new lab will transform observation and data collection by using all-weather drones and developing new technology to track and measure water resources in cold regions that cover much of Canada.

TextVideo/ sensors are used for extensive research by Global Water Futures to determine water levels, snowpacks, vegetation types, runoff, meltwaters and much more.Above content

“With this major investment, the  U of S is developing some of the most advanced snow and water sensors in the world, and will use these sensors and Saskatchewan-made drones to bring Canada to the forefront of cold region water science and prediction,” said Global Water Futures Director John Pomeroy.

"The ability to fly more and larger platforms with more accurate and different sensors across Western Canada has the potential to transform our understanding of hydrological processes in this region," said Phillip Harder, a PhD candidate at the U of S Centre for Hydrology. "This is a very exciting opportunity for students who want to be on the forefront of the science that guides water management in western Canada."

OPAL will deliver innovative changes to agriculture through precise management of crop inputs such as water, fertilizer and chemicals at the right timer in the right place in a sustainable way to maximize yields.

“With the global population expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, Canada’s agriculture will be critical to world food security,” said GIFS Executive Director Maurice Moloney.

“We are grateful to the federal government for partnering with us on developing this major initiative that will greatly improve our ability to digitize plant traits. Using computational data and analysis enabled by this investment, we will dramatically enhance plant breeding in major Canadian crops.”

Tanner Dowhy, a graduate student involved in OPAL who analyzes massive data sets in order to identify root-associated microbes linked to crop performance, said this "funding presents an exciting opportunity for students from a range of disciplines to further contribute to the field of Omics and Precision Agriculture."

TextImage/images/2017/sarah-nickel-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/sarah-nickel-headshot.jpgnewssarah-nickel-headshot.jpgsarah-nickel-headshot.jpgSarah Nickel is an Indigenous studies professor and a recipient of a SSHRC Insight grant.Align right

The 15 Insight and Insight Development Grants awarded by SSHRC cover the gamut of research, including:

  • The impact of socio-economic, geographical and cultural factors on household food insecurity of Syrian refugees in Canada
  • Political involvement and activism of Indigenous women in Canada’s West
  • Creating consumer-oriented value in genetically modified foods and exploring consumer attitudes and willingness to pay

“The investment in social sciences and humanities research affirms the valuable contribution our researchers make in influencing public policies and helping Canadians to understand each other and our communities,” said Chad.

u-of-s-led-project-will-use-biowaste-technology-to-clean-up-polluted-soiltrue1547743704451pey849U of S-led project will use biowaste technology to clean up polluted soilUniversity of Saskatchewan soil researchers have been awarded $750,000 in federal funding to develop a next-generation method of removing spilled petroleum pollutants within the soil at former gas stations by using converted biowaste from cattle processing plants.University CommunicationsCollege of Agriculture and Bioresources, Derek Peak, Steven Siciliano1493737680000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-led-project-will-use-biowaste-technology-to-clean-up-polluted-soilnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-led-project-will-use-biowaste-technology-to-clean-up-polluted-soilimj1291547626213679imj1291547626213679show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/derek-peak.jpgsite://news/images/2017/derek-peak.jpgnewsderek-peak.jpgderek-peak.jpgSoil scientist Derek PeakNoNoneNo/
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Soil scientists Derek Peak and Steven Siciliano and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) professor Paolo Mussone will work with industry partners Federated Cooperatives Limited (FCL) and United Farmers of Alberta Co-operative Limited (UFA) to develop and test new soil additives that can trap and remove petroleum hydrocarbons for easier digestion by soil-based organisms.

“We’re developing new phosphorous-rich materials to help bacteria and fungi in the ground consume hydrocarbon pollutants,” said Peak, the lead investigator. “These materials will enable us to treat contaminated soil right at the site rather than excavating the soil to process it. This could cut remediation costs in half.”

With more than 30,000 contaminated gas station sites in Canada, halving remediation costs represents a total potential savings of approximately $7.5 billion.

The project is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) through its College-University Idea to Innovation (CU-I2I) grant. This funding category supports development of promising technology from academia and promotes its transfer to industry. FCL and UFA are jointly providing an additional $75,000 cash and $337,500 in-kind contribution. 

“This exciting partnership will leverage university, college and industrial expertise to create sustainable solutions for managing environmental impacts,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad. “It will also train young student innovators in the use of cutting-edge research tools for the new clean tech economy.”

The funding will support three years of research to make new compounds at NAIT, evaluate them at U of S laboratories and the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, and then pilot-test the soil additives at two sites in Stony Plain, Alta. 

In a system akin to a giant pressure cooker, using relatively little energy and in only a few hours, waste materials from a cattle processing plant are converted into a water-based, nutrient-rich material which can be injected into the soil to aid bacteria and fungi in breaking down petrochemicals.

“Remedial approaches have real and measurable sustainability benefits over traditional excavation-based approaches,” said Kris Bradshaw, FCL’s impacted sites manager, whose team currently manages more than 1,000 impacted sites. “This research will ultimately help us and others manage the vast array of impacted sites in Canada and around the world.”

The innovative project will also create a training partnership program between the U of S and NAIT: two U of S PhD students will serve as mentors to NAIT students and U of S students will have the opportunity to work with highly specialized tools at NAIT.

“Through our participation with SIRCA (Sustainable In-Situ Remediation Co-operative Alliance), UFA is excited to work with other industry cooperatives, the academic community and the government,” said Sherry Johnston, UFA’s vice-president of integrated services. “We support research that will improve remediation processes and help us implement more innovative, sustainable solutions for the sites across our network.”

Researchers from the U of S were awarded two previous NSERC CU-I2I grants, partnering with Yukon College in 2012 and Saskatchewan Polytechnic in 2013.
the-value-of-sunteptrue1547743704451pey849The value of SUNTEPA new report by a University of Saskatchewan professor states that an Aboriginal teaching program held through the College of Education provides immense benefit to the province.University CommunicationsCollege of Education, Aboriginal1506625680000/articles/research/2017/the-value-of-suntepnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/the-value-of-suntepimj1291547626214502imj1291547626214502show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/education-pins.jpgsite://news/images/2017/education-pins.jpgnewseducation-pins.jpgeducation-pins.jpgYesNoneNo/
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The report by economics professor Eric Howe examines the social and economic benefit of the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP), a partnership program between the U of S and the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI).

SUNTEP: An Investment in Saskatchewan’s Prosperity, shows that education is a path out of poverty for Indigenous people. And, as the Indigenous population continues to grow rapidly, the path which avoids a future of poverty for Saskatchewan is, in two words, Indigenous education.

The report identifies the benefits of having Indigenous teachers in Saskatchewan schools. For example, Indigenous teachers present all students with a positive representation, which can be extremely valuable in a context where the media stories frequently involve the negative. 

Howe also examines the benefit to Saskatchewan if the province’s Indigenous residents had the same average level of educational attainment as that of their non-Indigenous counterparts. Computing the breakdown in the benefit by credential, the report shows that the largest payoff is for a university degree, such as SUNTEP. Howe notes that the payoff to Saskatchewan of just raising the number of terminal Indigenous high school diplomas to be the same proportion as for the non-Indigenous population is $21.9 billion. This alone is equal to more than a quarter of the highest value of provincial gross domestic product recorded in Saskatchewan’s history.

GDI was incorporated in 1980 to serve the educational and cultural needs of Saskatchewan’s Métis community. Through partnerships with various post-secondary institutions in Saskatchewan, it offers a variety of accredited educational, vocational and skills-training opportunities to the Métis across Saskatchewan. 

Read more at the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

research-finds-palm-trees-once-thrived-in-albertatrue1547743704451pey849Research finds palm trees once thrived in AlbertaA fossil found southwest of Edmonton has U of S graduate student Christopher West questioning Canada’s climate past.Jennifer Thomagradresearch, students1485272280000/articles/research/2017/research-finds-palm-trees-once-thrived-in-albertanewssite://news/articles/research/2017/research-finds-palm-trees-once-thrived-in-albertaimj1291547626255945imj1291547626255945show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/david-greenwood.jpgsite://news/images/2017/david-greenwood.jpgnewsdavid-greenwood.jpgdavid-greenwood.jpgTypically associated with warmer climates, the discovery of palm leaves in Alberta means that the plant once thrived in the prairie province.NoNoneNo/
TextImage/images/2017/chris-k-west.jpgsite://news/images/2017/chris-k-west.jpgnewschris-k-west.jpgchris-k-west.jpgChristopher K. West, a U of S PhD studentAlign left

The new discovery of a small palm-leaf fossils came while West's supervisor, David Greenwood from Brandon University (pictured above), was searching through other fossil plant collections at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta. Palms are typically linked to warm, tropical climates so this fossil is telling us that palms grew much farther north than previously thought.

"Paleocene palm fossils were always missing in Canada," West told CBC News, "and this research helps to fill in some of the gaps in the palm fossil record."

Read more at CBC.

ancient-spinal-injury-a-story-of-survivaltrue1547743704451pey849Ancient spinal injury: A story of survivalIt was a single fragment of bone, but to Angela Lieverse, it told an 8,000-year-old tale of violence and compassion.Chris PutnamCollege of Arts and Science, Angela Lieverse1502462100000/articles/research/2017/ancient-spinal-injury-a-story-of-survivalnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/ancient-spinal-injury-a-story-of-survivalimj1291547626260222imj1291547626260222show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/arrowhead.jpgsite://news/images/2017/arrowhead.jpgnewsarrowhead.jpgarrowhead.jpgA high-resolution photograph shows an arrowhead piercing a vertebra of 25-to-35-year-old man, a member of an Early Neolithic hunter-gatherer community, who lived 8,000 years ago (submitted photo).YesNoneNo/
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In the latest issue of the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Lieverse and her co-authors reported a pre-modern medical miracle: the first recorded archaeological case of an individual surviving a penetrating spinal injury.

“This injury would be pretty much a death sentence if it happened today and you couldn’t get to a hospital,” said Lieverse, a faculty member and head of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. “So if we go back in time 8,000 years, which is when this individual lived, it’s nothing short of remarkable that he didn’t die immediately.”

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During a recent trip to Russia, Lieverse encountered a piece of a vertebra from the lower back of a 25-to-35-year-old man, a member of an Early Neolithic hunter-gatherer community in what is now Siberia. Along with the rest of the man’s incomplete remains, it had been excavated years earlier from an ancient cemetery by one of Lieverse’s collaborators from Irkutsk State University in Russia.

Embedded deep within the vertebra was a stone arrowhead. The man, it seemed, had been shot in the back while fleeing an assailant.

Similar injuries have been documented in the past by archaeologists, but incredibly, the bone in this case had almost entirely healed around the projectile. Lieverse, who specializes in human remains, recognized the significance immediately: this individual must have survived for months after his cata- strophic injury.

The bone was shipped to the University of Saskatchewan, where Lieverse brought it to David Cooper, Canada Research Chair in Synchrotron Bone Imaging and a faculty member in the College of Medicine’s Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. Cooper performed micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) imaging on the fragment.

“With the micro-CT we were able to look deeply into the bone and see how it had healed and remodeled around the projectile point,” said Lieverse.

They concluded that the owner of the vertebra had survived for a year or even longer after his injury.

The healing process would not have been easy. Damage to this part of the spinal cord would not have paralyzed the victim, but he must have suffered persistent pain, weakness and infection. He would also have required extensive care, both immediate and long-term, noted Lieverse.

“That’s really interesting, too,” Lieverse said. “It shows remarkable evidence of compassion by his community members to keep him alive and fed and to get him to safety after the injury.”

That compassion extended beyond his death. When the man eventually died—whether from complications from his injury or from an unrelated cause is impossible to say—he was buried no differently than the other members of his community. He was placed on his back, his head facing west, and richly surrounded with tools and ornaments.

“It shows that he was not given any particularly different status because of his injury,” Lieverse said. “He was buried for who he had been his whole life and not for the possibly disabled person he may have been in that last year.”

The archaeologist believes it is a case that challenges the simplistic views some of us have about pre-modern people.

“I think it tells you that people were valued even in the distant past for lots of things, not just their physical prowess, or their reproductive ability or whatever you might think,” said Lieverse. “It’s quite a lot more nuanced than that.”


Chris Putnam is a communications officer in the College of Arts and Science.

cyclotron-helps-reduce-wait-times-for-patientstrue1547743704451pey849Cyclotron helps reduce wait times for patientsA year ago, Royal University Hospital (RUH) patients scheduled for medical scans to detect cancer cells sometimes waited as long as seven weeks.HenryTye GlazebrookSylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation1502465400000/articles/research/2017/cyclotron-helps-reduce-wait-times-for-patientsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/cyclotron-helps-reduce-wait-times-for-patientsimj1291547626265897imj1291547626265897show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/ghislain-boudreault.jpgsite://news/images/2017/ghislain-boudreault.jpgnewsghislain-boudreault.jpgghislain-boudreault.jpgGhislain Boudreault, facility manager for the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron SciencesNoNoneNo/
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Today, with radioisotopes being produced locally at the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences at the U of S since June of last year, wait times on average have been reduced to as little as one week. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall made the announcement during a visit to the facility on July 10.

For some, that reduction in wait time can remove an unbearable stress from their shoulders much earlier than would otherwise be possible. For others, it can mean a welcome boost in a dire fight for survival.

“The sooner you can find out about cancer the better you can treat it and the better chance you have to save the patient’s life,” said Ghislain Boudreault, facility manager for the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences. “That’s what makes the whole thing relevant. Cancer is always a matter of time. If you detect it too late, the patient will die. But if you can detect it very, very early, now you have a more hopeful chance to save the patient’s life.

TextPullquoteYou cannot produce [radiopharmaceuticals], store them and then use them in two weeks. If you need it today, you’re producing it today, because by the end of the day there’s nothing left.Ghislain Boudreault/Align left

The Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, operated by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation, has been the primary producer of radiopharmaceuticals to RUH since June of last year, drastically reducing the distance between use and production compared to their previous out-of-province supplier of radioisotopes. Given the shelf life of radiopharmaceuticals, said Boudreault, that difference can be critical.

“Radiopharmaceuticals are radioactive compounds, so they decay over time,” he said. “You cannot produce them, store them and then use them in two weeks. If you need it today, you’re producing it today, because by the end of the day there’s nothing left.”

The radiopharmaceuticals make very early cancer detection possible due to its chemical buildup, the sugary foundation of which is drawn in by the high metabolic rate of cancer cells. The process creates a bright spot of radiation on reconstructed images as the radioactive sugar compound taken up by the tumor cells, which can easily be seen on medical scans.

“It’s all about metabolism,” Boudreault said, adding that the technique can be similarly used— albeit with different radiopharmaceuticals—to study brain activity and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “You don’t need to wait until the tumour is big to detect it. As soon as it starts growing and the metabolism has changed, you can detect it.”

Boudreault is happy the facility has been able to help bring wait times down for patients. He is also proud of their other accomplishments, including passing inspections, obtaining licensing, marketing, and recently bringing on Calgary Foothills Medical Centre as another client for back-up supply of radiopharmaceuticals.

“It is an excellent sign that we are doing really, really well,” he said. “We have a great team and a great facility, and we can get the best out of it. I can tell all the researchers and fundraisers are confident that we can do more.”
reducing-mozambique-maternal-mortality-ratestrue1547743704451pey849Reducing Mozambique maternal mortality ratesUniversity of Saskatchewan researchers will be working with partners on the front lines in Mozambique’s health sector on a comprehensive five-year project to reduce the African country’s maternal mortality rate that is 70 times higher than Canada’s.Sarath PeirisSchool of Public Health, international, Nazeem Muhajarine1502465580000/articles/research/2017/reducing-mozambique-maternal-mortality-ratesnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/reducing-mozambique-maternal-mortality-ratesimj1291547626266917imj1291547626266917show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/jessie-forsyth.jpgsite://news/images/2017/jessie-forsyth.jpgnewsjessie-forsyth.jpgjessie-forsyth.jpgGender specialist Jessie Forsyth (left) helps lead a women’s group discussion in Mozambique (submitted photo).NoNoneNo/
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The $16.6-million research and training project, funded by Global Affairs Canada, aims to improve health services for women, tackle gender barriers that prevent them from accessing effective care, train more than 1,000 health professionals, and invest in medical facilities and equipment.

“This major investment by the Canadian government recognizes the University of Saskatchewan’s two decades of success in Mozambique,” said U of S epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine, principal investigator, and director of the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit.

“We hope to build on this success and leverage the relationships that we have nurtured, in this new project. We are adopting a community-based, family-supportive and women-enabling approach to reduce deaths during childbirth and improve infant health outcomes.”

Muhajarine and project director Denise Kouri lead a team that includes university researchers and community development leaders from Saskatoon.

About 25 U of S undergraduates and graduate students—in medicine, nursing, nutrition and physiotherapy—will participate in the project, working on-site with Mozambican staff or helping with evaluations and research.

“This transformative initiative addresses a great tragedy and demonstrates our university’s ongoing commitment to global citizenship and international community service,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad. “This community-engaged project will also provide an extremely valuable international learning experience for our students.”

The project builds on the university’s 20-year partnership with Mozambique in Inhambane province on the southern coast, and aims to improve conditions under which women give birth in 20 targeted rural communities in five health districts.

“The key to this project is that it considers community and family factors in women’s lives, as well as medical factors,” said Kouri.

The strategy involves empowering women by providing them financing to establish small-scale economic projects, such as grinding flour and raising chickens, giving them more influence in family decisions.

District hospitals will receive three new ambulances, with 20 off-road vehicles retrofitted as community mini-ambulances. As well, five small maternal clinics will be built in rural areas, with another five refurbished. Ten new “waiting houses” will enable women nearing their due date to be re-located close to a hospital.

Close to a dozen staff members and five community workers in rural areas will be hired to educate people about gender equity and women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The plan calls for training more than 1,000 new health care workers—about half of them maternal and child health nurses, along with preventive medicine technicians and nutritionists—and providing practitioners with improved technical skills to better respond to women’s needs.

A key aspect of Muhajarine’s research is a study of near-fatalities related to complications involving pregnancy and childbirth. The study will help researchers understand the capacity and functioning of the medical and social systems associated with maternal care, and develop measures to reduce maternal deaths.

Muhajarine will travel to Mozambique two or three times a year, while Kouri will be there for several months a year, and gender specialist Jessie Forsyth will be in Inhambane for about eight months. Meanwhile, U of S pediatrics specialist Mahli Brindamour, who was involved with projects there in 2010, will return next year to provide continuing professional education to front-line hospital staff, while Dr. Eddie Rook of the College of Medicine will host workshops in community health clinics.

Brindamour has seen language communication issues involving hospital staff and patients, while a strongly hierarchical hospital system intimidates patients, who often aren’t treated well. While these are barriers to reducing maternal mortality rates, Brindamour considers the challenge well worth the effort.

“This project is what global health should be all about.”


Sarath Peiris is a communications contributor to the U of S Research Profile and Impact unit.

u-of-s,-nasa-team-up-on-global-water-surveytrue1547743704451pey849U of S, NASA team up on global water surveyPardon the pun, but Canada is practically overflowing with freshwater.HenryTye GlazebrookGlobal Institute for Water Security, international1502465760000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s,-nasa-team-up-on-global-water-surveynewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s,-nasa-team-up-on-global-water-surveyimj1291547626268148imj1291547626268148show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/swot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/swot.jpgnewsswot.jpgswot.jpgYesNoneNo/
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And, believe it or not, that abundance causes problems for water researchers.

“Canada is blessed with more freshwater than anywhere else in the world, but there’s no way you can put sensors in to monitor everything,” said Al Pietroniro, executive director of National Hydrological Services, an adjunct professor with the University of Saskatchewan and member of the Centre for Hydrology. “It’s too big.”

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It’s this exact issue that SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) is aimed at solving. The term refers to a satellite scheduled to launch in 2021 by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA). SWOT will be capable of measuring surface elevations of any water body large enough for its sensors to collect data on, including the vast majority of Canada’s seemingly infinite northern lakes and rivers.

Water surface elevation is relatively simple information to collect, requiring only limited tools and small teams to venture out to a site and gather measurements. The problem, however, is the time and costs required to make such trips feasible over Canada’s vast landscape. SWOT, if successful, will blow the doors open on the breadth of available data.

“All of a sudden, data that’s only accessible on a three or five or 10-day basis at a few locations is now available immediately and everywhere, and it’s pretty cost effective in that the satellite would already be up,” Pietroniro said. “That changes, from an operational perspective, what you would actually be looking at. It changes what you’d be offering as a service to Canadians.”

The project entered its first phase of calibration and validation on July 7, which involved a series of sites chosen around the globe at which partner institutions have set up teams and equipment to collect data that can be measured against numbers taken from flyover airplanes (AirSWOT)—designed to mimic eventual SWOT data sourcing—in order to cross reference accuracy.

“There’s not a lot of data sitting out there, and so these calibration sites are designed for us to find out what the best way to make sure the satellite is seeing what it’s supposed to see and measuring exactly as it’s supposed to be measuring,” Pietroniro said.

The U of S—one among a list of collaborators which includes NASA and the NASA Above Programme, Canadian Space Agency, Centre national d’études spatiales, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Environment and Climate Change Canada, University of North Carolina, University of California Los Angeles and other researchers—has established data collection sites along the North Saskatchewan River, in Redberry Lake and the St. Denis National Wildlife Area.

Pietroniro, referring to the North Saskatchewan River site as one of the project’s “key global sites,” said the U of S is uniquely positioned to be a leader during the initiative thanks to its robust water research programs, including the Global Institute for Water Security, Global Water Futures and three American Geophysical Union Fellows in Howard Wheater, Jeff McDonnell and John Pomeroy.

“The U of S has peaked at this point with John and Howard and Jeff as examples, and there’s a lot more people with the Toxicology Centre and SENS (the School of Environment and Sustainability), to name a few,” he said. “They’re not only probably the most influential water resources group in Canada, they’re globally probably the most influential as well.”

The SWOT project is still in early stages, but already Pietroniro is excited about the potential applications on everything from ephemeral prairie sloughs to permafrost level calculations and water balance calculations once all the kinks are worked out and it launches in earnest.

“Every reservoir in North America is going to be measurable, all the big ones, and most of the lakes and rivers,” he said. “How does that change how we deal with water management in this country? That data’s really not always available, so that changes so much in terms of what we’re doing.

“I don’t like using the phrase lightly, but I think it is a paradigm shift. It has the potential to really change how we can manage water in this country.”
thirst-for-solutionstrue1547743704451pey849Thirst for solutionsSome of Canada’s most serious water-related challenges have prompted a number of new national projects led by University of Saskatchewan researchers.Chris MorinGlobal Water Futures, Global Institute for Water Security, Howard Wheater1502465940000/articles/research/2017/thirst-for-solutionsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/thirst-for-solutionsimj1291547626269815imj1291547626269815show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/water-background.jpgsite://news/images/2017/water-background.jpgnewswater-background.jpgwater-background.jpgYesNoneNo/
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We are in an era of profound change when it comes to water management, and unless these issues are addressed immediately, experts say things are only going to get worse.

That’s where the Global Water Futures program, led by Howard Wheater, U of S Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security and director of the Global Institute for Water Security, comes in.

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“The hydrology of Canada is bound with our cold, which is comprised of ice, snow and frozen soils. And that hydrology is seeing drastic changes,” said Wheater. “One sign of this change is the Rocky Mountain glaciers are rapidly declining and will be mostly gone by end of century.

“In addition to the permafrost thaw changing the landscapes in the north—which is impacting industrial development and community access—Canada is facing significant financial losses from related issues such as floods and droughts.”

That’s why the U of S-led Global Water Futures (GWF) program is currently funding 11 initial research projects across Canada totaling nearly $16.2 million over the next three years to tackle some of Canada’s most pressing water-related challenges.

This latest announcement in June follows last year’s initial funding of $77.8 million for the GWF project—the largest university-led water research program ever funded worldwide and the most sizeable award ever granted to the U of S.

TextPullquoteThe world is looking to us with considerable interest to help solve these issues.Howard Wheater/Align right

While the results of the program, including four of the initial projects led by members at the U of S, are yet to come, Wheater is already anticipating a number of developments that will address these water management issues.

“We are developing a number of tools that will help improve flood forecasting and predict algal blooms,” said Wheater. “We are also working on a new app that is geared towards users reporting extreme events with more efficiency.”

With 106 researchers from 15 Canadian universities involved in the 11 projects, Wheater stressed that the water management issues happening close to home ultimately extend far beyond our own campus borders.

“The world is looking to us with considerable interest to help solve these issues,” he said. “Water is fundamental to the quality of life and drinking water is at the most basic issues of health for everyone.

“These are big societal challenges we face, and we need to address them as soon as possible.
paris-climate-accord-trumps-u.s.-withdrawaltrue1547743704451pey849Paris Climate Accord trumps U.S. withdrawalOn June 1, President Donald Trump announced plans to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, a decision that critics have said could lead to harsh consequences for communities relying on a federal move toward climate change mitigation.HenryTye GlazebrookSchool of Environment and Sustainability, Greg Poelzer, Phil Loring1502466360000/articles/research/2017/paris-climate-accord-trumps-u.s.-withdrawalnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/paris-climate-accord-trumps-u.s.-withdrawalimj1291547626272430imj1291547626272430show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/climate-change.jpgsite://news/images/2017/climate-change.jpgnewsclimate-change.jpgclimate-change.jpgYesNoneNo/
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But if you ask Philip Loring, an associate professor with the University of Saskatchewan School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS), some of those consequences have already come to pass.

Loring does much of his work with local communities in Alaska, where he’s witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change—everything from water treatment centres overwhelmed by silt from melting permafrost to coastal populations pulling up stakes and moving inland to keep from washing away with rising tides.

TextImage/images/2017/phil-loring-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/phil-loring-headshot.jpgnewsphil-loring-headshot.jpgphil-loring-headshot.jpgLoringAlign left

“You go to communities where permafrost is thawing out from under the water treatment facility and you see a crack in the floor from one side of the building to another,” Loring said.

“The ground is changing, and what was once permafrost is not anymore. That can happen underneath water and wastewater mains that are above ground in a lot of these communities, and the pipes sink.”

Built within the framework of the United Nations and signed by 194 of its 196 members, the Paris Climate Accord is a globe-spanning agreement aimed at holding the worldwide increase in temperature at two degrees celsius by tackling issues of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

The accord, which is also designed to ease adaptation to changing climates and alleviate financial issues created therein, is both wholly voluntary and structured so as to create more substantial goals for more developed regions such as Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Despite involvement being left up to each country’s own discretion, researchers like Loring are already concerned with how movement away from the Paris Climate Accord could affect issues of federal funding for institutions like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which issues grants to areas already facing direct consequences of climate change.

“There are communities in coastal Alaska that are just not going to be livable because of erosion and there are lots of communities in coastal Alaska that are going to see dramatic changes, whether they like it or not, because of that warming,” he said.

“The EPA grants help rural communities adapt to climate change, so pulling those is where you’re going to see the change in administration at the federal level impact what people are doing on the local level to deal with climate change. They’re very cash-strapped already, they rely heavily on these small federal grants that may not continue.”

TextImage/images/2017/greg-poelzer-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/greg-poelzer-headshot.jpgnewsgreg-poelzer-headshot.jpggreg-poelzer-headshot.jpgPoelzerAlign left

Despite sharing concerns over federal funding both to communities and to researchers, fellow SENS professor Greg Poelzer emphasized that the most important decisions concerning investments in renewables are already moving forward at the state level—even in many “red” states which voted heavily in favour of Trump’s policy agenda.

“Texas has the largest wind farms outside of California,” he said. “Most energy in South Dakota comes from renewable sources. Alaska has the largest penetration of renewable energy in off-grid communities of any jurisdiction in the world.”

The result, Poelzer continued, is a world already moving toward a future of renewable energy—both through state action and privatized companies chasing market trends— regardless of whether or not federal policy follows suit.

“We have crossed the tipping point on the economic viability of wind and solar, and hydro is very cost effective long term—notwithstanding the very significant upfront capital costs for hydro,” Poelzer said.

“The price and abundance of shale gas was the death knell for coal as a future source of energy production.”

profile-pictures-worth-a-thousand-wordstrue1547743704451pey849Profile pictures worth a thousand wordsFor most people, using Tinder at work is a no-no.Lesley PorterDepartment of Psychology, gradresearch1502466600000/articles/research/2017/profile-pictures-worth-a-thousand-wordsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/profile-pictures-worth-a-thousand-wordsimj1291547626273400imj1291547626273400show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/jennifer-sedgewick.jpgsite://news/images/2017/jennifer-sedgewick.jpgnewsjennifer-sedgewick.jpgjennifer-sedgewick.jpgJennifer Sedgewick is master's student in the Department of Psychology.NoNoneNo/
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For Jennifer Sedgewick, a master’s student in the Department of Psychology at the U of S, it was a summer research project that yielded some interesting results in how men and women portray themselves on dating sites.

Sedgewick works in Lorin Elias’ human neuropsychology lab, which examines how differences between brain hemispheres contribute to lateral biases in perception and attention. She was curious as to how people perceived men and women as attractive on dating apps such as Tinder.

Her research, she explained, is grounded in a psychological theory called conceptual metaphors, which denotes that how people understand metaphors is how they act in real life.

“For example, if you are trying to convey power, you would try to convey yourself to be taller or show other people as subordinate,” she said.

Sedgewick found this theme prevalent in how men and women vertically represented themselves in selfie-style photos. She collected her data last summer, analyzing over 900 profile photos from the app. After parsing the selfies from the non-selfies, she found some distinct gender differences in the selfie pile.

“Men tended to hold (the phone) from below whereas women were more likely to orient it from above,” she said.

For men, not only does holding the phone from below give the impression of being bigger, but it also pronounces features associated with masculinity, like a bigger jawline and smaller eyes. Women, on the other hand, tended to orient their selfies from above, which makes them appear smaller and manipulates other features associated with femininity, such as bigger eyes.

This pattern is consistent with what the literature would suggest is attractive for men versus women, she explained, as well as with other dating sites where men tend to over-report their height and women under-report their weight.

Additionally, selfies accounted for 90 per cent of women’s profile photos—versus 54 per cent of men’s photos—which would suggest that women are taking and sharing more selfies than men.

“If (men are) taking less selfies, maybe they’re relying on other photos,” said Sedgewick, noting that the men in her study were more likely to use group photos in their Tinder profile. “Or even if they did take selfies, they might not want to send out that image that they are the type that takes selfies.”

The research paper was published in a recent selfies edition of the journal Frontiers in Psychology, and has since been disseminated and shared widely on news sites around the world.

Sedgewick’s interest in this type of social psychology research piqued while completing her undergraduate degree, when she took classes from Elias—now her graduate supervisor—on laterality and how that translates to real life behaviour. Her master’s thesis examines the directional bias in lateral kissing behaviours.

“It’s hard to not be interested in things you do every day, especially with behaviours like kissing or even when viewing works of art,” she said. “You don’t always think about things like that.”
new-technique-looks-at-lead-in-old-bonestrue1547743704451pey849New technique looks at lead in old bonesSanjukta Choudhury is helping synchrotron researchers reveal in unprecedented detail the “unseen worlds” within their samples.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, Canadian Lightsource Synchrotron, international1498231140000/articles/research/2017/new-technique-looks-at-lead-in-old-bonesnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/new-technique-looks-at-lead-in-old-bonesimj1291547626291900imj1291547626291900show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/sanjukta-choudhury.jpgsite://news/images/2017/sanjukta-choudhury.jpgnewssanjukta-choudhury.jpgsanjukta-choudhury.jpgSanjukta Choudhury studies old bones in unprecedented detail (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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Choudhury, who earned her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan this past fall, is the first to test a new optic device that vastly improves a synchrotron X-ray imaging technique. She has shown that the device can advance research ranging from the study of ancient artifacts and bones to the analysis of toxic compounds.

Developed at Cornell University, the device creates highly detailed 3D maps of elements such as lead and selenium, even at the smallest quantities, pinpointing their chemistry and location.

“The spatial resolution is about the width of the strand of a spider silk,” said Ingrid Pickering, U of S Canada Research Chair in molecular environmental science and one of Choudhury’s supervisors. “This is the finest resolution ever achieved with this X-ray imaging technique.”

Choudhury, now a U of S research assistant, has led the device testing at the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron in Chicago on a beamline managed with the U of S Canadian Light Source synchrotron (CLS). The imaging technique will be eventually available at one of the new CLS beamlines currently under construction.

In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Atomic Analytical Spectrometry, Choudhury proved that her research can make a difference in studying why and how archaeological bones contain lead, a toxic element. This could help scientists understand the lifestyle, health and diet of people living in the past.

“With this improved X-ray technique we can tell whether bones have been contaminated with lead after burial or during the person’s lifetime—a well-known problem for archaeologists in the field,” said Choudhury, who was co-supervised by U of S Canada Research Chair Graham George and CLS senior scientist Ian Coulthard.

Choudhury looked at fragile bones from several burial sites and soil conditions including a Royal Naval Hospital cemetery in English Harbour, Antigua. Choudhury’s non-invasive method has the advantage of not cutting or altering samples.

“This is important when the sample is too precious to be damaged,” said Choudhury.

Working with the U of S Toxicology Centre, she has also used the technique on zebrafish to study the possible connection between selenium and visual impairment in fish. Though required in our diet in low quantities, selenium is toxic if exceeding safe concentration levels. But its effects on eyesight are not well studied yet.

Choudhury’s novel 3D images showed a high concentration of selenium in the eye lens of fish which received excessive quantities of selenium. She said this may be the cause of possible cataract development.

This finding, published in Environmental Science & Technology, is a first step that may explain this type of visual impairment in humans. But Choudhury cautions more conclusive research is needed on the effects of selenium.

This research has been funded by NSERC, SSHRC, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canada Research Chairs program, and the Saskatchewan Innovation and Science fund.


Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

images-of-research-2017true1547743704451pey849Images of Research 2017: Voting now openThe Images of Research photography and imaging competition is a way for U of S students, staff, faculty and alumni to showcase their research, scholarly and artistic work.1489681260000/articles/research/2017/images-of-research-2017newssite://news/articles/research/2017/images-of-research-2017imj1291547626312340imj1291547626312340show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/images-of-research-2016.jpgsite://news/images/2017/images-of-research-2016.jpgnewsimages-of-research-2016.jpgimages-of-research-2016.jpgLast year's grand prize-winning photo ("Deep Hanging Out") by Rachel Phillips. YesNoneNo/
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The competition seeks to celebrate those who submit the most visually impressive and clearly described images of U of S research.

Voting is now open in the competition's four categories: From the field; More than meets the eye; Community and impact; and Research in action. Prizes will also be given to the best description, as well as a viewer's choice—chosen by the campus community.

To vote for your favourite photos, visit the Images of Research website

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Research makes society better. For Canada’s 150th birthday, we want to celebrate your research and the impact it has for Canada and the world. 

With the Making a Difference video competition, current U of S students, staff, and faculty were invited to tell their research story and how it benefits Canada—in 60 seconds or less. The most creative, visually engaging and the most popular pitches win prizes.

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To vote for your favourite video, visit the competition website. Voting runs March 18–April 1.

new-8.4-million-saskatchewan-ms-research-chair-announced-at-u-of-strue1547743704451pey849New $8.4 million Saskatchewan MS research chair announcedA new $8.4 million U of S Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research will lead a drive toward a cure for multiple sclerosis (MS).University CommunicationsCollege of Medicine, Michael Levin1485462840000/articles/research/2017/new-8.4-million-saskatchewan-ms-research-chair-announced-at-u-of-snewssite://news/articles/research/2017/new-8.4-million-saskatchewan-ms-research-chair-announced-at-u-of-simj1291547626362232imj1291547626362232show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/michael-levin.jpgsite://news/images/2017/michael-levin.jpgnewsmichael-levin.jpgmichael-levin.jpgDr. Michael Levin will start as the MS research chair this March.NoNoneNo/
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Rates of MS, a debilitating disease of the central nervous system, are the highest in the world in Saskatchewan and Canada.

To lead the research program focused on identifying causes of MS and developing new or improved treatments, the U of S has recruited renowned MS researcher Dr. Michael Levin, who will take up the position for a seven-year term in March.

“This recruitment is an important step forward in the effort to increase MS research and improve clinical care for Saskatchewan people with MS,” said Saskatoon University MLA Eric Olauson, on behalf of Minister of Health, Jim Reiter. “This fulfils one of the recommendations made by the MS Advisory Panel last February, and helps build momentum for the participation of Saskatchewan people in clinical research.”

TextPullquoteWe will make significant advances in MS by providing world-class care and cutting-edge research, garnering a national and international reputation for excellence.Dr. Michael Levin/Align left

“I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to exploring the causes of MS and the care of people with MS and I am grateful and humbled to be named the inaugural chair,” said Levin, a neurologist and professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center and Laboratory of Viral and Demyelinating Diseases, in Memphis, Tennessee.

“This is a unique opportunity. We will make significant advances in MS by providing world-class care and cutting-edge research, garnering a national and international reputation for excellence.”

Support for the chair is provided by the Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the MS Society of Canada, the U of S Centennial Enhancement Chair program, as well as the U of S College of Medicine and the Saskatoon Health Region.

Levin will lead a team of researchers, clinicians and students that includes Dr. Katherine Knox, whose research focuses on MS and mobility, and Valerie Verge, director of the Cameco Neuroscience Research Centre, whose research focuses on nerve injury and repair mechanisms. Both are U of S College of Medicine researchers.

“The College of Medicine is proud to be leading this critically important partnership initiative in an area of health research so important for Saskatchewan,” said Dr. Preston Smith, dean of medicine. “Our team will engage locally in discoveries to directly benefit the people of our province, where an estimated 3,500 to 3,700 residents live with MS, while also helping to train our young clinician researchers.”

Levin’s research has focused on the relationship between viruses, autoantibodies and acquired DNA mutations as potential causes of multiple sclerosis. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship with a focus on multiple sclerosis at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His medical internship and residency training were completed at the combined New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center program in New York City, where he was chief neurology resident. He obtained his medical degree at Pennsylvania State University.
how-do-canadians-benefit-from-a-public-health-systemtrue1547743704451pey849How do Canadians benefit from a public health system?Many Canadians only hear about the public health system when something is wrong, such as the recent opioid crisis or the SARS outbreak of 2003.University Communicationsgradresearch1511297280000/articles/research/2017/how-do-canadians-benefit-from-a-public-health-systemnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/how-do-canadians-benefit-from-a-public-health-systemimj1291547626910834imj1291547626910834show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/doctors-office.jpgsite://news/images/2017/doctors-office.jpgnewsdoctors-office.jpgdoctors-office.jpgYesNoneNo/
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This, according to U of S graduate student Thilina Bandara in a recent piece on The Conversation, is because that same system "works to prevent health disasters from occurring, while maintaining existing initiatives—such as public health inspections programs, water-quality testing and disease surveillance programs—to ensure our health."

Bandara, a PhD student in community and population health, broke down the jurisdictional responsibilities when it comes to public health, the social determinants of health (such as education and income) and the necessary steps involved with turning real life health data into policy action. 

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Read more at The Conversation.

u-of-s-represented-at-arctic-frontiers-conferencetrue1547743704451pey849U of S represented at Arctic Frontiers conferenceInternational innovation expert Johannes Dyring of the University of Saskatchewan presented at the prestigious 2017 Arctic Frontiers conference this week in Tromsø, Norway.Susan SavinoJohannes Dyring, International Centre for Northern Governance and Development1485528960000/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-represented-at-arctic-frontiers-conferencenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/u-of-s-represented-at-arctic-frontiers-conferenceimj1291547626912773imj1291547626912773show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/johannes-dyring-conference.jpgsite://news/images/2017/johannes-dyring-conference.jpgnewsjohannes-dyring-conference.jpgjohannes-dyring-conference.jpgNoNoneNo/
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Dyring, the managing director of the Industry Liaison Office at the U of S, spoke at an event on behalf of the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development (ICNGD) at the U of S.

His keynote address, "The Role of Science in Arctic Social and Business Development," explained how change and uncertainty provide opportunities for innovation and new thinking for development.

“Opportunities exist globally and it is up to us to explore and turn ideas, resources and knowledge into solutions that benefit all,” Dyring said. “I believe that, particularly in the north, there is unutilized potential to build and shape our future from an innovation point of view. This week, the Arctic Frontiers conference gathered leaders representing a wide range of sectors, who can make a difference in the Arctic and Circumpolar North.”

A panel discussion followed the keynote address, featuring Øyvind Fylling-Jensen (Managing Director of Nofima, Norway), Marina Kalinina (Vice-President Interregional Cooperation - Northern Arctic Federal University, Russia), Gisle Nondal (R&D Manager, Global Centres of Expertise, GCE Subsea, Norway) and Jessica Shadian (Nansen Professor University of Akureyri and Partner, Arctic Advocacy Group).

Dyring joined a distinguished list of conference speakers from a wide range of northern specialists and representatives from academia, policy and business. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, Juha Sipila, Prime Minister of Finland, and Janet King, President of Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, addressed audiences earlier in the week.


About Arctic Frontiers:
Arctic Frontiers is an international conference on sustainable development in the Arctic. Bringing together academia, government and business in an international arena to create a firmer foundation for decision-making and sustainable economic development in the Arctic.

About the ICNGD:
The International Centre for Northern Governance and Development at the University of Saskatchewan concentrates on the Circumpolar North and its relationship to Northern Saskatchewan with an emphasis on innovation and to further research, graduate training, and capacity building around the issues of governance and developmenteconomy, environment, social and healthin partnership with northern and Indigenous communities, industry and government.

solving-the-mysteries-of-lifetrue1547743704451pey849Solving the mysteries of lifeThe Canadian Light Source (CLS) is celebrating two milestones reached by scientists who have conducted research at the national facility at the University of Saskatchewan.Lana HaightCanadian Light Source, College of Medicine1511456040000/articles/research/2017/solving-the-mysteries-of-lifenewssite://news/articles/research/2017/solving-the-mysteries-of-lifeimj1291547626964777imj1291547626964777show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/miroslaw-cygler.jpgsite://news/images/2017/miroslaw-cygler.jpgnewsmiroslaw-cygler.jpgmiroslaw-cygler.jpgMiroslaw Cygler, professor of biochemistry and Canada Research Chair in Molecular Medicine Using Synchrotron LightNoNoneNo/
TextPullquoteFrom the very beginning, one of the missions of the facility was to provide remote service. This is really crucial in both impact and importance to Canadians.Miroslaw Cygler/Align left

Scientists have solved 1,000 protein structures using data collected at CLS’s CMCF beamlines. These have been added to the Protein Data Bank—a collection of structures solved by researchers globally. Researchers have also published 500 scientific papers based on their work using the crystallography beamlines.

Proteins are the building blocks of life and are described as the body’s workhorses. The body is made of trillions of cells. Cells produce proteins, which do the work of breaking down food, sending messages to other cells, and fighting bacteria, viruses and parasites. The discoveries at the CLS range from how the malaria parasite invades red blood cells to why superbugs are resistant to certain antibiotics and how parkin protein mutations result in some types of Parkinson’s disease. Understanding how these and other such proteins work can potentially save millions of lives.

“Each of these protein structures that have been solved at the CLS represents a significant contribution to the global body of knowledge in the areas of biology and biochemistry, advancing health research,” said CEO Rob Lamb.

“We are proud of these milestones, and the hard work and dedication that went into achieving them. Scientists come from all over Canada and around the world to use our state-of-the-art facility supported by fantastic staff scientists.”

Using powerful synchrotron x-ray light, scientists explore human, animal, plant, bacterial, viral and parasitic proteins as well as nucleic acids. After exposing a protein crystal to synchrotron light, the scientists are able to use the information to produce a 3-D model that shows the positions of the atoms. This structural information provides details about how proteins function and interact. Scientists then use this information to better understand biology, environmental processes, as well as human health and disease. Often, they use the information to develop new pharmaceuticals. 

“These beamlines are a huge boost to the Canadian structural biological community,” said Miroslaw Cygler, U of S professor of biochemistry and Canada Research Chair in Molecular Medicine Using Synchrotron Light. He is also the leader of the CMCF beamline advisory team.

“Every protein crystallography lab in Canada from coast to coast to coast uses this facility to do experiments. Canada is a big country. Travelling is very expensive. From the very beginning, one of the missions of the facility was to provide remote service. This is really crucial in both impact and importance to Canadians,” said Cygler.

Read more at the Canadian Light Source

small-bones-yield-big-results-for-u-of-s-researcher-at-clstrue1547743704451pey849Small bones yield big results for U of S researcher at CLSBones tell a person’s story long after they have passed away and researchers are learning that even the tiniest of bones shouldn’t be overlooked. University CommunicationsCanadian Light Source1498600320000/articles/research/2017/small-bones-yield-big-results-for-u-of-s-researcher-at-clsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/small-bones-yield-big-results-for-u-of-s-researcher-at-clsimj1291547626979688imj1291547626979688show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/janna-andronowski.jpgsite://news/images/2017/janna-andronowski.jpgnewsjanna-andronowski.jpgjanna-andronowski.jpgJanna Andronowski places a bone sample on the Biomedical Imaging and Therapy ID beamline at the Canadian Light Source.NoNoneNo/
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“Bone is a living record,” said Janna Andronowski, post-doctoral and CIHR-THRUST fellow at the University of Saskatchewan.

A person’s biological sex, approximate age and height, and previous health conditions can be determined by examining bones, but DNA, which is also found in bones, can confirm a person’s identity. When skeletal remains are discovered, the common practice is to extract DNA from large leg bones such as the femur or tibia. It’s a practice based on a long-held tradition.

Andronowski, a forensic anthropologist and anatomist, is challenging that tradition based on research she and her team conducted at the Canadian Light Source at the U of S.

Smaller bones, including finger bones, ankle bones and the patella (kneecap), have been shown to provide higher nuclear DNA yield rates compared to the large leg bones, but scientists didn’t know why this was the case. The U of S researchers, using micro-CT scanning to produce 3D images, examined smaller bones to see if visible cellular spaces that house bone cells—called osteocyte lacunae—resulted in the greater nuclear DNA yields. The results surprised them.

“There were microscopic amounts of soft tissue remnants, potentially from bone marrow and bone lining cells, that are likely causing the increase in DNA yields,” said Andronowski.

Without a synchrotron, the researchers would not be able to achieve the resolution required for their research. This was the first application of synchrotron radiation micro-CT imaging to try to answer forensic science questions related to DNA yield.

Andronowski was a researcher at a medical examiner’s office in New York City while she was studying for her master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Toronto. She knows from her experience that working at a crime scene is challenging on many levels.

“If you have a really complex scene where there are multiple individuals, forensic practitioners are out there trying to retrieve samples as quickly, safely and as efficiently as possible,” she said. “It would be a lot simpler to take bones from the finger (if present) with a disposable scalpel than it would be to use a bone saw in the field and take a sample from the femur, which has much denser cortical bone.”

Andronowski presented her team’s findings at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences 69th Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans, in February, and the research was published in the May issue of Forensic Science International: Genetics. Andronowski plans to conduct a follow-up study that will include more samples, but she is hopeful that her research will change the way forensic teams gather evidence.

“At the end of the day, as a forensic anthropologist, I am helping to bring closure to families and to assist law enforcement agencies with the identification process.”


About CLS: The Canadian Light Source is a national research facility located at the University of Saskatchewan. The CLS is of the largest science projects in our country’s history, producing the brightest light in Canada—millions of times brighter than even the sun—used by more than 1,000 scientists from around the world every year in ground-breaking health, environmental, materials and agricultural research.

cystic-fibrosis-scientists-discover-abnormal-response-to-lung-infectionstrue1547743704451pey849Cystic fibrosis scientists discover abnormal response to lung infectionsThe inability to clear bacteria from the lungs is the result of a lack of healthy mucus secreted in the airways of those with cystic fibrosis, according to new research.Lana HaightCanadian Light Source, College of Medicine1507219860000/articles/research/2017/cystic-fibrosis-scientists-discover-abnormal-response-to-lung-infectionsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/cystic-fibrosis-scientists-discover-abnormal-response-to-lung-infectionsimj1291547626988120imj1291547626988120show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/xiaojie-luan-juan-ianowski.jpgsite://news/images/2017/xiaojie-luan-juan-ianowski.jpgnewsxiaojie-luan-juan-ianowski.jpgxiaojie-luan-juan-ianowski.jpgXiaojie "Jay" Luan, PhD student, and Juan Ianowski prepare the sample stage at the BMIT beamline.NoNoneNo/
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“For a very long time, there has been discussion about whether cystic fibrosis was a bacteria-infection problem, an inflammation problem, or an immune system problem,” said Juan Ianowski, the lead author of the paper published today in the prestigious Nature Communications journal.

Ianowski, associate professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Saskatchewan, and a team of 18 researchers have concluded that the genetic mutation that causes cystic fibrosis prevents normal secretion of airway surface liquid including mucus. Using a new imaging technique they developed at the Canadian Light Source, they determined that the production of airway surface liquid in response to bacteria is abnormal, and might lead to a cascade of infection and inflammation in lungs as the incurable disease progresses.

“Most patients are born with healthy lungs and as time passes, they start developing infections and inflammation. The infections are cleared and a new one occurs, and then there is an infection and it’s cleared and a new one occurs. Eventually, the infections are permanent and the bacteria never leave the lungs,” said Ianowski.

Cystic Fibrosis Canada estimates that one in every 3,600 children born in Canada has cystic fibrosis. It is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults, according to the organization’s website.

People with healthy lungs inhale between 5,000 and 14,000 germs every day. These germs are caught in their airways by a sticky mucus with antimicrobial properties that kills the germs. Tiny hairs called cilia then push the germs out of the respiratory tract and the body clears the mucus and the germs.

The hypothesis that people with cystic fibrosis do not have normal production of mucus in response to inhalation of pathogens was developed decades ago, but until now, there was no way to test it.

Ianowski and his team spent seven years developing the synchrotron-based method needed to analyze the production of mucus in a living animal. The normal layer of mucus is as thin as 80 microns. That’s thinner than a strand of hair.

At the Canadian Light Source, they imaged the normal lungs of pigs focusing on the liquid layer, measuring it and analyzing its production.  They also were able to image how the liquid in the airway reacts when bacteria are introduced. Then, they repeated the process with pigs who modeled cystic fibrosis.

“We discovered and showed for the first time ever that the normal airway response to inhalation of pathogens is producing liquid. This is a process that depends on CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) expression. So if you don’t have normal CFTR, it doesn’t work. In CF pigs, this response is absent,” explained Ianowski.

Read more at the Canadian Light Source

cfi-investment-advances-u-of-s-plant-and-medical-imaging-researchtrue1547743704451pey849CFI investment advances plant and medical imaging researchThree U of S early-career researchers have been awarded a total of more than $300,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, for state-of-the-art equipment that will help them excel in leading-edge work related to agriculture and medical imaging.University CommunicationsCollege of Engineering, Canada Foundation for Innovation1502982720000/articles/research/2017/cfi-investment-advances-u-of-s-plant-and-medical-imaging-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/cfi-investment-advances-u-of-s-plant-and-medical-imaging-researchimj1291547626998151imj1291547626998151show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2016/aerial-campus.jpgsite://news/images/2016/aerial-campus.jpgnewsaerial-campus.jpgYesNoneNo/
TextNone/Above contentU of S biologist Chris Ambrose has been awarded $230,700 by the CFI for a super-resolution microscope to pursue fundamental, inquiry-driven research in plant cell biology, a field with broad implications relevant to agriculture and biofuels. Mechanical engineers Emily McWalter and James Johnston have also been awarded $75,300 for testing equipment that could help develop better treatments for osteoarthritis.
TextImage/images/2017/chris-ambrose-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/chris-ambrose-headshot.jpgnewschris-ambrose-headshot.jpgchris-ambrose-headshot.jpgAmbroseAlign left

The two research teams are seeking other public and private funding to match the 40-per-cent CFI contribution, investment that would raise the total combined value of their projects to $765,000.

“This investment enables these exceptional researchers to conduct leading-edge research by giving them the tools and equipment they need to become leaders in their fields,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research. “These awards also recognize the value of collaboration because the equipment supports researchers in a variety of fields at the U of S, who will come together to learn and share the knowledge.”

The super-resolution confocal microscope will be the first of its kind at the U of S and an indispensable tool for researchers in a wide range of areas, from cell biology to biomedicine to agronomy.

TextImage/images/2017/emily-mcwalter-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/emily-mcwalter-headshot.jpgnewsemily-mcwalter-headshot.jpgemily-mcwalter-headshot.jpgMcWalterAlign left

The microscope passes laser light through a pinhole to remove out-of-focus light from a specimen, enabling scientists to obtain thin and sharply defined cross-sections that can be assembled to create three-dimensional images which can be viewed from all angles to inspect the fine details.

For Ambrose and his team, the advanced microscope will provide high-speed imaging of cellular dynamics and tissue development in plants, advancing their innovative research into the plant microtubule cytoskeleton—a dense three-dimensional network inside each cell that controls cell division, enlargement and differentiation. The cytoskeleton is also the key organizer of plant cell walls, which are the primary source of all cellulosic biofuels on the planet.

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McWalter’s and Johnston’s award is for an indentation testing system that will enable precise measurements of tissue strength to advance their research into finding better ways to treat osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that affects one in 10 Canadians. Patients with the disease lose strength in their joints and experience pain, stiffness and loss of mobility.

A barrier to developing treatments is the lack of tools to determine the effectiveness of treatments.

McWalter and Johnston will use MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scans of knee joint tissues (often obtained from patients undergoing knee replacement) and then take the tissue to the lab for strength testing with the new system. They will then compare the strength data to the numerical imaging data to ensure the values correspond.

Researchers and doctors could then work together to develop and evaluate treatments for osteoarthritis, with the objective of restoring joint function to millions of Canadians.

student-improves-licence-plate-recognition-technologytrue1547743704451pey849Student improves licence plate recognition technologyA University of Saskatchewan graduate student is building better licence plate recognition technology to fight crime and improve security.Federica GiannelliYoung Innovators, gradresearch, international, College of Engineering1498749900000/articles/research/2017/student-improves-licence-plate-recognition-technologynewssite://news/articles/research/2017/student-improves-licence-plate-recognition-technologyimj1291547627029266imj1291547627029266show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/juan-yepez.jpgsite://news/images/2017/juan-yepez.jpgnewsjuan-yepez.jpgjuan-yepez.jpgMaster's student Juan Yepez (left) and his supervisor, Seok-Bum Ko, have worked on new software for reading licence plates (photo by David Stobbe).NoNoneNo/
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Juan Yepez has developed a new, faster and more accurate software to improve existing systems that can identify a car’s licence plate by simply analyzing plate images.

Plate recognition technology is becoming more common to enhance security, but current systems are expensive and relatively slow, said Yepez and his supervisor Seok-Bum Ko.

“Our goal is to create affordable software that can be used with any type of camera,” said Yepez, a master’s student in computer engineering. “It could be used for many applications such as automatically finding cars that run red lights, exceed speed limits or enter restricted areas.”

Yepez and Ko’s software uses an improved algorithm, a set of calculations performed by the computer. Their new software can “read” plates almost two and a half times faster than software currently on the market and would be cheaper because it doesn’t require an external image-processing server.

Yepez expects his software will bring down costs considerably. Commercial software costs around $1,000 for a single camera installation and routes the image-processing to servers that cost up to $10,000 for a license.

“Our research can help companies that currently work with licence plate recognition to update their software and develop new devices with the algorithm we designed,” said computer engineering professor Ko.

Yepez used a research database of licence plate images for lab testing. His system was able to “read” 100 per cent of all clear images of licence plates and more than 98 per cent of plates overall—including clear, dirty and blurred ones. This result has never achieved before in research using similar algorithms. 

“The main advantage of our software is that it doesn’t need any special equipment because commercial software need special cameras and a high-speed computer to identify the licence plates,” said Yepez. 

The software could make a difference in helping police track stolen cars. Yepez said with his software, police and parking enforcement can share licence plate information in real time. Since his system doesn’t need any image-processing servers, police would not require additional expensive devices to access parking enforcement servers.

Yepez said he knows how to custom tailor the new software for police needs, but added more research is needed before it hits the market. His next step is to test the software on actual cars in parking lots.

Yepez has always been interested in software for image recognition. He had worked on it in Ecuador, his home country, where he still runs his own business for hardware and system design.

He came to the U of S last year on a scholarship from the Ecuadorian government through CALDO, a consortium of Canadian universities focused on fostering international education.

“I chose Canada because I really believe that it is a good country to be with family and I wanted to do research at this university,” said Yepez. “Canada opened the door to a world of opportunities for me.”

Juan Yepez’s story is captured on YouTube.

TextVideo/ Yepez came to the U of S last year on a scholarship from the Ecuadorian government.Above content

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2017 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

the-buzz-on-neonicotinoidstrue1547743704451pey849The buzz on neonicotinoidsU of S researcher Christy Morrissey spoke with the Toronto Star about two new studies in the journal Science examining the use of pesticides and a declining bee population. University CommunicationsChristy Morrissey, School of Environment and Sustainability1498838220000/articles/research/2017/the-buzz-on-neonicotinoidsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/the-buzz-on-neonicotinoidsimj1291547627063971imj1291547627063971show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/bee-flower.jpgsite://news/images/2017/bee-flower.jpgnewsbee-flower.jpgbee-flower.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Neonicotinoids are the most widely-used pesticides in world. They are also toxic to insects, birds and mammals.

“That’s where the controversy lies,” said Morrissey, an ecotoxicologist and professor with the Department of Biology and School of Environment and Sustainability. “If you look at the lab studies, they’re highly conclusive. Neonicotinoids have a range of affects on all sorts of organisms, both honey bees and wild bees included. But when you start moving out into the field, you get messier responses.”

The Canadian study, led by researchers at York University and conducted in corn fields in Ontario and Quebec, found that the pesticides can hurt the health of Canadian honey bees—leading to higher mortality rates for worker bees and queen bees.

A second European study, which examined three bee species throughout Germany, Hungary and the U.K., had more variable outcomes, largely due to the geography variance, but also tended toward negative effects for bees.

“These are both very strong papers and will certainly have an impact,” Morrissey added.

Read more at the Toronto Star

international-students-explore-u-of-s-with-mitacstrue1547743704451pey849International students explore U of S with MitacsFor many Prairie dwellers, Saskatoon’s winters are a great excuse to escape to balmier climates. But for Mengying Liu, snowdrifts and cool temperatures were actually an attractive reason to come to the University of Saskatchewan.HenryTye GlazebrookWestern College of Veterinary Medicine, international, students, gradresearch1494602640000/articles/research/2017/international-students-explore-u-of-s-with-mitacsnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/international-students-explore-u-of-s-with-mitacsimj1291547627083669imj1291547627083669show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/mengying-liu.jpgsite://news/images/2017/mengying-liu.jpgnewsmengying-liu.jpgmengying-liu.jpgMengying Liu, originally from China, is studying at the U of S with support from Mitacs.NoNoneNo/
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After earning her undergraduate degree at Beijing China Agricultural University, Liu decided she wanted to explore a frostier environment for the next phase of her academic career.

“It’s kind of ridiculous, but I’d heard people saying it can turn to minus 30 or even 40 in the winter (in Saskatoon) and I really wished I could see those piles of snow,” Liu said, laughing.

But weather was only one of many factors, and one that initially had Liu considering programs in the United States, Russia and other countries with wintry climates. But when she learned of the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship program, Liu simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give Saskatchewan a long look.

The program, which started in 2009, sponsors international students in the final year of their undergraduate study to visit Canadian universities and work with researchers in their area of study for three months. There have been 69 students, including Liu, who have come to the U of S with support from Mitacs, getting to know students, faculty and staff while undertaking summer research projects. Another 10 are expected to come to campus this summer.

“It’s a very valuable experience, because that summer (of 2015) I was not only working in the laboratory,” she said. “The Mitacs program is not only recruiting students from China, they are getting people from India, Mexico, and we all live in College Quarter. We had a lot of socializing, work and fun together. The university is a great place to be.”

Liu spent that summer at the U of S working with Susantha Gomis, professor and head of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s veterinary pathology department, on a project identifying bacterial species responsible for chicken embryo mortality in Western Canada.

Gomis spoke very highly of Liu, who has remained on campus at WCVM to pursue a graduate degree in veterinary pathology, with the help of the Mitacs Globalink Graduate Fellowship program. He said that the Globalink program is indispensable for researchers like himself.

“It helps in terms of bringing academically good students from other countries,” Gomis said. “It is essential to have excellent students in order to produce novel, meaningful data in research programs.

“I need to spend lot of time finding good students with known contacts with good reference,” Gomis said. “Mitacs brings good students to your doorstep, so you can judge whether student is capable of doing research within a short period of time.”

The goal, according to Mitacs business development specialist Zsuzsa Papp, is to place a spotlight on Canada as a leader in research and academia.

“Mitacs Globalink seeks to put Canada on the academic map as a compelling, first-rate research and education destination,” she said. “By bringing some of the brightest international minds to Canada, we’re putting our research at the forefront. These students are here to work alongside Canadian students to share knowledge, exchange ideas and offer an international perspective.”

And for students like Liu, the program has made her aware of opportunities in her own life that she had no idea were available.

“I never knew there was such a cool place here, and people here are really friendly, but I didn’t know all that until after I came here for this program,” she said. “I fell in love with this university when I came here.”


The call for 2018 Globalink Research Internship faculty submissions is now open. For more information, visit the Mitacs website.

research-in-reviewtrue1547743704451pey849Research in reviewAs the year of Canada’s 150th anniversary draws to a close, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) is highlighting stories of what prompted Canadian researchers to choose their path.University Communicationsgradresearch, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, School of Public Health, Western College of Veterinary Medicine1511802120000/articles/research/2017/research-in-reviewnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/research-in-reviewimj1291547627103346imj1291547627103346show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/thilina-bandara-arinjay-banerjee.jpgsite://news/images/2017/thilina-bandara-arinjay-banerjee.jpgnewsthilina-bandara-arinjay-banerjee.jpgthilina-bandara-arinjay-banerjee.jpgArinjay Banerjee and Thilina BandaraNoNoneNo/
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Thilina Bandara, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology; and Arinjay Banerjee, Western College of Veterinary Medicine

With guidance from mentors across campus, the two PhD students (pictured above) are working to develop interdisciplinary science workshops, collaborate with international colleagues to understand current public health crises, and to foster their own capacities to conduct high-impact team science to solve the global health issues of tomorrow.


TextImage/images/2017/colleen-dell-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/colleen-dell-headshot.jpgnewscolleen-dell-headshot.jpgcolleen-dell-headshot.jpgDell and (from left) Subie, Anna-Belle and KisbeyAlign left

Colleen Dell, Department of Sociology; School of Public Health

Commonly seen on campus with therapy dogs in tow, Dell uses her canine companions (as well as horses) to help people struggling with addiction on their road to recovery.


TextImage/images/2017/kishor-wasan-headshot.jpgsite://news/images/2017/kishor-wasan-headshot.jpgnewskishor-wasan-headshot.jpgkishor-wasan-headshot.jpgWasanAlign left

Kishor Wasan, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition

In addition to serving as dean of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, Wasan and his team have partnered with Vancouver-based iCo Therapeutics to advance a treatment for leishmaniasis, a parasitic infection transmitted by sandflies.

Read more at CIHR.

nserc-awards-u-of-s-researcher-1.65-million-for-fertilizer-remediation-training-programtrue1547743704451pey849NSERC awards $1.65 million for fertilizer remediation training programSoil researcher Steven Siciliano has been awarded $1.65 million over six years by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) to train a new cadre of scientists in sustainable environmental remediation of fertilizer sites.University CommunicationsNatural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, College of Agriculture and Bioresources1511818980000/articles/research/2017/nserc-awards-u-of-s-researcher-1.65-million-for-fertilizer-remediation-training-programnewssite://news/articles/research/2017/nserc-awards-u-of-s-researcher-1.65-million-for-fertilizer-remediation-training-programimj1291547627113969imj1291547627113969show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/steve-siciliano.jpgsite://news/images/2017/steve-siciliano.jpgnewssteve-siciliano.jpgsteve-siciliano.jpgSicilianoNoNoneNo/
TextPullquoteThe program will focus on ways to minimize the damage, restore ecosystems adversely impacted during fertilizer distribution, and develop cost-effective methods of remediation.Steven Siciliano/Align left

The funding is part of NSERC's Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program. 

“Fertilizer is key to a safe and sustainable food supply,” said Siciliano, NSERC/Co-op Industrial Research Chair in In Situ Remediation and Risk Assessment. “However, the incidental release of fertilizers during distribution can cause environmental damage. The program will focus on ways to minimize the damage, restore ecosystems adversely impacted during fertilizer distribution, and develop cost-effective methods of remediation.”

Including $432,000 in funding from the U of S, $432,000 in internship stipends from four industry partners, and $239,000 from other participating universities, the Sustainable Applied Fertilizer Environment Remediation (SAFER) graduate training program is worth a combined total of about $2.7 million.  

Siciliano has assembled a 10-person team of academic and industry experts in soil science, renewable resources, land and food systems, indigenization, toxicology, fertilizer management, and agriculture for the SAFER program.

“Through this major public-private investment, we will work with industry to address a global problem involving fertilizer distribution that has particular relevance for Western Canada,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research.

“This tremendous collaboration among universities, academic disciplines and industry will train scientists who will safeguard the environment and help industry and communities with cost-effective remediation solutions.”         

In collaboration with the European Union’s International Masters in Applied Ecology (IMEA) program, SAFER will train 29 master’s and 13 PhD students from Western Canada and Europe, providing them with a unique learning opportunity that transcends disciplines and borders.

“The goal of SAFER is to integrate training with addressing the scientific and practical challenges of remediation, and help students transition into research and industry careers,” said Siciliano.

Canadian students will spend nine months in France and Portugal learning about applied ecology before returning to apply their knowledge at home, while some of the best European students have the chance to work in Canada not just at universities but also at paid internships in private sector companies.

The international experience and internships encourage students to develop communication, project management and leadership skills in academic, industrial, and Indigenous settings.

Production, warehousing and transportation of fertilizer can harm the environment if the nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and sulphur are accidentally released. Sustainable remediation of these sites is a pressing agro-economic challenge in Canada and elsewhere, said Siciliano.

Major changes in recent years to environment regulations require companies to clean up fertilizer sites, Siciliano said. Remediation is important because the high concentrations of fertilizer can pollute groundwater. But remediation costs can often surpass $1 million per location, often far exceeding the property value of bulk fertilizer plants, requiring the development of more cost-effective solutions.

The Canadian component of the program includes collaboration among researchers from the U of S and three other universities (University of Alberta, University of Manitoba and University of British Columbia), and private-sector companies — consulting engineering firm Amec Foster Wheeler, Federated Co-operatives Limited Ltd. (FCL), United Farmers of Alberta (UFA), and CHS Inc. Also collaborating is the International Minerals Innovation Institute, jointly funded by industry and government to provide education, research, and training partnerships to support a world-class minerals industry.

FCL, UFA and CHS are founding members of the Sustainable In-situ Remediation Co-operative Alliance (SIRCA), which promotes the development and implementation of sustainable environmental management practices. SIRCA asked Siciliano for help in training professionals in Western Canada who could address fertilizer remediation in ways that take into account the needs of the industry and affected communities.

2018true1547843924627imj1292018/articles/research/2018newssite://news/articles/research/2018imj1291547654859849imj1291547654859849show-in-navNogoing-beyond-the-headlinestrue1547843924627imj129Going beyond the headlinesFrom stories suggesting rural crime is on the rise, to racially charged language on social media, a turbulent year in the news has left many people scratching their heads in disbelief.Jennifer ThomaSocial Sciences Research Laboratories, College of Arts and Science1515771840000/articles/research/2018/going-beyond-the-headlinesnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/going-beyond-the-headlinesimj1291547654860080imj1291547654860080show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/jason-disano.jpgsite://news/images/2018/jason-disano.jpgnewsjason-disano.jpgjason-disano.jpgJason Disano leads the SSRLNoNoneNo/
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Are these stories and headlines, tweets and posts, really how we feel as a province?

After a six-year hiatus, the U of S is once again taking the pulse of Saskatchewan with a new public perceptions survey, in an effort to accurately gauge public opinion on hot-button issues happening in our province.

“This project, Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan, provides an important and unique opportunity to collect real-time data that accurately portrays how Saskatchewan residents feel about a variety of issues,” said Jason Disano, director of the Social Sciences Research Laboratories (SSRL) at the U of S. “We may or may not like the data that is presented, but it is reflective of Saskatchewan residents’ opinions.”

Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan is a comprehensive research survey conducted by the SSRL to document attitudes and opinions on important and controversial issues facing people across the province.

TextPullquoteIt is becoming increasingly important to collect data that is truly representative of the views and opinions of Saskatchewan residents.Jason Disano/Align left

In 2012, it was designed as a telephone survey that took 1,750 respondents approximately 15 minutes to complete and covered a wide range of topics. The revamped project now features an ongoing quarterly survey—with one question—targeting a random, representative sample of 400 Saskatchewan residents.

Undergraduate students hired for the project picked up the phones starting on Dec. 6 and researchers have found individuals are more open and available to participate in the new smaller and shorter survey. It also helps to have the U of S brand backing the survey.

“I think people generally feel more confident and comfortable answering a telephone survey with a U of S student on the other end of the line,” said Disano. “It is reassuring for folks and I believe it is why we have such extremely high response rates to our surveys, when telephone surveys are now increasingly plagued with historically-low response rates.

“It is becoming increasingly important to collect data that is truly representative of the views and opinions of Saskatchewan residents. Taking the Pulse achieves that objective. Because of the quarterly nature of the survey, we can be more responsive to what is happening in and around the province, thereby providing a more timely reflection of what Saskatchewan residents think and feel on a variety of topics and issues.”

The Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post used the new survey data in their Boxing Day editions by presenting it in a way that matters to the Saskatchewan public—telling a story of how residents across the province really feel about a variety of topics, beginning with a question on property crime.

“This (project) is something that is going to continue to grow and snowball over time,” said Disano. “This partnership with Postmedia has created an incredible opportunity and I don’t think there is anything else like it in the country.”

Jennifer Thoma is the media relations specialist in University Relations.

mealworms-may-turn-infected-wheat-into-cashtrue1547843924627imj129Mealworms may turn infected wheat into cashFusarium fungus contamination in wheat caused more than $1 billion in economic losses in Canada in 2016, affecting almost 80 per cent of Saskatchewan and Manitoba cereal crops and leaving farmers scratching their heads on how to dispose of tonnes of worthless wheat.Federica Giannelli1516210980000/articles/research/2018/mealworms-may-turn-infected-wheat-into-cashnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/mealworms-may-turn-infected-wheat-into-cashimj1291547654860248imj1291547654860248show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Carlos Ochoa FINAL 1.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Carlos Ochoa FINAL 1.jpgnewsCarlos Ochoa FINAL 1.jpgCarlos Ochoa (left) and Fiona Buchanan have found use of crawling critters to get rid of salvage wheat (Photo by Christina Weese).NoNoneNo/
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The potential solution discovered by University of Saskatchewan researchers for producers stuck with unsellable fusarium-infected wheat may actually put cash in the farmers’ pockets and open up a new worm-based niche market in the feed industry.

“We want to help producers by making use of grain that is worth nothing and that no one knows how to dispose of safely,” said Fiona Buchanan, animal and poultry science professor.

Buchanan and her master’s student Carlos Ochoa have found that yellow mealworms can eat wheat infected with the fungus, whose mycotoxins are harmful. The worms remain unaffected after eating the grain, regardless of the level of mycotoxins which usually cause vomiting and abdominal pain in humans and affect the growth of livestock.

The fattened mealworms, the offspring of a flightless beetle, could be a new, nutritious source of protein for chickens or fish.

“Yellow mealworms are a safe, more sustainable and cheaper feed, and can eliminate a contaminated product from the environment at the same time,” said Ochoa.

Buchanan added that farmers usually bury or burn the contaminated wheat, but these are not great options. Burying the grain does not eliminate the fungus and it may spread to next year’s crops, and burning it causes pollution, worsening the environmental impact.

Buchanan got the idea of using mealworms for wheat disposal after talking over coffee with a farmer friend, who referred to a small study that showed a few mealworms eating contaminated wheat.

Using 10,000 mealworms, Buchanan and Ochoa proved that, regardless the level of contamination in the wheat the crawlers ate, they always showed only 0.13 parts per million of mycotoxin in their bodies— way below recommended safety levels for animal consumption.

Ochoa, who presented his research at a U.S. conference last summer, said he and Buchanan bought a tonne of contaminated wheat from a farmer, then used a machine to concentrate the mycotoxin levels and fed it to mealworms.

If additional funding becomes available, Buchanan would like to test even higher toxicities to determine the threshold of the mealworms for consuming infected wheat and start trials on chickens by feeding them crawlers grown on contaminated wheat.

The project was funded by the Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund. If all goes well with the research and if the researchers get approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, their goal is to start a company selling worms to chicken farmers in four or five years.

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit.

This article first ran as part of the 2018 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.





province-funds-major-science-research-at-the-university-of-saskatchewantrue1547843924627imj129Province funds major science research at the University of SaskatchewanUniversity of Saskatchewan researchers will have more powerful computing infrastructure thanks to $2.2 million in funding from the Government of Saskatchewan.University CommunicationsCompute Canada, students1516296720000/articles/research/2018/province-funds-major-science-research-at-the-university-of-saskatchewannewssite://news/articles/research/2018/province-funds-major-science-research-at-the-university-of-saskatchewanimj1291547654860404imj1291547654860404show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/funding-Jan18.JPGsite://news/images/2018/funding-Jan18.JPGnewsfunding-Jan18.JPG(L-R) – Kevin Schneider (AVP Research), Nisha Puthiyedth (Post-doctoral fellow), Minister Steven Bonk, Rick Bunt (Compute Canada board member), Minister Herb Cox, MLA Eric Olauson (Saskatoon University), MLA Corey Tochor (Saskatoon Eastview) (Photo: Daniel Hallen)NoNoneNo/
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The funding, committed to the Compute Canada initiative, will offer supports through a wide range of U of S projects including advanced research computing infrastructure, support personnel and services. The funding will be provided through Innovation Saskatchewan’s Innovation and Science Fund, over a five-year period from 2017 to 2022.

The Compute Canada Major Science Initiative 2.0 Project at the University of Saskatchewan will support research initiatives focused on global food security, the Canadian Light Source and other areas. The project is a continuation of a similar program that ran from 2012-2017. Over 480 researchers from Saskatchewan’s universities benefited from Compute Canada’s infrastructure and support services during this period, at an estimated value of $4.9 million to the province.

“From leading-edge research into global food and water security, to the innovative work done on medical beamlines at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, University of Saskatchewan researchers are increasingly harnessing the power of supercomputers in ways that contribute to the provincial economy and to Canadian global competitiveness,” University of Saskatchewan Vice-President of Research Karen Chad said.  “This investment will provide the advanced computing services needed to catapult innovation.”

Compute Canada is funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and from provinces and academic institutions, through established regional partnerships. The CFI will provide matching funding for this current project, while the University of Saskatchewan will contribute $1.1 million.

“Saskatchewan is home to innovative researchers and technical facilities, and we are proud of the remarkable work they do,” Minister Responsible for Innovation Steven Bonk said. “This initiative will provide Saskatchewan researchers with access to supercomputers that support and accelerate research into agriculture, water security and other areas important to the province.”  

Compute Canada operates with a team of over 200 experts who support research teams in a nation-wide network of 37 institutions and partner universities, including the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan. Seven of these experts are located in Saskatchewan.

farm-credit-canada-makes-investment-in-the-future-of-agriculturetrue1547843924627imj129Farm Credit Canada makes investment in the future of agricultureFarm Credit Canada (FCC) has committed $100,000 towards the construction of the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE) – a world-class facility that will unite livestock and forage research, and allow for enhanced teaching and outreach. University CommunicationsLivestock and Forage Centre of Excellence, College of Agriculture and Bioresources1516808640000/articles/research/2018/farm-credit-canada-makes-investment-in-the-future-of-agriculturenewssite://news/articles/research/2018/farm-credit-canada-makes-investment-in-the-future-of-agricultureimj1291547654860564imj1291547654860564show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Janelle-Smith-Forage-Centre.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Janelle-Smith-Forage-Centre.jpgnewsJanelle-Smith-Forage-Centre.jpgJanelle Smith, M.Sc Candidate in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, will be one of the first students to conduct research at the newly constructed LFCE facilities once they open in spring, 2018. NoNoneNo/
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Marty Seymour, FCC’s director of industry and stakeholder relations, said that FCC was eager to support the project, knowing the positive effects the centre will have not only on the cattle and forage sindustries, but on students who will have access to the most advanced facilities and best practices.

“We are proud to invest in projects that support agriculture research and enhance the student experience. This will also help attract the best and the brightest into pursuing an education and future career in agriculture.”

FCC has been supporting agricultural initiatives at the University of Saskatchewan for more than 30 years, supporting student awards, helping to fund the construction of the Rayner Dairy Research and Teaching Facility, and recently provided the necessary funds to refurbish a study area for agriculture students.

Mary Buhr, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, said the support of donors like FCC has been crucial in helping bring the vision of the LFCE to reality.

“When we brought forward the LFCE initiative to Farm Credit Canada, they recognized the potential of these facilities and this centre to benefit the cattle and forage industries, to advance research, to help producers gain access to new innovation and to provide the human capacity and leadership that our industry needs,” Buhr said. “We are grateful for their support.”

FCC’s donation will go towards construction of the livestock and food building at the Clavet site, which will house a meeting room and handling facilities equipped with real-time video capability, allowing in-house and distance education and outreach activities to be conducted.

Two new facilities for the LFCE are expected to be completed in the spring of 2018 and will complement current livestock and forage research sites. The LFCE, a partnership between the U of S, the livestock and forage industries, and the Saskatchewan and federal governments, will unite livestock and forage field laboratories and science labs in a collaborative centre with a total cost of $36 million.

To learn more about the project, visit

improving-saskatchewan-patient-outcomes-with-new-funding-for-patient-oriented-researchtrue1547843924627imj129Research funding to improve patient outcomesBringing ultrasound services to northern Saskatchewan using robots, identifying the support needs for Indigenous cancer patients and their families, and developing resources for families affected by addiction in Prince Albert are just a few of the seven U of S projects that will take a patient-oriented approach in researching several health care challenges currently facing the province.University CommunicationsCollege of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition1517326200000/articles/research/2018/improving-saskatchewan-patient-outcomes-with-new-funding-for-patient-oriented-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/improving-saskatchewan-patient-outcomes-with-new-funding-for-patient-oriented-researchimj1291547654860727imj1291547654860727show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2016/ivar-mendez.pngsite://news/images/2016/ivar-mendez.pngnewsivar-mendez.pngIvar Mendez, head of the Department of Surgery, is one of seven U of S researchers receiving Sprout grants.NoNoneNo/
TextNone/Above contentSaskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF), in partnership with and support of the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR), today announced the recipients of eight Sprout grants for patient-oriented health research. This partnership investment, totalling over $1.2 million, will cultivate research in Saskatchewan to address patient-identified priorities with the goal of growing patient-oriented solutions for the health care system.
As part of Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research led by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, nine provincial partners, including SHRF and SCPOR, are working together to ensure the right patient receives the right intervention at the right time. The eight teams awarded Sprout grants will tackle a range of pressing needs by exploring and testing innovative solutions. 
“This funding is part of SHRF’s commitment to support high impact health research addressing Saskatchewan needs,” said SHRF CEO Patrick Odnokon. “By working collaboratively in teams of patients, researchers, health care providers and health care decision makers, and with the support of SCPOR, we expect these projects will make a difference for what matters most to patients.” 
“This type of collaboration keeps patients at the centre of the research process,” said SCPOR Executive Director Helen Kenyon. “With this approach, these funded teams will make strides towards better care and a better health care system for all Saskatchewan people.” 
Each project was chosen through a competitive, peer-reviewed process that evaluated not only the innovative ideas and the multidisciplinary teams, but how they plan to engage patients throughout their research project and have a tangible impact on patient outcomes. 
The following patient-oriented projects were awarded: 
  • A Collaborative Approach to Comprehensive Screening and Assessment of Fall Risk for Older Adults Across the Continuum of Care in Saskatchewan
    Principal Investigators: Catherine Arnold, University of Saskatchewan and Daphne Kemp, Saskatoon Health Region
  • Bringing Birth Back: Improving Access to Culturally Safe Birth in Saskatchewan
    Principal Investigator: Angela Bowen, University of Saskatchewan
  • Testing the Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a Prophylactic Intervention in the Prevention of Perimenopausal Depression: A Randomized Trial
    Principal Investigator: Jennifer Gordon, University of Regina
  • Sâkipakâwin - Assessing the Support Needs for Saskatchewan Indigenous Cancer Patients and their Families: A Multi-Method Study
    Principal Investigator: Gary Groot, University of Saskatchewan
  • Efficacy of Nordic Walking to Improve Physical Function, Quality of Life and Posture in Women with Osteoporosis, History of Vertebral Fracture or Hyperkyphosis
    Principal Investigator: Saija Kontulainen, University of Saskatchewan
  • Exploring the Needs for and Developing Resources for Families Affected by Addiction in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
    Principal Investigators: Geoffrey Maina and Marcella Ogenchuk, University of Saskatchewan
  • Improving Health Outcomes of Kidney Recipients: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Pre-Transplant Education Intervention
    Principal Investigator: Holly Mansell, University of Saskatchewan
  • Development and Evaluation of a Remote Robotic Ultrasound Clinic Model to Improve Access to Medical Imaging in Rural, Remote and Indigenous Communities
    Principal Investigators: Ivar Mendez and Brent Burbridge, University of Saskatchewan
researchers-identifying-new-markers-for-parkinsons-diseasetrue1547843924627imj129Researchers identifying new markers for Parkinson’s diseaseAn estimated 55,000 Canadians over age 18 have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, characterized by symptoms such as tremors, muscle rigidity and unstable balance.Sarath PeirisCollege of Arts and Science, Department of Chemistry1518029940000/articles/research/2018/researchers-identifying-new-markers-for-parkinsons-diseasenewssite://news/articles/research/2018/researchers-identifying-new-markers-for-parkinsons-diseaseimj1291547654860895imj1291547654860895show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/chris-phenix.jpgsite://news/images/2018/chris-phenix.jpgnewschris-phenix.jpgchris-phenix.jpgChris Phenix (photo by Stealth Media for SHRF)NoNoneNo/
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A diagnosis of the neurodegenerative disease can be tricky, and only fully confirmed by examining a patient’s brain after death. Its symptoms usually emerge only when a significant number of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain are dead.

But now a multidisciplinary team from three provinces, led by University of Saskatchewan researcher Chris Phenix, is studying a way to identify Parkinson’s sooner.

Techniques that specifically detect Parkinson’s earlier mean interventions can begin sooner, especially for young people, and potentially mitigate the loss of neurons.

Using fluorine-18 provided by the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences at the U of S, Phenix’s team is studying an enzyme in the brain whose levels have been found to drop off rapidly and early in Parkinson’s patients. The research could lead to the development of new drugs to treat the disease in its early stages.

That enzyme, known as glucocerebrosidase (GCase), has recently attracted considerable attention from the Parkinson’s research community and been identified as a high priority therapeutic target and diagnostic biomarker for the disease.

“The biggest value of this project comes from the development of a clinically relevant research tool to figure out if GCase is playing a critical role in Parkinson’s and, if it is, to help researchers develop better medicines and get those drugs into the clinic to improve therapy,” Phenix said.

His team wants to build on promising preliminary results obtained from in vitro tests on living cells.

With promising radiotracer ligands (molecules that produce a signal by binding to a target protein) they have discovered, Phenix and his colleagues will use positron emission tomography (PET) to peer into the biochemistry of the living brain. These ligands selectively attach to GCase enzymes in the brain.

“When the technology matures, we hope to use these radiotracers to non-invasively and safely study the activity of GCase in the living brain at the PET centre at Royal University Hospital,” he said.

Phenix, who describes himself as a chemist, radiochemist, enzymologist and “somewhat of a jack of all trades,” has been awarded $392,000 by the national research network, GlycoNet, and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) toward the two-year project. Two graduate students and two post-doctoral fellows (part-time) will participate in the project.

The cyclotron facility, operated at the U of S by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation, is contributing fluorine-18 to the project. The facility includes labs for safely handling radiochemicals, where Phenix’s team will be developing and evaluating the radiotracers.

The other major partner providing crucial in-kind support is Lysosomal Therapeutics Inc. of Boston, which specializes in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Several pharmaceutical companies have drugs that activate GCase, Phenix said. Only patients with low levels of the enzyme would benefit from these targeted medicines.

That’s why PET is emerging as a critical tool for academic and pharmaceutical researchers. The research can help them identify the best drug sooner, and choose for clinical trials only those patients most likely to benefit from the drug.

Phenix’s team includes U of S professors David Palmer in chemistry, who is helping with enzymology and developing new compounds, and Darrell Mousseau in psychiatry, who holds a research chair in Alzheimer’s and related dementias and will provide neurobiology expertise.

Also on the team are University of Manitoba chemistry professor Rebecca Davis, who will design computational studies to help identify suitable ligands and how they interact with GCase, and Justin Hicks, a radiochemist at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ont., who is contributing to brain imaging.

“Our team will prepare and identify the best compounds that get into the brain, crossing the protective blood-brain barrier that says, ‘You are not supposed to be in here,’ and pumps out certain drugs or radiopharmaceuticals,” Phenix said.

Identifying a suitable PET tracer is anticipated within two years. Testing on human subjects will then happen quickly, Phenix said, because radiotracers only are given at safe microdoses, and the team will have done many of the necessary preclinical studies.

But he acknowledges there will be challenges: “If this was easy, it would have been done already.”

Sarath Peiris is assistant director of Research Profile and Impact at the University of Saskatchewan.

indigenous-peoples-are-leaders-in-biodiversity-conservationtrue1547843924627imj129Indigenous peoples are leaders in biodiversity conservationIndigenous people and local communities around the world are critical players in environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation, said University of Saskatchewan researcher James Robson.Sarath Peirisinternational1518124560000/articles/research/2018/indigenous-peoples-are-leaders-in-biodiversity-conservationnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/indigenous-peoples-are-leaders-in-biodiversity-conservationimj1291547654861068imj1291547654861068show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/zapotec-community.jpgsite://news/images/2018/zapotec-community.jpgnewszapotec-community.jpgzapotec-community.jpgYouth showing off their territory in the Zapotec community of San Juan Evangelista Analco, Oaxaca, MexicoNoNoneNo/
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Studies indicate that the customary territories of Indigenous and traditional peoples account for more than one-fifth of the global landmass, and around four-fifths of the planet’s terrestrial (land-based) biodiversity, Robson said in a panel presentation Feb. 7 to the People Around the World (PAW 2018) conference organized by the U of S International Research and Partnerships Office.

However, disruptions associated with environmental change and globalization are posing a challenge for these communities, said Robson, an assistant professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability and UNESCO Chair in Biocultural Diversity, Sustainability, Reconciliation, and Renewal.

“Many of those territories are used in common, with local people managing these shared resources through social organization and collective action,” he said. “It’s never easy to do, and can be even harder given all the changes and impacts these communities are experiencing.”

Robson, whose research currently involves Indigenous and traditional communities in Canada, Mexico, Bolivia and Argentina, said globalized change is disrupting these groups and the structures they have in place to manage resources collectively.

“One of the long-term challenges they have is to make sure that life in these communities and systems of territorial governance remain relevant to young people,” Robson said.

“Young people are facing the choice whether to remain in their communities or make a life for themselves elsewhere.”

Among Robson’s current research is a focus on engaging youth to better understand their perspectives on community life, city life, and their plans for the future, and what they believe their communities can do to create meaningful opportunities locally that meet their personal aspirations.

Robson received a Connection Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in November for Knowledge Mobilization on the Future of Forest Work and Communities.

Together with funding from the Ford Foundation, the SSHRC grant has supported 12 “visioning workshops” with youth in forest communities in Manitoba, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Nepal, Uganda, Mozambique and the Philippines.   

TextVideo/ Murabit, recently named as one of Forbes Magazine's 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30, discusses what needs to be done to ensure access to education for girls, and what stands in the way of global peace.Align left

The PAWS 2018 conference, focused on international research and development, featured keynote speaker Saskatchewan-born physician Dr. Alaa Murabit, one of the United Nations’ 17 Global Sustainable Development Goal Advocates. It highlighted the impact of the university’s international research through a series of 12 short talks by U of S researchers, including Robson.

Sarath Peiris is the assistant director, Research Profile and Impact at the U of S.

learning-from-the-lungstrue1547843924627imj129Learning from the lungsThe eyes may be the window to the soul, but for Gurpreet Aulakh, the lungs are the window to disease. Kathy FitzpatrickWestern College of Veterinary Medicine, 1518194580000/articles/research/2018/learning-from-the-lungsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/learning-from-the-lungsimj1291547654861246imj1291547654861246show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/gurpreet-aulakh.jpgsite://news/images/2018/gurpreet-aulakh.jpgnewsgurpreet-aulakh.jpggurpreet-aulakh.jpgGurpreet Aulakh, Fedoruk Chair in Animal Imaging (photo by Christina Weese)NoNoneNo/
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What happens inside these spongy, air-filled organs may be key to unravelling the mysteries of a wide array of illnesses.

“I think by studying lungs I can study a lot of other organ systems … It will keep me motivated over the years,” Aulakh said, an assistant professor in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s (WCVM) Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.

That line of inquiry comprises much of her work as the University of Saskatchewan’s first Fedoruk Chair in Animal Imaging, a position supported by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation.

Her path leading to this point began in the Indian state of Punjab where she grew up. The daughter of two teachers and a self-described “geek,” she declared in a childhood essay that she wanted to be a research scientist.

Actually, her first choice was to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, an anesthesiologist in the Indian army.

“He was a doctor with great stories to tell as a saviour of lives,” she recalled.

But when Aulakh’s medical application was unsuccessful she turned to pharmacy, confident it could lead to a research career. After completing her master’s degree in pharmacology at Punjabi University, Aulakh took a job as a research scientist and became heavily involved in a project dealing with lung inflammation. Determined to pursue higher studies, she sought an opportunity to keep working on that topic. When former WCVM professor Baljit Singh recruited her to the U of S, “that was the eureka moment,” Aulakh said.

It seemed that everything was coming together for her. As she flew into Saskatoon on a September day in 2007, Aulakh saw wheat fields just like back home in Punjab, India’s own bread-basket. Singh, whoservedasher research mentor, was also educated in Punjab and his own research focused on lung inflammation.

“It gave me some reference point, context for my past research. And it really gave me motivation to pursue that direction,” Aulakh said.

She also credits Singh for her crossover to work in medical imaging. It happened when Aulakh was studying one particular protein molecule called angiostatin. Since there were no tools on the market that would allow her to look at angiostatin and see what it does, the research team worked to “label” the protein molecule in their own lab (chemically attaching a label or fluorescent tag to aid in the molecule’s detection).

The molecule was “mesmerizing” to look at, Aulakh said. “It was so surreal. I mean, you look at what it was doing to a cell.”

The WCVM research team moved on to the problem of imaging lungs. Because lungs contain a lot of air, they are “basically not visible” and are elusive subjects, explained Aulakh. Singh and Aulakh discussed the problem with Dean Chapman, now science director at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the U of S. She describes Chapman as a “master of technique” in a type of X-ray microscopy called multiple image radiography, and said he uses a novel stabilized setup for this at the CLS.

“We were convinced that this technique would look at those air-tissue interfaces in a way that no other technique can,” she said.

Their findings led to further work that focused on ways to see lung inflammation. Singh, Chapman and Aulakh collaborated with Dr. Wolfgang Kuebler—a renowned lung scientist at the University of Toronto.

Aulakh is intrigued by diseases that seem to be unrelated to the lungs—but still turn out to have surprising effects on these organs. For instance, an equine disease called laminitis that severely affects horses’ feet also causes issues in their lungs.

“Why in the world would this happen?” said Aulakh.

Similarly, dogs with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia have heavily-damaged lungs because they have been infiltrated with a host of immune cells.

Aulakh believes the lungs’ ability to act as reservoirs of neutrophils may begin to explain why they too are damaged by diseases that target other parts of the body.

In Canada, there is likely no better place than the U of S for a scientist who approaches the study of disease by following the path of one molecule through an animal. With the combined facilities of the CLS and the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, the U of S is a one-stop shop.

Indeed, Aulakh said the dual PET-SPECT scanner at the cyclotron can image an entire mouse while the CLS’s biomedical beamline can image anything from the size of a fly to a horse.

“We are really pushing ourselves to produce some groundwork in the disease models that we have ventured upon for these next couple of years,” she said.

Kathy Fitzpatrick is a freelance journalist in Saskatoon. Born in Manitoba, she has spent close to four decades working in media. 

the-science-of-squirrelstrue1547843924627imj129The science of squirrelsThe first time Andrea Wishart held a baby squirrel, she knew then she wanted to better understand the furry little creatures, especially their boom-or-bust behaviours.Chris MorinDepartment of Biology, gradresearch, 1518194760000/articles/research/2018/the-science-of-squirrelsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/the-science-of-squirrelsimj1291547654861467imj1291547654861467show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/squirrel-tree.jpgsite://news/images/2018/squirrel-tree.jpgnewssquirrel-tree.jpgsquirrel-tree.jpgYesNoneNo/
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There are plenty of reasons why these bushy-tailed critters would want to maximize the amount of food to store for the winter, especially in the harsh climates of the Yukon, where Wishart, a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan, conducts her research.

So why do some squirrels, who are active all year-round, hustle hard when it comes to gathering their food while others seem to slack?

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“Squirrels are famous for caching food, storing it in their body as fat, or they will cache it in stores,” said Wishart. “So when they are breeding they return to this food source rather than seeking out additional sources. In the case of red squirrels, they have essentially collected a ‘refrigerator’ full of food underground.

“Obviously, there are really important survival reasons for them to collect this food,” she continued. “But we see a huge variation in the amounts of food that these squirrels are collecting. Some squirrels have nothing, while others have a lot. So why aren’t all of them going crazy caching as much as they can?”

There are plenty of mitigating factors for squirrel survival, and that’s what Wishart aims to find out. Now in her third-year in the Department of Biology, Wishart tracks and observes the mischievous critters at the Kluane Red Squirrel Project, a small research camp that overlooks the Saint Elias mountains in the Yukon. It’s where U of S students like Wishart go to study ecology and evolution. It also provides plenty of opportunity to observe wildlife in an environment that you wouldn’t necessarily see elsewhere, said Wishart.

“Squirrels are very territorial creatures, and we are able to track pregnancies in these animals, and we often get to see squirrel babies the day they are born. And from there we are able to track their successes, their behaviours and their interactions.”

The Kluane Squirrel Project, an interdisciplinary, large-scale field experiment, started in 1987 as a partnership between the U of S and four other universities: Alberta, Guelph, McGill and Michigan. Since then hundreds of researchers have flocked to the site, which helps provide invaluable historical evolutionary data for squirrel scientists, said Wishart.

“The boreal forest in this region is made up of white spruce, which is what these squirrels depend on for food," she said. "And these trees will sometimes produce a huge amount of pinecones, an incident which is called a pulse. This overabundance of food allows for new trees to be seeded within the resource system.

“While red squirrels are found throughout the country, including areas around Saskatoon, the unique environment offers an intimate glimpse into their world.”

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Originally from London, Ont., where she finished both her undergrad and her master's, Wishart delved into the world of genomics and mutations in mice before deciding to take a break from her studies to volunteer with a wildlife rehabilitation group. That’s when she found her calling.

“On my first day, I was handed a baby eastern grey squirrel and a syringe full of formula,” said Wishart. “I was told then and there that I was going to learn how to feed these animals. Obviously, they are really cute, but it was taking time away from research that made me realize how I wanted to get back to asking questions about ecology and evolution that I was studying in my undergrad.”

And when it came time to return to her research, Wishart said while the U of S was the ideal school to study food management with squirrels, she was ecstatic to find herself in one of the furthest corners of the country, tracking these mammals.

In addition to providing the perfect place for her rodent research, the Yukon-based camp also provides an endless swath of breathtaking scenery—a backdrop that Wishart says is “ridiculously beautiful” for practicing her budding photography skills.

“The moments I’ve been able to capture animals interacting are some of the most memorable moments I’ve had there,” said Wishart. “When it comes to squirrels I tend to miss out on a lot of those moments since I’m usually in the middle of doing research, and I’ll curse not having a camera ready.

“That said, I’ve been fortunate enough to capture some really great squirrel shots.”

bee-health-issues-keep-researchers-busytrue1547843924627imj129Bee health issues keep researchers busyAt the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) a group of veterinary pathologists have devoted their time and attention to the health of the honey bee and their colonies.Esther DerksenWestern College of Veterinary Medicine1518636540000/articles/research/2018/bee-health-issues-keep-researchers-busynewssite://news/articles/research/2018/bee-health-issues-keep-researchers-busyimj1291547654861673imj1291547654861673show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/bee-research.jpgsite://news/images/2018/bee-research.jpgnewsbee-research.jpgbee-research.jpgResearch hives at the Goodale Research and Teaching Farm (photo by Esther Derksen)NoNoneNo/
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Talking about honey bees often conjures up sweet thoughts of golden honey, idyllic meadows and perhaps even a beekeeper or two.

But it turns out that bees need veterinarians, too.

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“People need to understand that bees have many pests and pathogens just like any other species,” said Dr. Sarah Wood, a PhD student in veterinary pathology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

“They need care just like any other species—whether that be drug care or husbandry [or] taking care of the environment around them—we need specialists to be in charge of that care. Just because they are insects doesn’t mean we can ignore them.”

Wood is part of the WCVM’s new honey bee research group that’s led by veterinary pathologist Dr. Elemir Simko. His team of veterinary researchers and graduate students are breaking new ground, applying their training in vertebrate pathology to invertebrates such as honey bees.

They hope to characterize the possible physiological effects that chemicals such as neonicotinoids might be having on honey bees. Their work relies on histopathology techniques—using microscopes to examine bee tissues for visible abnormalities.

In recent years, headlines have been flooded with doomsday proclamations of declining bee numbers and the catastrophic effect that this would have on the global food supply. Insecticides are frequently labelled as the culprit, often accompanied with horror stories of entire apiaries wiped out after a neighbouring field was sprayed for pests.

The intersection between agriculture and ecology and between farmers and beekeepers has never been so apparent, and the health of bee populations is undeniably at risk. And it may be that neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides used on flowering crops—often used against flea beetles on canola crops grown in Western Canada—is partially to blame.

To learn more, WCVM researchers are performing studies of chemicals such as neonicotinoids on living, developing bee larvae and pupae. By exposing developing bees to varying doses in different chemical cocktails—all within the hive structure—researchers hope their study accounts for the complex social structure of bee colonies as well as varying weather conditions. Their investigation will look at what extent and in what way do various crop chemicals affect the development of honey bees.

The researchers are keenly aware of the close yet easily overlooked relationship between beekeepers and farmers.

“It’s about judicious use of pesticides and determining what is the safe dose, because we know that we need pesticides,” said Wood. “We need to find the dose range that is acceptable for pollinators, while at the same time, protecting crops.”

Read more at WCVM Today.

Esther Derksen of Wymark, Sask., is a second-year veterinary student who was part of the WCVM’s Undergraduate Summer Research and Leadership program in 2017. Esther’s story is part of a series of articles written by WCVM summer research students. 

diversifying-chickpea-genetics-for-better-crop-performancetrue1547843924627imj129Diversifying chickpea genetics for better crop performanceUniversity of Saskatchewan researchers Bunyamin Tar’an and Donna Lindsay at the Crop Development Centre (CDC) are part of an international project that will increase the genetic diversity of chickpea crops by providing plant breeders around the world with access to thousands of seed progeny from wild plants.Sarath PeirisCollege of Agriculture and Bioresources, Crop Development Centre1518705240000/articles/research/2018/diversifying-chickpea-genetics-for-better-crop-performancenewssite://news/articles/research/2018/diversifying-chickpea-genetics-for-better-crop-performanceimj1291547654861837imj1291547654861837show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/bunyamin-taran.jpgsite://news/images/2018/bunyamin-taran.jpgnewsbunyamin-taran.jpgbunyamin-taran.jpgTar'anNoNoneNo/
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“The scale and depth of this study makes it unique,” said Tar’an, Agri-Food Innovation Chair at the CDC. “This research generated close to 10,000 progeny from crossing samples from where wild chickpeas grow in southeastern Turkey and crossing them with cultivated lineages.”

In a paper published Feb. 13 in Nature Communications, the 49 university researchers, faculty members and students involved in the five-year project say the seed collection they’ve developed “contains greatly expanded diversity and a range of traits of potential agronomic importance.” The collaboration was led by Doug Cook from the University of California Davis.

The diversity of available materials means chickpea breeders from countries such as Canada, Turkey, India, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Russia, Australia and the United States can select desired genetic traits to address their current problems and future opportunities.

“Characteristics like drought, heat and cold tolerance, seed nutrient density, reduced dependence on inputs and resistance to stresses — many of these are crucial for the sustainability of the chickpea crop in Western Canada,” explained Tar’an.

The CDC, which has developed more than 400 commercialized crop varieties since its inception in 1971, provided the protocols for successful crossing between the wild and cultivated varieties of chickpeas during the early stages of the project.

U of S expertise and facilities such as the greenhouse complex, phytotron, analytical lab and field breeding lab were critical to analysing seed nutrition quality, stress tolerance and disease resistance in chickpea plants.

While the new primary seed material gathered for the project are maintained in a gene bank in Turkey, the progeny lines (more than 2,500 in all) were distributed to member countries of the project. Research at the U of S has now generated more than 650 diverse seed lines that are available for the CDC’s chickpea genetic improvement program.

While the new progeny material can be readily used in breeding programs, it could take as many as 10 years until the traits are fully integrated into commercial varieties because plant breeding is a long-term endeavour, Tar’an said.

“The research we describe in Nature truly reflects the value of global collaborations with common goals and sharing expertise among different groups,” he said.

Sarath Peiris is assistant director of Research Profile and Impact at the U of S 

university-of-saskatchewan-a-key-partner-in-agri-food-supercluster-announced-todaytrue1547843924627imj129University of Saskatchewan a key partner in Agri-Food SuperclusterAs a world-leading agricultural research university, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) will be a pivotal partner in Canada's agricultural supercluster—Protein Industries Canada—announced today in Ottawa by Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains as one of five national superclusters awarded a total of $950 million.University CommunicationsCrop Development Centre, Global Institute for Food Security, Canadian Light Source1518716940000/articles/research/2018/university-of-saskatchewan-a-key-partner-in-agri-food-supercluster-announced-todaynewssite://news/articles/research/2018/university-of-saskatchewan-a-key-partner-in-agri-food-supercluster-announced-todayimj1291547654862020imj1291547654862020show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/supercluster-crop.jpgsite://news/images/2018/supercluster-crop.jpgnewssupercluster-crop.jpgsupercluster-crop.jpgYesNoneNo/
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The industry-led supercluster will create new products that add value to crops such as wheat, canola, and lentils and other pulses, generating over $700 million in new commercial activity over five years and approximately 4,700 jobs over the next decade. The supercluster involves more than 120 corporate, industry and post-secondary partners, with total cash, in-kind venture capital investment from partners of $400 million.  

TextTweet/<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#supercluster</a> based in the <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Prairies</a> will unleash the full potential of Canadian crops. <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CdnInnovation</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; ISED (@ISED_CA) <a href="">February 15, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script> Align left

“World-class research universities are the platform on which innovative economies are built, and we are proud to be part of this effort to build an inclusive, innovative economy,” said University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff. 

“Drawing on decades of agricultural research success, the U of S is home to globally recognized centres of excellence, including the Crop Development Centre, Global Institute for Food Security, and the Canadian Light Source synchrotron. This unparalleled research capacity reinforces the university’s key role in the success and sustainability of Canada's agricultural supercluster.”  

Protein Industries Canada is a pan-western Canadian cluster, covering Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The consortium includes small- to large-sized enterprises, academic institutions, and other stakeholders involved in crop breeding, agricultural crop production, food and food ingredient processing, and their supporting services companies. Plant-based protein is a $13-billion market of which Canada currently has a minimal share.

With world-leading expertise in plant genetics and breeding, crop production and processing, and molecular imaging and analysis, the U of S is set to help train hundreds of students—across multiple disciplines such as IT, business leadership and plant sciences—as innovative leaders in the plant-based agri-food sector.

“The unique combination of vital infrastructure and world-class researchers at the U of S will provide the companies participating in the supercluster with the innovative edge to accelerate commercialization  and add value at every point along the supply chain,” said Maurice Moloney, executive director and CEO of the U of S Global Institute for Food Security.

The Innovation Supercluster Initiative is a first of its kind for Canada. The other four successful superclusters are: AI-powered Supply Chain supercluster; Advanced Manufacturing supercluster; Digital Technology supercluster; and Ocean supercluster. The initiative aims to foster new partnerships and large-scale programs between the private sector and universities that will help to shape Canada’s economy in the future.

More information is available on the Government of Canada website and the Protein Industries Canada website.

as-a-water-crisis-looms-in-cape-town,-could-it-happen-in-canadatrue1547843924627imj129As a water crisis looms in Cape Town, could it happen in Canada?The city of Cape Town, South Africa is under extreme water rationing and heading towards complete depletion of its municipal water supply. University Communications Global water futures1518792600000/articles/research/2018/as-a-water-crisis-looms-in-cape-town,-could-it-happen-in-canadanewssite://news/articles/research/2018/as-a-water-crisis-looms-in-cape-town,-could-it-happen-in-canadaimj1291547654862195imj1291547654862195show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/drycrop.jpgsite://news/images/2018/drycrop.jpgnewsdrycrop.jpgYesNoneNo/
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When Day Zero — the day the tap runs dry — arrives, it will be the first major city in the world to run out of water. Could this happen in Canada? If so, how might we prevent it?

These are the questions being asked by John Pomeroy, director of the U of S-led Global Water Futures Program, in a recent piece in The Conversation. 

We think of ourselves as the water wealthy country, but Canada is not immune to water shortages or disasters, said Pomeroy, the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change and Director of the Centre for Hydrology at the U of S.

Drought has ravaged much of the world in recent decades, and water shortages and disasters such as drought, forest fires and flooding has left millions of Canadians reeling from either insufficient or excessive water.

Read more at The Conversation.

graduate-students-winners-in-first-paw-2018-poster-competitiontrue1547843924627imj129Graduate students winners in first PAW 2018 poster competitionUniversity of Saskatchewan graduate students Getenesh Berhanu Teshome, Udoka Okpalauwaekwe and Carolyn Gaspar are the winners of a poster competition held in conjunction with the Feb. 7th People Around the World “PAW” conference. Federica Giannelliresearch, PAW, graduate students, 1518815520000/articles/research/2018/graduate-students-winners-in-first-paw-2018-poster-competitionnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/graduate-students-winners-in-first-paw-2018-poster-competitionimj1291547654862384imj1291547654862384show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Teshome and Henry- main photo.JPGsite://news/images/2018/Teshome and Henry- main photo.JPGnewsTeshome and Henry- main photo.JPGStudent Getenesh Berhanu Teshome with supervisor nutrition professor Carol Henry (left). Teshome has been working to educate mothers in Ethiopia on the benefits of feeding pulses to children. (Photo credit: Megan Fillatre for the University of Saskatchewan)NoNoneNo/
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PAW 2018 highlighted the impact, outreach and engagement of the university’s international research. The poster competition demonstrated students’ engagement in community-based research nationally and internationally in a variety of fields that include healthcare and well-being:

  • First prize – Getenesh Berhanu Teshome. Empowering Rural Women through Nutrition Education and Seed Provision to Reduce Undernutrition in Young Children Aged 6-24 Months in Rural Sidama, Southern Ethiopia.”

Teshome has been combating children’s malnutrition in southern Ethiopia by helping educate more than 300 mothers and by providing them with haricot bean to plant.

“In low-income countries, women are responsible for producing and preparing food for their families, so providing mothers with appropriate information and resources can improve the health of their children,” said Teshome. “That was what I tried to do in rural Ethiopia.”

She has found that mothers who have been educated on the benefits of eating pulses gave these regularly to their malnourished children, resulting in a significant weight gain in just over nine months.

TextImage/images/2018/Udoka- photo 2.JPGsite://news/images/2018/Udoka- photo 2.JPGnewsUdoka- photo 2.JPGStudent Udoka Okpalauwaekwe receiving second prize in the competition. (Photo credit: Megan Fillatre for the University of Saskatchewan)Above content

Second prize – Udoka Okpalauwaekwe. “The Use of Alternate Tobacco Products (ATPs) among Saskatchewan Students in Grades 8 through 10: A Population-Based Analysis of the 2014/2015 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CSTADS).”

Prevalence studies show that almost 23 per cent of Saskatchewan youth use tobacco and tobacco products ‒ the highest rate in Canada. Okpalauwaekwe has been looking at Saskatchewan high school students’ use of Alternative Tobacco Products (ATPs) such as vapes, hookahs and pipes by analyzing data from the 2014/2015 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CSTADS).

His results show that males used ATPs twice as often as females, and usage among Indigenous youth was double that of other ethnicities. He also found that Saskatchewan teenagers keep using ATPS because they are highly unaware of harmful health effects.

“Youth need to understand the risks of using tobacco and other tobacco products,” said Okpalauwaekwe. “Encouraging youth to take charge of their health and well-being is key to achieving our population health goals.”

TextImage/images/2018/Carolyn Gaspar-photo option 1.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Carolyn Gaspar-photo option 1.jpgnewsCarolyn Gaspar-photo option 1.jpg(From right to left): Ruby Thornton, Carolyn Gaspar, Star Sundown and Sandra Kingfisher worked to deliver a community-based program targeted at young girls. (Photo courtesy: Carolyn Gaspar)Above content

Third prize – Carolyn Gaspar. “Culturally Understanding Empowerment to Inform Community Development Research in a First Nation Community.”

Working side by side with Sturgeon Lake First Nation (SLFN), Gaspar has been involved in a community-based research project with The Girl Power Program, an educational program that helps teenage girls understand and discuss issues such as sexual violence and abuse, parental neglect, and teenage pregnancy.

“We need to authentically engage youth to ensure that they see themselves as part of the change within community development. Through this we begin to see how young girls inspire, dream, and hope for a better tomorrow,” said Gaspar.

Following the idea of mamāhtāwicikew, which means “empowerment” in Plains Cree, Gaspar and other community members have collected information about girls’ experiences and have found that girls’ opinions are vital to the co-design and delivery of empowerment initiatives.

The girls have reported hunger and poverty as the main obstacles to empowerment in the community. In response, the school and ACCESS Youth Centre have created a community garden to help reduce hunger among youth.  

u-of-s-student-brings-indigenous-perspectives-into-polar-bear-researchtrue1547843924627imj129Bringing Indigenous perspectives to polar bear researchWhen Brady Highway first arrived in Churchill, Manitoba in November 2013 to begin a new position with Parks Canada, it was the morning after a polar bear attacked and seriously injured two people. The event made national headlines.Meagan Hintherresearch, polar bear day, 1519672920000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-student-brings-indigenous-perspectives-into-polar-bear-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-student-brings-indigenous-perspectives-into-polar-bear-researchimj1291547654862590imj1291547654862590show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/polar-bear-brady-highway-2.jpgsite://news/images/2018/polar-bear-brady-highway-2.jpgnewspolar-bear-brady-highway-2.jpgYesNoneNo/
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“I was brought in to start as a Visitor Safety and Fire Operations Coordinator, and I get off the plane, and I could just sense that something was off in the town,” explains Highway.

With his new managers tied up in all day meetings to address the crisis, one of his colleagues took Highway to view his accommodations.

“When I walked into my house, I opened up the curtains and right in front of me there was blood on the street,” recalls Highway.

It was a reminder of the risks of living in “The Polar Bear Capital of the World” – a remote northern town on the banks of Hudson’s Bay that is adjacent to Wapusk National Park and the largest polar bear denning areas in the world.

Highway spent the next four years taking the skills and frameworks he had acquired from over 15 years as a wildland firefighter and applying those to train Parks staff, Churchill residents, temporary workers and tourists on how to be safe in a town where bear encounters are increasing in frequency.

Today, he is a master’s candidate with the School of Environment and Sustainability, studying polar bear activity and Indigenous perspectives alongside supervisor Dr. Douglas Clark and committee members Drs Ryan Brook and Simon Lambert.

TextPullquoteThere’s new polar bear studies coming out daily. And what you notice is that there is a noticeable gap when it comes to Indigenous voices. Their perspectives just aren’t included in the narrative.Brady Highway/Align left

Clark is an associate professor exploring polar bear-human interactions in Wapusk National Park, and held the role of its first Chief Park Warden prior to a career in academia. During his many research trips to the area, the two had become colleagues and friends, sharing stories of polar bear activity and life in the North.

“It’s tremendously rewarding to work with staff from Wapusk and to help them grow as professionals,” says Clark. “It’s a privilege to work with a graduate student with Brady’s level of field experience.”

As a member of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation from the northern Saskatchewan community of Pelican Narrows, this research presents an opportunity for Highway to take his experience in wildlife management and lend a voice to Indigenous knowledge.

“There’s new polar bear studies coming out daily. And what you notice is that there is a noticeable gap when it comes to Indigenous voices. Their perspectives just aren’t included in the narrative,” says Highway.

Clark and his research team have been studying polar bear activity at Wapusk National Park since 2011. Through trail cameras installed at various locations, researchers gain insight into the activities of the bears. Cameras are triggered by sensors that detect movement.

Highway will take the trail camera images and data compiled and conduct workshops with Indigenous Elders and community members.

“What I’m looking for are Indigenous perspectives of polar bear health to see if they’re looking for sources of food, or if there’s something else going on,” says Highway. “In Churchill there are Dene, Cree, Michif and Inuktitut speaking people that would be able to contribute to a more fulsome discussion about polar bears and their activity.”

During these workshops, Highway will take participants out on the land to look at bears in the wild, and to learn about the trail cameras and the type of images and footage they capture. He will share foundational knowledge with participants, but then leave them to direct the conversation.

“It’s up to them to see how they want to categorize each photo, and determine the health of the bears. The idea behind this is to give Indigenous people an opportunity to decide what they feel is appropriate,” says Highway.

TextImage/images/2018/polar-bear-brady-highway-1.jpgsite://news/images/2018/polar-bear-brady-highway-1.jpgnewspolar-bear-brady-highway-1.jpgPhoto credit: Brady HighwayAbove content

The currently accepted way for wildlife specialists to rate polar bear health, explains Highway, is through a standardized five-step fat index. However, asking participants to rate bears in a conventional way would be counter to the research objectives. 

“The project is to collect insights from First Nations people so that they can tell us what’s happening out there, and that may not be in Western scientific terms,” says Highway.

“What we need is for people to tell us, is that bear healthy or not?”

A potential deliverable for the project could be a website with the study results primarily in Indigenous languages, with translations into English. The goal would be to make it available for the local school so that the community can use this study to teach children about polar bear safety. He sees it as being a powerful language revitalization tool and a way to promote Indigenous leadership in wildlife research.

“I always look at my education as being not just for me, it’s for my community,” says Highway. “I want to make sure that whatever I do here is relevant to our concerns and maybe can address some of the shortfalls we have in our education system, and that ultimately can work towards a harmonized effort to develop the knowledge we need to coexist with polar bears.”

u-of-s-researchers-awarded-12-shrf-collaborative-innovation-development-grantstrue1547843924627imj129U of S researchers awarded 12 SHRF Collaborative Innovation Development grantsNeurologist Dr. Michael Levin, inaugural Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), is among 12 U of S researchers awarded Collaborative Innovation Development grants by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) for 2017-18.University Communications research, SHRF,1519853640000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-awarded-12-shrf-collaborative-innovation-development-grantsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-awarded-12-shrf-collaborative-innovation-development-grantsimj1291547654862805imj1291547654862805show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Michael-Levin-2.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Michael-Levin-2.jpgnewsMichael-Levin-2.jpgDr. Michael Levin, inaugural chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research at the U of SNoNoneNo/
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Levin and co-applicants Josef Buttigieg, a neurophysiologist at the University of Regina (U of R), and Gillian Muir in the U of S Department Of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, were awarded $50,000 for research to develop “A novel therapy that attacks the pathologic immune response in multiple sclerosis (MS).”

They have developed and are testing a new drug designed to stop the body’s auto-immune response (white blood cells) from attacking the myelin coating on nerves in the brain and spinal cords of MS patients.

Their new drug molecule has three pieces. The first is myelin. The second is a protein that enables the drug to get into a cell. The third part of the tri-molecular complex kills the cell.

“The trick is designing a medication that only attacks the bad immune cells and leaves the good ones alone. This is important because all the current MS medications don’t do that,” said Levin.

“Our hope—we’re testing it on an animal model—is that we inject the drug and it can really hone in on just the pathologic white blood cells. We think it’s a very, very specific way to attack not all the white blood cells in people’s blood or the brain, but just the ones that cause MS.”

The SHRF grant is exciting and sets the groundwork for establishing a province-wide vision for MS research and care, said Levin, adding that networking with the U of R is a great start.

“This kind of grant is extraordinarily important to patients and to the province, which has among the highest rates of MS in Canada and the world,” he said.

“This is brand new technology—what we call ‘high-risk’ in science. This kind of early funding allows us to fund the project for about 12 to 15 months, giving us enough money and enough preliminary data to write to the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, or the MS societies or other national societies for more substantial funding,” Levin said.

SHRF Collaborative Innovation Development grants provide seed money to support interdisciplinary research activities that represent the first steps toward pursuit of more comprehensive funding. In addition to Levin’s project, SHRF awarded grants to 11 other U of S research projects:

Xiongbiao (Daniel) Chen, mechanical engineering ($50,000): Bone defects represent a common cause of reduced quality of life and inability to work in Saskatchewan. Chen and team members David Cooper, Brian Eames, Ali Honaramooz, J.D. Johnson and Nitin Sharma are researching the development of novel 3-D printed bone substitutes (scaffolds) that incorporate biomaterials as a way to restore permanent bone function. The project will also focus on developing non-invasive synchrotron imaging technology to track bone regeneration in scaffold-treated animal models.

Graham George, geological sciences ($50,000): Chelator treatment to remove metal accumulation in the body has shown temporary improvement in the cognition and memory of dementia patients, but its efficacy is now in doubt. George and U of S co-applicants Kelly Summers, Oleg Dmitriev, Ingrid Pickering and Eric Price intend to bring clarity to the issue by showing quantitatively whether metal levels are elevated in AD plaques (abnormal clusters of protein fragments built up between nerve cells) and by how much, and whether chelator treatment modulates metal levels. They are using innovative synchrotron-based techniques and positron emission tomography (PET) to study metal and plaque location in mouse models. The findings could help researchers understand more about AD and possible treatments.

Clarence Geyer, College of Medicine ($50,000): The surface of many solid tumors express a protein known as an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The current process to confirm the presence of EGFR is unreliable in one-third of cases and isn’t helpful in surgical planning to remove tumors. Geyer and co-applicants Humphrey Fonge and Rajan Rakheja have developed a molecule with unique binding properties that enables the creation of imaging and therapeutic agents for EGFR-positive cancers, and facilitate image-guided surgery and PET imaging.

Dr. Gary Groot, College of Medicine ($49,960): Groot and co-applicants Donna Goodridge, Joshua Lloyd, Zane Tymchak, Thomas Rotter, Terry Blackmore and Leigh Kinsman are aiming to optimize the implementation of clinical pathways (CPWs) by Saskatchewan physicians. CPWs are document-based tools that provide physicians with evidence-based recommendations to manage specific medical conditions. The team is developing an innovative, theory-based research survey tool to investigate potential barriers and factors that facilitate the use of clinical pathways by family doctors. The research will help future CPW implementation in Saskatchewan.

Lorraine Holtslander, College of Nursing ($49,046): Noting the invaluable role of family caregivers in the health system, Holtslander and co-applicants Shelley Peacock, Megan O’Connell and Kristen Haase are aiming to develop an Internet-based smartphone tool that will support and help caregivers. An interdisciplinary team in nursing and psychology will collaborate with the Saskatoon Council on Aging and Refresh Enterprises, a local application developer, to develop and test an app that helps to build a community of caregivers where individuals can get support and find respite from distress and burden. The goal is to eventually extend the reach of this app to rural and remote communities.

Shelley Kirychuk, College of Medicine ($50,000): Mould is a significant factor in housing and health for rural residents and on-reserve First Nations citizens. Kirychuk and co-applicants George Katselis, Joshua Lawson and Vivian Ramsden note that dampness or mould in the home have been associated with respiratory health in adults and children. The goal of their research project is to better understand if measures of mould levels in floor dust samples are an effective method to estimate the influence of mould on the respiratory health outcomes of Saskatchewan residents. The findings will help with mould control and remediation strategies.

Joseph Ndisang, College of Medicine ($50,000): This multidisciplinary project by Ndisang and co-applicants Ravindra Chibbar and Rex Newkirk combines basic research in agriculture and medicine to address the increasing incidence of Type-2 diabetes. Researchers will use modern wheat and ancient wheat grains (emmer, einkorn, spelt) in diets for rat models and monitor the onset of diabetes. The project will provide wheat breeders with novel targets for developing new varieties with optimal characteristics targeted for Type-2 diabetes prevention and management.

Louise Racine, College of Nursing ($42,415): Indigenous people constitute 15.6 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population and are affected by life-limiting chronic health problems such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular, renal and respiratory disease at a higher rate than the general population. Lack of access to palliative care is a problem for rural and remote residents in the province, but especially so for Indigenous people. Racine and co-applicants Susan Fowler-Kerry, Linda Wason-Ellam, Holly Graham, Brenda Mishak, Jeanie Wills and Gail MacKay will work with the Thunderchild First Nation to explore the needs and challenges to access culturally respectful palliative care in the community. The results will help in the design and implementation of culturally appropriate palliative services in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Kalyani Premkumar, College of Medicine ($49,508): Side effects related to breast cancer treatment can last five to 10 years, and can be as difficult to endure as the disease itself. The research project by Premkumar and co-applicants Emiliana Bomfim, Anne Leis and Franco Vizeacoumar aims to provide strong evidence on how Swedish massage therapy acts in improving sleep, fatigue and stress of breast cancer survivors. Evidence from this research can potentially promote and support recommendations on the use of specific therapies for patients treated for breast cancer.

Dr. Jose Tellez-Zenteno, College of Medicine ($50,000): Saskatchewan has a single provincial epilepsy program, located at the Royal University Hospital (RUH). For rural patients and those who live far from Saskatoon, transportation and the prospect of a lengthy hospitalization stay can pose a significant challenge that hinders access to care. Tellez-Zenteno and collaborators Syed Rizvi and Lizbeth Hernandez Ronquillo are testing a new EEG (electroencephalogram) accessed by cellphone, which can be done by a non-EEG technologist, to diagnose patients with epilepsy. Once it is tested, they want to establish Canada’s first remote epilepsy clinic at RUH using mobile EEG technology to improve prompt referral and provide adequate treatment.

Corey Tomczak, College of Kinesiology ($50,000): Tomczak and co applicants Marta Erlandson, Kristi Wright, Charissa Pockett, Scott Pharis and Timothy Bradley are testing the feasibility and effectiveness of a new eight-month intervention program for children with congenital heart disease (CHD). They have already tested the feasibility and child/parent satisfaction of a week-long day camp-style chronic disease management program for children with CHD. The new program will be the first in Canada specifically tailored for children with CHD, and feature specially designed sessions to improve physical activity, arterial function, cardiopulmonary fitness, body composition, bone health and psychological health.

For more information, visit the SHRF website.

twenty-year-partnership-helping-thousands-in-ethiopiatrue1547843924627imj129Twenty-year partnership helping thousands in EthiopiaSmall seeds are powering the goal of feeding tens of thousands in Ethiopia, a country with one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the world.Federica Giannelli research, 1519940280000/articles/research/2018/twenty-year-partnership-helping-thousands-in-ethiopianewssite://news/articles/research/2018/twenty-year-partnership-helping-thousands-in-ethiopiaimj1291547654863029imj1291547654863029show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Ethiopia 1.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Ethiopia 1.jpgnewsEthiopia 1.jpgFarmer Sefiya Heliso is doing extremely well after participating in a U of S and Hawassa University project that promotes sustainable pulse-based agriculture in Ethiopia. (Photo Credit: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures for IDRC).NoNoneNo/
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A University of Saskatchewan delegation led by researcher Carol Henry has just returned from meetings in Ethiopia that celebrated the outcomes of a 20-year partnership between U of S and Hawassa University. Mary Buhr, dean of Agriculture and Bioresources, and Maurice Moloney, executive director and CEO of the U of S Global Institute for Food Security, were part of the delegation.

“Farmers face an increasing challenge to feed everyone adequately, safely and sustainably as our world population grows,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research.

“International research partnerships such as these put new knowledge and innovation directly into the hands of farmers who will use it to improve food security for their families and communities.”

Since 1997, at least 15 U of S researchers have collaborated with Hawassa University to improve food and nutrition security for thousands of people in southern Ethiopia by providing tools and strategies for sustainable, climate-smart, gender-transformative agriculture based on the production of pulses such as haricot beans and chickpeas.

“For three days we came together to celebrate the success of this 20-year partnership,” said nutrition professor Susan Whiting, who also attended the celebrative meetings at Hawassa University.

“Past and current students, collaborators and supporters were there, and while the focus was on the scientific outcomes of improving pulse agriculture and nutrition, there was friendship and a shared desire to continue with this work.”

TextImage/images/2018/Carol Henry-Ethiopia 2.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Carol Henry-Ethiopia 2.jpgnewsCarol Henry-Ethiopia 2.jpgResearcher Carol Henry (second from right) with local female entrepreneurs who use bikes to distribute nutritious pulse-based food and snacks to low-income consumers in remote regions of southern Ethiopia. (Photo Credit: Shawna Bieber for the University of Saskatchewan).Above content

Working with the Ethiopian government and local organizations that focus on nutrition, agriculture and health, the Canadian government has invested a total $8.65 million through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), administered by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Global Affairs Canada.

“Our 20-year journey has demonstrated the value of pulses in empowering the healthy future of Ethiopia,” said Henry, assistant dean in Nutrition and Dietetics and the principal U of S investigator for the project.

By developing and introducing new varieties of pulses, researchers have provided smallholder farmers with high-protein crops rich in iron and zinc to combat hunger and malnutrition. The cultivation of these plants, which have good nitrogen-fixing capabilities, has also helped improve the extremely degraded Ethiopian soil.

“Literally thousands of men and women farmers are partners, and thousands of households have learned about and are benefitting from better nutrition, more stable income, and their healthier children will be the next generation of change,” said Buhr.

An interdisciplinary approach that combines soil management, processing nutrition, seed delivery systems and marketing has led to:

  • Benefiting 70,000 Ethiopian households and boosting the local economy with novel soil management strategies and newly developed high-yielding pulses that produce three times more than older varieties. This means diverse sources of income and an increased number of food suppliers, with more women becoming leaders in this sector;
  • Benefiting 10,000 Ethiopian households and impacting directly 36,000 women and their children through educational campaigns on the benefits of eating pulses and on food preparation to preserve the nutritious properties of these seeds;
  • Successfully training 200 graduate students at Hawassa University, 40 per cent of whom are female, and having 26 U of S students visit Ethiopia to gain first-hand experience.

Building on these positive outcomes, the U of S and Hawassa University will collaborate with partners in Canada and sub-Saharan Africa to improve food security and sources of income for rural women, youth and their households.

TextImage/images/2018/Ethiopia 3.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Ethiopia 3.jpgnewsEthiopia 3.jpgThe pulse-cultivated land of farmer Dibawa Amedin, who has joined the project. Almost 36,000 women and their children have benefited from educational campaigns on the advantages of eating pulses (Photo Credit: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures for IDRC).Above content
playing-to-learn-and-translating-historytrue1547843924627imj129Playing to learn and translating historyThe shelf above Benjamin Hoy’s desk in his Arts Tower office is lined with glossy boxes rather than books; it’s a space where work and play intentionally overlap. Eden Friesen1520441700000/articles/research/2018/playing-to-learn-and-translating-historynewssite://news/articles/research/2018/playing-to-learn-and-translating-historyimj1291547654863217imj1291547654863217show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/benjamin-hoy.jpgsite://news/images/2018/benjamin-hoy.jpgnewsbenjamin-hoy.jpgBenjamin Hoy researches how people in the past used games to teach culture, politics and history. (Photo credit: Chris Putnam)NoNoneNo/
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“Games help translate historical lessons into tin and pasteboard that children can play,” said Hoy, assistant professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan and author of two upcoming papers that examine historical and contemporary uses of board games.

“I started liking history—loving history—because I played games,” he said. But games are more than just fun to Hoy, the winner of a 2017 Provost’s Outstanding New Teacher Award. He understands them as a tool for education.

“I’d love it if historians were the main way that people learned about history,” he said. “But we’re not.”

Hoy’s recent work revolves around how people in the past used games to teach culture, politics and history, and how games today are used for similar purposes. He sees games as a medium that “adults often use to translate the past into a format children can experience and understand. In general, a child is not likely to go to war, but they can play the war and in the process learn about their culture.”

In an upcoming paper, Hoy focuses on the representation of Indigenous North Americans in historical board games from around the world. He examines games as one of the methods through which children have been taught “the underpinnings of American culture.”

“Long before many 19th-century American children interacted with Indigenous communities, they were seeing advertisements that depicted them, they were playing with toys or they were playing games,” said Hoy. “That is one of the most interesting things about looking at games for kids. Children have very limited experiences, and games provide some of their first exposure to ideas about race.”

Part of Hoy’s research for the project involved a fellowship at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. in 2016 where he had the chance to play century-old board games himself.

“It was wonderful, in the sense that I didn’t realize there were museums of toys,” he said. “Every day, walking through a museum where kids are screaming and having fun is a very different experience than a normal archival trip.”

As well as studying the historical use of games as tools for teaching children, Hoy sees great potential for games in a university classroom. He is currently publishing a paper about his experiences constructing games to make dull or misunderstood subject matter more accessible to students.

One of these challenging subject areas is smuggling across the 19th-century Canada-United States border.

“When students are reading about smuggling, their first impression tends to be, ‘Those people are criminals. I would never do something like that.’ And that makes it very hard to understand the historic setting,” said Hoy.

Hoy’s solution was to design a board game in which some players take the role of customs agents and others play as merchants. Based on archival records, the game offers merchant players strong incentives to smuggle goods.

“I don’t think there’s a single person who’s played the game who hasn’t chosen to smuggle,” said Hoy. The experience becomes a memorable lesson about “how historic context can shape decisions.”

Hoy’s work on games as teaching tools, both historically and in a contemporary setting, is just the most recent in a lifetime of passion for learning through play.

“I love history and I love games,” he said. “I love showing students the ways you can use history to understand the world you live in.”

The two papers will be published in upcoming issues of Western Historical Quarterly, and in Simulation and Gaming. 

Eden Friesen is an English student intern in the College of Arts and Science communications office.

undergrad-research-a-stepping-stone-to-academic-lifetrue1547843924627imj129Undergrad research a stepping stone to academic lifeWhether it’s a poster, a project or a painting, undergraduate research is a way for young scholars to gain valuable academic experience and showcase their top-notch work.Lesley Porter1520444040000/articles/research/2018/undergrad-research-a-stepping-stone-to-academic-lifenewssite://news/articles/research/2018/undergrad-research-a-stepping-stone-to-academic-lifeimj1291547654863377imj1291547654863377show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/jessica-quan.jpgsite://news/images/2018/jessica-quan.jpgnewsjessica-quan.jpgJessica Quan.NoNoneNo/
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These were key takeaways from the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU) Undergraduate Project Symposium, held Feb. 5.

Now in its sixth year, the symposium’s goal is to highlight and engage with undergraduate students who participate in research, scholarly and artistic work.

The event is run by the USSU with support from the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning and the undergraduate research initiatives unit within the Office of the Vice-President Research.

“The work that our undergraduate students are doing is amazing and it certainly deserves to be recognized,” said Jessica Quan, USSU vice-president academic affairs. “I think that’s the one thing that a lot of participants appreciate—the cash awards are one thing, but it’s also that recognition that they get.”

This year’s event featured a total of 32 entries. Apart from the traditional award categories—sciences and engineering, social sciences, humanities and fine arts, people’s choice, and signature research area—this year’s symposium introduced three new awards recognizing artistic engagement, city-building and Indigenous engagement (see sidebar for winners).

U of S President Peter Stoicheff and Gregory Burke, CEO and executive director of the Remai Modern, presented the University President and Remai Modern Award in Artistic Engagement. Stoicheff presented another award—the University President and Mayor’s Award in City-Building—alongside city councillor Hillary Gough.

It was two recent MOUs the university signed or was about to sign—with the Remai Modern and the City of Saskatoon, respectively—that led Quan to pursuing each of those awards.

“I saw that as being a tangible outcome of those MOUs and I was really pushing for it,” she said, adding that both parties were receptive.

Additionally, Vice-Provost of Indigenous Engagement Jackie Ottmann was at the symposium to present an award, sponsored by her office, for the project that best represented Indigenous engagement.

“Given that our university is moving in the direction of indigenization, from the student perspective there tends to be a lot of talk and big words being tossed around, but what’s the actual tangible outcome of them?” Quan asked. “Having an award, that immediate recognition, was a good way to move the process along, while also recognizing that this is important.”

Going forward, Quan would like to see more fine arts students participate.

“There tends to be a perception that it’s predominantly science-based projects, but we’re really trying to make an inclusive culture that really highlights the artistic discovery element,” she said.

This year, she connected with arts faculty members to encourage them to shoulder-tap students in their classes to submit their work. This also served as motivation behind the new Remai Modern award as well, and Quan hopes it acts as an incentive in years to come.

“I hope the award sets the precedent and we have it again next year so that slowly more arts students will start to participate in the event,” she said. 

from-south-america-to-saskatoontrue1547843924627imj129From South America to SaskatoonShe hasn’t even officially started her own career yet, but Mayra Samaniego is already working on two different continents to inspire the next generation of young women in the field of computer science.James Shewaga1520604780000/articles/research/2018/from-south-america-to-saskatoonnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/from-south-america-to-saskatoonimj1291547654863537imj1291547654863537show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Mayra-Samaniego.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Mayra-Samaniego.jpgnewsMayra-Samaniego.jpgMayra Samaniego has become a leading researcher in the MADMUC lab. (Photo credit: James Shewaga)NoNoneNo/
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The prodigious PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan volunteers her time teaching computer code to girls and young women in workshops in Saskatoon and also recently returned from a month-long visit to Ecuador—her first trip home in three years—where she spoke to girls at her former high school about the world of opportunities that are available to them, just a click away on the internet.

“I strongly believe that we can make our dreams come true, no matter your geographical location or economical position,” Samaniego said. “But it requires hard work and dedication and to be persistent. Even though I want to research here in Canada, I would like to keep linked to my country, especially to my province and city. I want to show those young girls over there that all of their dreams can become true.”

Samaniego herself has come a long way, literally and figuratively, to conduct research at the U of S. While studying in South America, she quickly found that the internet eliminated borders and barriers and brought the future right to her door.

“I like to search new things on the internet and I saw the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) was a trending topic,” said Samaniego, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Ecuador before coming to the U of S. “And what I liked from the University of Saskatchewan is I saw on the website that they offered research opportunities in the lab. So, I contacted Dr. (Ralph) Deters because his research area was more in my area, which is distributed and mobile programming and ‘cloud’ computing. And then he offered me to work in the area of Internet of Things. I applied and was accepted and here I am.”

Now working under the guidance of Deters in the computer science department, Samaniego is one of 55 individuals from Ecuador and one of 3,001 international students at the U of S. Here in Saskatoon, she is now closer to the North Pole (4,200 km away) than she is to her home town of Chone near the equator (5,800 km away), adding climate to the cultural adjustment that she faced. Despite the cooler temperatures, she has been warmly welcomed in the campus community and in the city.

“One of things that I felt here, and that I read on the internet when I was searching for universities, is the support that this university gives to international students,” she said. “I felt supported when I arrived here. I remember they were very interested in making me feel like home, so that made me feel very good and that made the process easy. I am very thankful to this city of Saskatoon because I have met many people, Canadians and international people, who are very supportive.”

Samaniego was also supported by a number of U of S graduate scholarships, including earning a prestigious Dean’s Scholarship while working on her Master of Science, and has served as a sessional lecturer for the university.

TextPullquoteOne of things that I felt here... is the support that this university gives to international students. I felt supported when I arrived here.Mayra Samaniego/Align left

Samaniego completed her master’s thesis, Virtual Resources and Internet of Things, in 2017 while working in Deters’ computer lab—Multi-User Adaptive Distributed Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing (MADMUC)—a creative hub that has featured graduate students from 25 different countries since opening in May of 2000.

“She is a very, very strong (PhD) candidate,” Deters said. “She recently won the Dean’s Scholarship, based on her strong performance in the master’s program. She did extremely well, she published, and her work is very, very innovative. And she has high potential for the future.”

In her PhD work, Samaniego is exploring cutting-edge blockchain technology, which powers the new digital currencies like Bitcoin and is also the key to unlocking the unlimited potential that IoT brings by connecting billions of devices.

“For me, the Internet of Things, IoT, together with blockchain, that is dynamite, because IoT has countless possibilities,” said Samaniego, who is building new systems based on blockchain technologies to manage IoT networks. “With IoT, a sensor in your shirt could monitor your heart beat and blood pressure and send that data directly to your smart phone to remind you to take your medicine, monitor your blood sugar, or track the position of seniors (with Alzheimer’s) who need help. So, health care is one of the more interesting areas, but there are many others.

“For example, I am from Ecuador where we have high quality bananas. With IoT, plus the functionality of blockchain, you can follow the process from when it was harvested to shipping it here.”

And here is where Samaniego wants to stay. She and her husband Cristian—who is also in the field of computer science—received permanent resident status after she completed her master’s and will pursue Canadian citizenship after she lands a faculty research position.

“My immediate goal is finishing my PhD and after that I would like to apply for a post-doc position and then get a faculty position here in Canada,” she said. “And the main reason is, here in Canada, we have more research opportunities than back home. So that’s my goal.”
touchscreen-menu-innovation-faster,-simplertrue1547843924627imj129Touchscreen menu innovation faster, simplerIn a world where people learn how to use iPads before they learn to walk, finding simpler ways to interact with touch devices is a must. Federica Giannelliresearch, 1520864820000/articles/research/2018/touchscreen-menu-innovation-faster,-simplernewssite://news/articles/research/2018/touchscreen-menu-innovation-faster,-simplerimj1291547654863714imj1291547654863714show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Mohammad-Sami-Uddin.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Mohammad-Sami-Uddin.jpgnewsMohammad-Sami-Uddin.jpgStudent Mohammad Sami Uddin uses his new, faster HandMark-Finger menu developed for smart TVs, computer desktops and tablets. (Photo: David Stobbe)NoNoneNo/
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In a world where people learn how to use iPads before they learn to walk, finding simpler ways to interact with touch devices is a must.   

University of Saskatchewan PhD computer science student Mohammad Sami Uddin has tackled the problem by developing a new multi-touch menu called HandMark-Finger. The interface, which is designed for large touchscreens such as tablets, makes it easier and about 30 per cent faster to input commands.

“This research has the potential to make everyday interactions with touch devices simpler,” said Carl Gutwin, computer science professor and Uddin’s supervisor.

“People are beginners for the first few hours they use their device, but are experts for the rest of the time,” he said. “We are looking at ways to make touchscreen menus fast for experts.”

The researchers have found that by speeding up human interaction with devices and by fitting in more commands, HandMark-Finger may have real-life applications in devices such as in tablets, computer desktops, and smart TVs. Uddin has both published his results and presented them at national and international conferences.

To use HandMark-Finger, users have to touch the screen palms down. Different sets of commands then pop up around the fingers. Like “digital pianists,” they use all the fingers to interact with the screen, instead of the one- or two-finger tapping and swiping done on devices now.

TextPullquote"People are beginners for the first few hours they use their device, but are experts for the rest of the time. We are looking at ways to make touchscreen menus fast for experts.”Mohammad Sami Uddin/Align left

Unlike with familiar interfaces, the HandMark-Finger comes with around 40 commands. Since the menu is built around users’ hands, it helps them remember the location of commands, with fingers serving as memory cues.

“I got the idea from the way people use their fingers to play the piano,” said Uddin. “People have intimate knowledge of their hands, so we used them as a memory device by associating commands to fingers.”

Uddin has installed the HandMark Menu on a large touchscreen device and tested how quickly and accurately people could find and select commands on the screen. His results from 13 users show that the time needed for learning how to use the menu is similar to current devices, as are the error rates.

Uddin has also developed a second 160-command interface he calls HandMark-Multi. In this version, sets of commands appear between the thumb and index finger, depending on how many fingers touch the screen. Unlike with HandMark-Finger, users make more mistakes and are slower to learn the menu. 

“We played with different HandMark versions to see their performance and whether they could fit a large number of commands,” said Uddin. “People in our study preferred HandMark-Finger over regular menus and over HandMark-Multi because it provided clear reference points for the location of commands. 

Uddin and Gutwin agree that more research and re-design is needed before HandMark Menus reach commercial devices. The researchers will now focus on how best to group commands on the screen, and perhaps conduct a large-scale study.

The project is funded by the federal agency NSERC and is part of the U of S Interaction Lab, which has been achieving success in advancing computer interfaces, computer games, and systems used to visualize information.

This article first ran as part of the 2018 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit.

northern-communities-building-expertise-in-research,-developmenttrue1547843924627imj129Northern communities building expertise in research, developmentThree northern Métis and First Nations communities are partnering with researchers from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS) at the University of Saskatchewan in a $1.02 million pilot program designed to equip these small communities with the research and policy development skills they need to succeed.Sarath Peirisresearch, aboriginal engagement, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy1520951400000/articles/research/2018/northern-communities-building-expertise-in-research,-developmentnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/northern-communities-building-expertise-in-research,-developmentimj1291547654863870imj1291547654863870show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/ken-coates.jpgsite://news/images/2017/ken-coates.jpgnewsken-coates.jpgken-coates.jpgKen Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional InnovationNoNoneNo/
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“We’re not going in there saying, ‘We’re going to do the research and tell you what to do.’ You tell us what the social, economic, community and political interests are, and we will do the research on things you ask,” said Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at JSGS, who leads the project.

The communities want to develop professional skills in planning for what works best for them, he said.

“They are interested in evaluating the efforts they’ve made, investigating new social policies, and most importantly, looking at economic development.”

With financial and in-kind contributions, the project is valued at more than $1 million. The communities of Ille-a-la-Crosse, Beauval and Buffalo Narrows, along with their community development corporations, together are contributing more than $197,000, as well as $198,000 of in-kind support.  JSGS in contributing $20,000, and the Athabasca Provincial Electoral District office is contributing $20,000.

A significant portion—almost $600,000—comes from Western Economic Diversification and is being administered by Mitacs, a national non-for-profit organization.

“We will start off with this funding, but the goal is to create a sustainable enterprise,” Coates said. “That’s really critical. This isn’t designed as a short-term measure. We want this to be a project where communities see how effective their small contributions have been and will contribute more in future years to make it a permanent part of the North.”

Communities will investigate what economic or social initiatives have worked elsewhere and what hasn’t, and what opportunities are available, said Coates. For instance, the project could involve doing background research to make a case for big game hunting or a wilderness fishing operation, or evaluating the effectiveness a youth program.

The longer term goal is to train graduate students from the communities, but since they don’t have many, the project will initially hire about three undergraduate students from the northwestern area to assist with field research each summer.

“The hope is that it gets these undergraduates to stay engaged and gets them into graduate programs where we can give them lots of opportunities,” said Coates. “The whole idea is to develop local skills and expertise.”

In the short term, the project will hire four to five well-trained master’s and PhD students to get things started, with the communities setting the agenda. This provides an opportunity for the graduate students to show they can be community-based researchers working with the communities to help solve problems and capture opportunities.

Coates gives kudos to Athabasca MLA and former Ille-a-la-Crosse mayor Buckley Belanger for building confidence among community leaders to invest what for them is a sizeable amount of money in the project.

He said everything they are doing in the project is designed to be replicated anywhere else in the province or country.

“If the community people feel, ‘For this amount of money we have been able to get all this expertise,’ we can share our information and do big things across Canada.”

Mitacs has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 18 years. Working with 60 universities, thousands of companies, and both federal and provincial governments, it builds partnerships to support industrial and social innovation.

More about MITACS at:

Sarath Peiris is the assistant director of Research Profile and Impact.

Statement from Vice-President Research Karen Chad on recent research ethics issuetrue1547843924627imj129Statement from Vice-President Research Karen Chad on recent research ethics issueThe University of Saskatchewan (U of S) takes the unproven allegations against our Canada Research Chair John Giesy very seriously. Since becoming aware of the pre-trial claims made in connection with a Minnesota state court case against 3M, which has been settled out of court, the university has conducted a review of the evidence available.research, John Giesy, Karen Chad1520979060000/articles/research/2018/Statement from Vice-President Research Karen Chad on recent research ethics issuenewssite://news/articles/research/2018/Statement from Vice-President Research Karen Chad on recent research ethics issueimj1291547654864026imj1291547654864026show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/aerial-campus.jpgsite://news/images/2017/aerial-campus.jpgnewsaerial-campus.jpgaerial-campus.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Prof. Giesy rejects the unproven claims. Further, after following our formal procedures and reviewing extensive pre-trial court documents—including email transcripts and documents provided by all parties in the dispute—we concluded on Feb. 27 that there was no evidence of a breach of our Responsible Conduct of Research policy or a breach of the Tri-Agency guidelines on Responsible Conduct of Research.  

During our review, we learned that the allegations pertain to work for 3M that Prof. Giesy conducted or initiated while he was employed at Michigan State University. Professor Giesy came to the U of S in 2006, and has not been engaged as a consultant for 3M while at the U of S. As a result of learning this and in keeping with our practice and the Tri-Agency guidelines, we have sent a letter to Michigan State University informing them of these allegations. 

Prof. Giesy conducted perfluorinated compounds (PFC) research on contract for 3M while at Michigan State University. Contrary to claims in the court document, he encouraged the company to voluntarily cease production of the chemical. He developed an alternative that was safer and was instrumental in the worldwide banning and regulating of PFCs. 

His advocacy with industry and governments around the world led directly to certain PCFs being added to the Stockholm Convention in 2009. He also shared his research findings with Environment Canada, resulting in the banning of 87 chemicals in Canada.

Prof. Giesy worked as a consultant to 3M to develop the replacement product through ENTRIX, a consulting firm that had hired a number of his former students and post-doctoral fellows. He supervised design of studies that were conducted by contract, testing labs that had the necessary procedures in place to meet regulatory guidelines for toxicity testing.

He then helped analyze the data for submission to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Significant New Uses Rules. Although he hasn’t worked as a consultant for 3M since joining the U of S, he continued to work on methods with his students and scientists at 3M until 2008, when the final method was published.

After 3M had phased out its PFC production in North America and Europe, Prof. Giesy received an unrestricted grant of $200,000 from 3M to find out how the chemical was getting to all corners of the globe. The money was used to fund the research of a U of S post-doctoral student and a visiting academic from China. Prof. Giesy also received $29,750 from 3M that was used to support a study done by the post-doctoral student.

Prof. Giesy said during the entire time he researched PFCs under contracts with 3M, he was never directed to change a single word in a paper or limited in any way as to what he could say or publish. His results were published immediately.

We will continue to monitor this situation, and would consider further steps if new information of a concerning nature were to arise.

As a research-intensive university, it is our responsibility to conduct research in an ethically responsible way and have policies and procedures to address alleged breaches. Our Responsible Conduct of Research policy states: “The research, scholarly and artistic work of members of the University of Saskatchewan must be held in the highest regard and be seen as rigorous and scrupulously honest. Scholarly work is expected to be conducted in an exemplary fashion, be ethically sound, and contribute to the creation, application and refinement of knowledge.”

The U of S also has in place safeguards to ensure that academic freedom is maintained in research contracts with third parties and that corporations cannot interfere with the interpretation or publication of research results. For instance, the university refuses funding from partners if the funding constrains a researcher’s ability to publish papers or other documents, including technical reports. 

Partnerships with industry are not only a necessity in today’s research environment to address issues of societal importance, but are also encouraged by provincial and federal governments. While the U of S looks to greater collaboration with industry, its governance structures—including University Council, Board of Governors and University Senate—help ensure that industry partners do not override our commitment to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research of a world-class standard.

Karen Chad
Vice-President Research
University of Saskatchewan

u-of-s-researcher-awarded-2-million-to-study-swine-welfare---true1547843924627imj129U of S researcher awarded $2 million to study swine welfare University of Saskatchewan researcher Yolande Seddon, working with 14 industry partners, has been awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in swine welfare worth nearly $2 million in total.Sarath Peirisresearch, NSERC, swine health, 1521123720000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researcher-awarded-2-million-to-study-swine-welfare---newssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researcher-awarded-2-million-to-study-swine-welfare---imj1291547654864217imj1291547654864217show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Yolande-Seddon.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Yolande-Seddon.jpgnewsYolande-Seddon.jpgYolande Seddon received an NSERC Industrial Research Chair in swine welfare.NoNoneNo/
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"The national industry’s commitment to establishing this chair is a vote of confidence in professor Seddon’s team and shows that our university is on the leading edge of industry relevant research that will optimize swine welfare,” said Vice-President Research Karen Chad.

“This exciting research program provides our students with hands-on science and industry-related experience, and underscores the importance of sustainable and ethical practices in food production.”

NSERC provided $837,750 for the program. With Canada’s swine industry providing a matching $837,750 along with in-kind support, and the U of S committing funding over the five-year term of the chair, Seddon’s project totals almost $2 million. The research and training program will involve up to 10 undergraduate students, five graduate students, and two post-doctoral fellows.

TextPullquote“The industry takes care of millions of pigs, and it’s right to be considering how we raise these animals."Yolande Seddon/Align left

“This program will help place Canada at the forefront of progressive swine management that accommodates animal welfare, while supporting efficient and ethical food production and providing students a unique opportunity to broaden their scientific knowledge in pursuing careers in animal welfare,” said Seddon, an assistant professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

The 14 industry partners include pig producers and processors — OlymelS.E.C/L.P., Maple Leaf Foods, HyLife Ltd, Conestoga Meat Packers, Sunterra Farms, BC Pork Producers Association, Alberta Pork, Saskatchewan Pork Development Board (Sask Pork), Manitoba Pork Council, Ontario Pork Producers Marketing Board, Porcima Inc. a company of Les Éleveurs de Porcs du Québec, PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board, and New Brunswick Pork—as well as a genetics company, PIC North America.

As a specialist in animal behaviour and welfare, Seddon is working with the swine industry coast to coast to develop robust and resilient pigs to improve their health and welfare.

“The industry takes care of millions of pigs, and it’s right to be considering how we raise these animals,” said Seddon.

“This chair is an opportunity to contribute science to advance sustainable production systems that operate in a way consumers regard as acceptable,” she said. “This work is important to sustainable and ethical food production that promotes global food security.”

TextImage/images/2018/swine-health-IRC.jpgsite://news/images/2018/swine-health-IRC.jpgnewsswine-health-IRC.jpgSeddon’s research will contribute to the scientific understanding of methods to improve animal welfare.Align right

Seddon’s research will contribute to the scientific understanding of methods to improve animal welfare and identify progressive management approaches. The results could support changes to the industry’s current codes of practice that establish the required and recommended practices of animal care.

Specific goals of the research program are to:

  • Contribute to understanding early life influences on the growing pig in the development of sociability, resilience and welfare outcomes.
  • Understand the role of play to enhance pig welfare and promote beneficial production characteristics.
  • Identify and validate biological markers that can indicate pig welfare, including those that indicate longer-term welfare states and enable industry to monitor animal welfare on farms.
  • Assess the value of welfare indicators observed from carcasses during abattoir meat inspection to yield accurate information about the welfare that pigs experience on farms.

By exploring some of the most promising concepts under controlled research conditions, the researchers and producers will gain valuable experience in applying and testing these strategies on commercial farms so that productive findings can be incorporated into partner facilities.

Seddon did her PhD with renowned swine expert Sandra Edwards at Newcastle University in the U.K. where she was exposed to cutting-edge, multi-stakeholder European research projects on pig welfare.

She took up a position as a post-doctoral fellow in 2012 at the U of S Prairie Swine Centre in Saskatoon, where she spent four years before joining the WCVM as a  faculty member in her specialty area, swine behaviour and welfare. Seddon is among the youngest to hold an NSERC IRC, and her number of industry partners is among the largest in the NSERC program.

Sarath Peiris is Assistant Director Research Profile and Impact at the U of S.

new-u-of-s-cihr-awards-help-improve-health-of-canadianstrue1547843924627imj129New U of S CIHR awards help improve health of CanadiansThe University of Saskatchewan has been awarded six project grants totalling $4.45 million in the fall 2017 competition of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, nearly doubling its success rate to 15.4 per cent success from spring 2016.research, CIHR, 1521125340000/articles/research/2018/new-u-of-s-cihr-awards-help-improve-health-of-canadiansnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/new-u-of-s-cihr-awards-help-improve-health-of-canadiansimj1291547654864390imj1291547654864390show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Franco_Vizeacoumar_Web.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Franco_Vizeacoumar_Web.jpgnewsFranco_Vizeacoumar_Web.jpgFranco Vizeacoumar is a clinical assistant professor in the College of Medicine and research scientist at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.NoNoneNo/
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“The U of S success rate in this competition doubling from last year is very significant,” said Marek Radomski, vice-dean of research at the U of S College of Medicine.

The awarded projects range from researching novel ways to treat breast and colon cancer to assessing medically at-risk senior drivers, to investigating reasons for sleep disorders among Indigenous people, to developing a vaccine to prevent camels from transmitting a deadly virus to humans. The six projects provide training for about 10 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

“This demonstrates that location doesn’t matter for doing good science,” said Franco Vizeacoumar, a cancer genomics expert who led the list of U of S recipients as principal investigator in two awarded cancer research projects and was a co-investigator in a third.

“Saskatchewan’s CIHR success rate was second only to British Columbia,” said Vizeacoumar, clinical assistant professor in the College of Medicine and research scientist at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency. “This is an amazing opportunity at the national level for Saskatchewan researchers.”   

  • Franco Vizeacoumar’s two projects focus on developing novel targeted therapies to improve survival of cancer patients.
    • He and U of S pathology professor Ron Geyer were awarded $573,750 for research involving a newly identified class of molecules known as circular RNA (circRNA), which are abundant in various cancers. Some of these molecules are key to the survival of cancer cells, and this research marks a first step toward fighting cancer by targeting circRNA.
    • Vizeacoumar’s other award of $592,875 targets colon cancer, with College of Medicine cancer researcher Andrew Freywald as co-investigator. They aim to address a longstanding challenge involving two specific enzymes often overexpressed in colon cancer.

Despite millions spent over the past 15 years on developing drugs to inhibit the enzymes, the results have been disappointing. The researchers are focusing on alternative ways to target the enzymes to eliminate all cancer cells in a colon tumour.

  • Andrew Freywald, a professor in medicine, was awarded $558,452 to target triple-negative breast cancer. He, Vizeacoumar and Eric Price, an assistant professor in chemistry who specializes in nuclear imaging and radiochemistry, are collaborating to develop a novel approach to targeting this most aggressive sub-type of breast cancer, for which there currently is no effective clinical therapy available.
  • Dr. James Dosman, Distinguished Research Chair at the College of Medicine and faculty member at the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture, along with principal applicants Sylvia Abonyi and Punam Phawa at the college, professor Malcolm King of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology and 21 co-applicants and collaborators, were awarded $1.25 million to research causes of sleep disorders among First Nations peoples.

The lack of sleep or poor sleep is associated with diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. Researchers are working with two First Nations communities, and aim to develop programs and influence health policy to improve access and reduce wait times for care for Indigenous peoples.

  • Darryl Falzarano, a researcher at the U of S Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization—International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), is collaborating with three researchers in Alberta, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia to produce a vaccine to prevent transmission of the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) among camels. MERS-CoV is thought to be transmitted to humans from single-humped camels. Falzarano was awarded $679,320 to develop the vaccine, which could protect people from the respiratory illness that’s been fatal in one-third of human cases.
  • Alexander Crizzle, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health, and a multi-provincial team of 21 co-applicants and collaborators, were awarded $803,250 to develop evidence-based tools to assess medically at-risk drivers (such as seniors) for their fitness to drive.

His team will create an electronic repository of comprehensive evaluations of drivers who’ve been referred to assessment centres in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, and analyze the data to develop policy and practice guidelines for health professionals and licensing authorities.

“These awards to the U of S are part of an enormous investment in health research for the science community and benefits all of Canada,” said Dr. Roderick McInnes, CIHR president.

“Through these grants, CIHR is supporting researchers at all career stages, across the entire country, and in all areas of health research. Our investigators have made Canada a global leader in health research.”​ 

scientifically-assessing-at-risk-senior-driverstrue1547843924627imj129Scientifically assessing at-risk senior driversAs seniors overtake Canada’s youngest drivers for posing the highest crash risk, a multi-province team led by University of Saskatchewan researcher Alexander Crizzle is developing assessment tools to identify with a high degree of accuracy those who are unsafe to drive.Sarath Peirisresearch, School of Public Health, 1521126240000/articles/research/2018/scientifically-assessing-at-risk-senior-driversnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/scientifically-assessing-at-risk-senior-driversimj1291547654864584imj1291547654864584show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/alexander-crizzle.jpgsite://news/images/2018/alexander-crizzle.jpgnewsalexander-crizzle.jpgAlexander Crizzle, assistant professor at the U of S School of Public HealthNoNoneNo/
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The federally funded project involves creating an electronic repository of comprehensive driving evaluations of medically at-risk drivers who’ve been referred to specialized assessment centres in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.

The information will provide standardized indicators of driving capabilities that subsequently can be used to develop effective screening tools for fitness to drive and interventions that can enhance or maintain driving privileges for a longer period of time.

TextPullquote"We are trying to develop a suite of evaluation tools for different medical conditions or a battery of tools that enable us to make accurate predictions."Alexander Crizzle/Align left

“We recognize that as you age, you are more likely to get age-related deficits such as decreased vision, slower cognitive processing, as well as medical conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and stroke that impact your ability to drive safely,” said Crizzle.

“Many people don’t recognize their deficits. Having that discussion, or identifying people with the deficits and tying that into driving is a contentious issue for many to address, but at the same time it’s a road safety issue,” he said.

Crizzle, an assistant professor at the U of S School of Public Health whose research specialties include gerontology, neurodegenerative and neurological diseases, and transportation, has been awarded $803,250 by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for the six-year project.

The number of drivers over age 65 is expected to double by 2040, and studies indicate that older drivers are disproportionately involved in collisions that cause serious injuries and death, he said. So, determining the best way to identify, screen and assess medically at-risk drivers is crucial.

Many doctors lack the training to do in-office evaluations of driving skills, and would like fast assessment tools that help them at least start a conversation with a patient about the need for a driving test or stop driving, he said. As well, occupational therapists who are usually contracted by licensing authorities to conduct comprehensive driving evaluations, need effective assessment tools.

“We are trying to develop a suite of evaluation tools for different medical conditions or a battery of tools that enable us to make accurate predictions. These are not just for physicians but also for licensing authorities to identify drivers at risk, and to help occupational therapists by giving them some information on what to test and how to test them.”

Crizzle said he got the idea for the project while he was a post-doctoral fellow in rehabilitation sciences at McMaster University in 2012 under the mentorship of an occupational therapist who was involved in driving-related research.

Under Ontario’s system, drivers age 80 and older are required every two years to undergo a mandatory in-person licence renewal that require cognitive screening. Those who fail are required to take a comprehensive driving evaluation. Crizzle learned that the OTs who do the assessments were gathering a lot of data that are useful for driving research, but the information wasn’t being stored centrally and was mostly unused.

He developed a system to capture data from a few occupational therapy assessment clinics in Ontario. It has since expanded to become a wider project that includes all the assessment centres across Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, three provinces with the highest collision rates.

“That will give the ability to analyze data on a large scale because anyone who has been referred for a comprehensive driving evaluation is included,” he said.

Using the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) IT infrastructure as a model, Crizzle’s team will create a web-based repository that will capture and track evaluations of medically at-risk drivers to develop a set of evidence-based predictors of fitness to drive. The occupational therapists who usually conduct these driver assessments are required to upload the information to the repository.

Crizzle’s research team includes academics and researchers with backgrounds in geriatrics, OT, neuropsychiatry and epidemiology, as well as representatives of provincial licensing authorities in Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario, and groups such the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, Ontario and Saskatchewan OT groups, Transport Canada, Saskatoon Council of Aging, Saskatoon Health Region, and the Canadian Medical Association.

The plan is to eventually make this a Canada-wide project, said Crizzle.

Sarath Peiris is assistant director of Research Profile and Impact at the U of S.
rooting-out-secrets-to-creating-better-crops-true1547843924627imj129Rooting out secrets to creating better crops Internationally recognized plant scientist Leon Kochian, Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Food Systems and Security at the University of Saskatchewan, has been granted $800,000 by Innovation Saskatchewan to equip a new research laboratory that will improve crop productivity and resiliency.Sarath Peirisresearch, food security1521745980000/articles/research/2018/rooting-out-secrets-to-creating-better-crops-newssite://news/articles/research/2018/rooting-out-secrets-to-creating-better-crops-imj1291547654864785imj1291547654864785show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2016/leon-kochian.jpgsite://news/images/2016/leon-kochian.jpgnewsleon-kochian.jpgLeon Kochian, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Food Systems and SecurityNoNoneNo/
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Using the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, the cyclotron at the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, and other advanced imaging equipment, Kochian aims to increase crop yields to feed a hungry world, whose population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

The aim is to breed better cultivars of plants such as wheat, lentils and canola with improved root traits that help them cope with a range of soil-based stresses, including drought, low levels of essential mineral nutrients, and pathogens.

“We are using the funding from the province to take advantage of novel cutting-edge technologies associated with the U of S and Saskatchewan to look at root form and function in ways not possible until now,” said Kochian, a professor in plant sciences and soil science in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, and associate director of the U of S Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS).

TextPullquote“The advances in fundamental research made at this laboratory by these talented researchers will position Canada strategically to address global food security challenges by driving change in agricultural and food security technologies, practice and policy.” Karen Chad, vice-president research/Align left

Along with provincial funding through the Innovation and Science Fund (ISF), the Roots of Food Security laboratory received $800,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), $9,000 from the U of S, and $391,000 from in-kind vendor contributions to provide cutting-edge technology.

“The advances in fundamental research made at this laboratory by these talented researchers will position Canada strategically to address global food security challenges by driving change in agricultural and food security technologies, practice and policy,” said Karen Chad, vice-president Research at the U of S.

A significant part of research will focus on plant root systems, root architecture and root function in acquiring the mineral nutrients, nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, and water under drought conditions.

“To do this, we have been developing more sophisticated tools for imaging root architecture and function of roots grown both hydroponically and in soil,” said Kochian.

“It turns out that plants have a significant genetic control over how they distribute their different root types in three dimensions in the soil. That’s turning out to be a very important trait for improved nutrient and water acquisition efficiency of plants.”

With CERC money, Kochian has hired two faculty members, a computational biologist from Cornell University and a plant molecular and cell biologist from University of California Davis. He is in the process of hiring two more researchers for the highly multidisciplinary work being done at the facility.

The program will provide unique training opportunities for the next generation of agriculture scientists. Kochian foresees up to 15 post-doctoral fellows and up to 15 graduate students training in the laboratory.

“We are hiring world-class faculty, and attracting top scientists,” he said. Post-doctoral fellows so far have come from the United States and Mexico, and as far away as China, Japan and India.

Ultimately, the research will dramatically accelerate the pace of plant breeding to improve crops globally, and ensure that Canada maintains its position as a leading agricultural producer. Prairie agriculture will benefit from advances in crop resiliency and improved crop performance, he said

As well, Kochian is working to solve problems in African crops such as maize and sorghum since GIFS also focuses on agriculture in developing countries.

The ISF funding mostly will be used to purchase more lab equipment from large companies, but some money is being invested in building unique tools for sophisticated imaging of roots.

For instance, the lab group is building a three-dimensional root imaging system that enables the images to be translated into 3D reconstructions. Researchers will then be to quantify different root architecture traits from hundreds of varieties of specific crop species.

Genetic mapping of these traits can identify the genes (and associated molecular markers) leading to differences in root architecture that enable the plant to more efficiently capture water and nutrients.  

“One of the biggest advances in biology in recent years has been technological,” Kochian said. ”We are often studying similar questions to what I studied earlier in my career, but now we are able to look more deeply into the underlying processes controlling these complex traits.”

Sarath Peiris is Assistant Director of Research Profile and Impact at the U of S. 
new-research-partnership-makes-childbirth-safer-in-mozambiquetrue1547843924627imj129New research partnership makes childbirth safer in MozambiqueAs the world awakens to deep injustices for women globally, an ambitious project led by University of Saskatchewan researchers in Mozambique is striving to reset the course — reducing maternal mortality and improving newborn health by empowering women and girls.Nazeem Muhajarineresearch, 1522081920000/articles/research/2018/new-research-partnership-makes-childbirth-safer-in-mozambiquenewssite://news/articles/research/2018/new-research-partnership-makes-childbirth-safer-in-mozambiqueimj1291547654865038imj1291547654865038show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Mozambique-1.jpegsite://news/images/2018/Mozambique-1.jpegnewsMozambique-1.jpegIn Mozambique, gender-based violence, early marriage and early pregnancy all play a part in compromising the health of mothers and infants. (Photo credit: Nazeem Muhajarine)NoNoneNo/
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Although maternal deaths worldwide have decreased by 45 per cent since 1990, about 800 pregnant women still die daily from largely preventable causes before, during and after giving birth.

Mozambique has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world, estimated at 489 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. One in five of these maternal deaths occur in women under age 20.

The neonatal mortality rate (deaths during the first 27 days of life) in the country was 30 per 1,000 live births in 2011 — also one of the highest in the world.

TextA gender-equality perspectiveImage/images/2018/Mozambique-2.jpegsite://news/images/2018/Mozambique-2.jpegnewsMozambique-2.jpegCommunity engagement activities include mapping local resources and prioritizing topics for education. (Photo credit: Don Kossick)Align left

In Mozambique, sexual, reproductive, maternal and infant health is challenged by a range of factors that include gender-based violence, early marriage and early pregnancy — all of them products of widespread gender inequality.

As the government of Mozambique has identified in its National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Early Marriage (2016-2019), education about sexual and reproductive rights, and access to safe contraceptive methods and safe abortion are all important tools in reducing barriers to women’s and girls’ sexual, reproductive and maternal health.

However, many more interventions that work in an integrated manner are also required.

In April 2017, we launched the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project. This five-year project in Inhambane province will improve access to health-care services for mothers, and work to reduce maternal deaths and improve newborn health.

Funded by Global Affairs Canada, this project takes a strong gender-equality perspective in its work.

Working in 20 communities within five districts, the project aims to support and empower women within their families and communities. It will increase access to health care services, increase management and leadership capacity in the health care system and provide professional education for health practitioners.

The project will also build infrastructure such as maternal clinics and waiting homes, provide much-needed ambulances and medical equipment and increase the use of research-based information in decision-making.

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The Conversation

Nazeem Muhajarine is a professor with the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology and Director, Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit, at the University of Saskatchewan.

u-of-s-researchers-target-the-most-aggressive-of-breast-cancers--true1547843924627imj129U of S researchers target the most aggressive of breast cancers More than 25,000 women in Canada are diagnosed every year with breast cancer, with no specific therapy available to target the most aggressive sub-type called triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).Sarath Peirisresearch, 1522776180000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-target-the-most-aggressive-of-breast-cancers--newssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-target-the-most-aggressive-of-breast-cancers--imj1291547654865283imj1291547654865283show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Price, Freywald, Vizeacoumar.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Price, Freywald, Vizeacoumar.jpgnewsPrice, Freywald, Vizeacoumar.jpgFrom left to right: Eric Price, Andrew Freywald, and Franco Vizeacoumar. (Photo credit: Daniel Hallen)NoNoneNo/
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“Unfortunately, a lot of patients with triple negative breast cancer die relatively fast,” said University of Saskatchewan cancer researcher Andrew Freywald, who has been awarded $558,452 by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to find methods to target TNBC directly and improve patient survival.

Freywald, who has established an experimental system that uses mouse models to ascertain the initiation and growth of cancerous tumours, is collaborating on the research with Franco Vizeacoumar, clinical assistant professor in the U of S College of Medicine and research scientist at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, and Eric Price, assistant professor in chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Radiochemistry.

The aim is to develop new, personalized therapies to target and eliminate triple negative breast cancer. About 10 trainees including post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and summer students will be involved in their four-year project.

The researchers have initially focused on a cell-surface receptor (CSR) molecule, which promotes aggressive tumour development. It has been found to be overexpressed (produced in large quantities) in many cancer tumours including TNBC.

Freywald worked with Massachusetts-based Biomirex Inc., which makes synthetic antibodies for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes and also developed a synthetic antibody that targets the receptor molecules.

“Even though the antibody we developed is highly efficient and looks promising for breast cancer therapy, it still leaves about 20 per cent of the tumour resistant to the treatment,” said Freywald.

So while the antibody drug would prolong a patient’s survival, there is a high chance the tumour will regrow and spread. An additional problem is that not all triple negative breast cancer patients would have a high expression of receptor molecules on the surface of their tumour to be targeted by the antibody.

The challenge is twofold, Freywald said.

“We need to identify patients with the accessible CRS molecules because they are the patients who will benefit. And we need a method to deal with the resistant cells in the tumour.”

TextPullquoteOverall, this is a powerful project that should bring us to a very effective, targeted therapeutic approach for treating this cancer.Andrew Freywald/Align left

As the genome specialist, Vizeacoumar is using sophisticated screening tools to identify new target genes that are essential for the survival of the resistant cancer cells. By developing and applying additional antibodies that inactivate these target molecules, the resistant cancer cells also can be eliminated.

The effectiveness of the antibodies will be tested in mouse models developed with human triple negative breast cancer tumours.

As the nuclear imaging specialist, Price is developing novel methods that will identify patients whose cancers are of the correct type and whose tumours are accessible to therapy that includes the anti-cell surface receptor drug.

With support of the specialized laboratories of the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, operated by the Fedoruk Centre at the U of S, Price has produced a new type of chelator — a molecule that binds strongly to a radioactive metal and attaches it to an antibody, which can then be injected into a patient to seek out and “light up” diseased tissue.

Price’s new chelator is far superior to the chelator used currently for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging in local hospitals.

“In the PET image, you are precisely tracking the radioactivity,” Price said. “You get good data from it and you can see the whole patient. It effectively makes the person transparent.”

The PET imaging process, which is non-invasive, yields a 3-D image of the exact locations and sizes of cancer tumours, where the antibodies and their radioactive passengers stick. The brightness of the tumour images will quantify the presence of targets for subsequent antibody-based therapies.

“This is the whole idea of personalized medicine,” said Price.

Vizeacoumar said there’s no magic bullet for cancer, and combination therapy is becoming the systematic approach. Genome-wide screening to identify complementing targets and using nuclear imaging to personalize treatment is the way forward with treating this aggressive form of cancer.

“Overall, this is a powerful project that should bring us to a very effective, targeted therapeutic approach for treating this cancer,” said Freywald.

Sarath Peiris is Assistant Director Research Profile and Impact at the U of S.

new-tool-helps-minimize-impact-of-solar-activitytrue1547843924627imj129New tool helps minimize impact of solar activityIncredibly, bursts of solar activity millions of kilometers away have the power to disrupt communication networks essential to the economy and banking systems on Earth. Federica Giannelliresearch, 1523284380000/articles/research/2018/new-tool-helps-minimize-impact-of-solar-activitynewssite://news/articles/research/2018/new-tool-helps-minimize-impact-of-solar-activityimj1291547654865761imj1291547654865761show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Lindsay Goodwin -Final 1.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Lindsay Goodwin -Final 1.jpgnewsLindsay Goodwin -Final 1.jpgLindsay Goodwin at the U of S “SuperDARN” radar site, one of 40 radars worldwide collecting data on the impact of solar activity. (Photo: David Stobbe for the U of S)NoNoneNo/
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University of Saskatchewan researcher Lindsay Goodwin has developed a new way to measure the impact of solar activity on the ionosphere as indicated by northern lights and geomagnetic storms. The ionosphere is the upper part of the atmosphere.

Scientists could use her new database of nearly 300 simulations of electric fields to forecast more efficiently and accurately the occurrence of northern lights and the effects of geomagnetic storms. 

“My research could help ensure that all the communication services we rely on in our everyday lives keep working properly,” said Goodwin, who is a recent U of S PhD graduate in physics.

Her new method will help scientists predict, and possibly prevent, the negative effects of space weather on the International Space Station and on communication systems, such as those used by airplanes flying over the polar regions. If damaged, the networks of Global Positioning Systems and communication satellites that sustain banking transactions, TV signals, and the Internet could be heavily disrupted.

Goodwin is the first to determine with precision the impact of electric fields on the ionosphere. The ionosphere’s main component, a fluid-like plasma, is very sensitive to changes in electric and magnetic fields caused by solar activity. 

TextImage/images/2018/Lindsay Goodwin-Final 2.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Lindsay Goodwin-Final 2.jpgnewsLindsay Goodwin-Final 2.jpgProfessor Jean Pierre St.-Maurice and Lindsay Goodwin at the U of S “SuperDARN” radar site, one of 40 radars worldwide collecting data on the impact of solar activity. (Photo: David Stobbe for the U of S)Above content

The work is challenging because the ionosphere is subject to currents, winds and waves.

“We try to determine ahead of time how we will make the observations, but nature often does something unexpected. It’s very much like solving puzzles,” said U of S physics professor Jean-Pierre St.-Maurice, Goodwin’s supervisor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Sciences.

Goodwin created her database based on a 1990s’ simulation. She re-ran it using today’s computers and got more accurate results because of better modern processing powers. She has also developed state-of the-art software to properly interpret the data from powerful radars used to study the ionosphere.

“I have found specific ways to make measurements that easily predict whether in a certain area of the ionosphere there is a lot of electric activity,” she said. “This can help measure how solar activity will affect that area.”

Funds have been invested in her project by the Canada Research Chairs program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the federal agency NSERC, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Goodwin was always obsessed with understanding deep space and galaxies until she realized that there are still a lot of unanswered questions about space close to Earth.

“Why should I focus on physics problems so far away when I have so much to learn about my own planet?” she said.

Goodwin will soon work at Boston University as a post-doctoral researcher, and collaborate with researchers at the Stanford Research Institute International and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to advance her research.

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit.

This article first ran as part of the 2018 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

the-fishy-problem-of-underwater-noise-pollutiontrue1547843924627imj129The fishy problem of underwater noise pollutionWhen the famous explorer Jacques Cousteau released The Silent World, a documentary of his underwater adventures in 1953, he inspired generations of scientists to study the world’s oceans.Adam Crane and Maud Ferrariresearch, 1523371740000/articles/research/2018/the-fishy-problem-of-underwater-noise-pollutionnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/the-fishy-problem-of-underwater-noise-pollutionimj1291547654866078imj1291547654866078show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/oceanview.jpgsite://news/images/2018/oceanview.jpgnewsoceanview.jpgYesNoneNo/
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We now know that the underwater world is anything but silent. In fact, today’s researchers are concerned that underwater noise produced by humans is distracting, confusing — and even killing — aquatic animals.

The underwater world is full of natural sounds that form a rich soundscape of rumbles, bubbles, grunts and clicks.

These sounds are produced by the motion of the atmosphere, water and seafloor, by animals and, now more than ever, by machines created by humans.

Nowadays, the underwater soundscape includes the roar of motors, the ping of military SONAR and the bangs and blasts from offshore development.

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For fish, whales and other marine animals, intense underwater noises from blasts can cause acoustic trauma and even death. More common quieter noise, such as construction or shipping noise, may not kill the animals directly, but can disrupt their ability to find food, mates or avoid predators.

TextImage/images/2018/motorboat.jpgsite://news/images/2018/motorboat.jpgnewsmotorboat.jpgResearchers use a hydrophone to record and measure noise from a passing motorboat. (Photo: Maud Ferrari)Align right

A wide range of species use acoustic signals to communicate with each other. Marine fishes, for instance, are known to make chirps, pops, knocks and grunts using their teeth, swim bladders or fins.

One consequence of anthropogenic — humanmade — noise is a masking effect. When the noise is close to a fish, it reduces that individual’s ability to hear the sounds of others. Noise also interferes with the sounds this individual produces, jamming communication.

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More and more, scientists are discovering that noise not only interferes with an animal’s cognitive processing of sounds, but also other types of stimuli, such as sight or smell. For example, boat noise interferes with the visual signals that cuttlefish use to communicate with each other.

Recent research in our lab indicated that noise can also impair an animal’s ability to process the chemical information released after a predator attack on shoal mates.

We looked at the effects of noise from small motorboats on coral-reef fishes at Lizard Island Research Station at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In the lab, we trained young damselfish to recognize the odour of the predatory dottyback as a threat. Some fish were trained in the presence of boat noise, while the others were trained with the ambient sound of the ocean.

TextImage/images/2018/fishy.jpgsite://news/images/2018/fishy.jpgnewsfishy.jpgA juvenile Ambon Damselfish being measured for body size traits. (Photo: Maud Ferrari) Align left

We found that fish trained with boat noise showed no fright reactions when they were exposed to the predator. It was as though they had had no preparation at all. The fish trained in the absence of boat noise, however, were scared. They reduced activity and foraging.

We taught another group of fish to recognize the smell and sight of three common predators — in the presence or absence of boat noise — and then we released them back into the wild.

TextSchool is outImage/Above content

It turns out that fish don’t learn very well in noisy environments. After three days, only 20 per cent of the fish exposed to boat noise were still alive, compared to almost 70 per cent of unexposed fish.

We often think of the ways climate change, overfishing and run-off pollution threaten fish populations in the Great Barrier Reef, but our study adds to the growing evidence that boat noise may also contribute to fish death through a failure to learn.

Boat noise can have a variety of negative impacts on fishes. It can change their activity, force them to live in bad habitats and decrease their ability to feed, defend their territory, reproduce and avoid predators.

In some places, such as biodiversity hotspots or sensitive habitats, it may be prudent to create rules or laws that minimize the impacts of noise. Approaches to mitigate the effects of boat noise may include the implementation of quiet zones, speed restrictions or the use of mufflers or low-volume engine models. For example, quiet zones were recently implemented in British Columbia to protect a population of killer whales.

Humans rely on the ocean for its biodiversity and natural resources. It also plays a fundamental role in regulating atmospheric temperatures and gases. Cousteau cared deeply about ocean conservation and was gravely concerned about ocean pollution and the over-harvest of marine life. Today’s seas continue to face these threats, as well as from habitat destruction, warming and ocean acidification.

These ocean threats are also human threats.

As Cousteau said, “For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”

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The Conversation

Adam Crane is a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Saskatchewan. Maud Ferrari is a associate professor with the Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan.

two-top-u.s.-scientists-join-u-of-s-food-security-researchtrue1547843924627imj129Two top U.S. scientists join U of S food security researchFlagship programs at the University of Saskatchewan such as the Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) and two Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) programs are helping to create a cluster of expertise in world-class plant breeding and attract top researchers.Sarath Peirisresearch1523457540000/articles/research/2018/two-top-u.s.-scientists-join-u-of-s-food-security-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/two-top-u.s.-scientists-join-u-of-s-food-security-researchimj1291547654866476imj1291547654866476show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/brian-dave.jpgsite://news/images/2018/brian-dave.jpgnewsbrian-dave.jpgFrom left to right: Byung-Kook (Brian) Ham and Dave Schneider.NoNoneNo/
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Two scientists recruited from major American universities by renowned plant scientist Leon Kochian for his $20-million CERC in Food Systems and Security research program are the latest to join USask.

“I am delighted we were able to recruit two world-class scientists to work in our CERC program on Food Systems and Security,” said Kochian.

“They each bring unique multidisciplinary talents to the program, enabling us to integrate computer science and big data analytics with plant molecular and cell biology research to better understand how crop plants adapt to and thrive in less than optimal settings.”

TextPlant molecular and cell biologist Byung-Kook (Brian) Ham joined USask from the University of California Davis, where he was an associate project scientist.Image/images/2018/Byung-Kook-Ham.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Byung-Kook-Ham.jpgnewsByung-Kook-Ham.jpgByung-Kook (Brian) Ham.Align left

All he knew about the U of S was that it is a good university for agriculture and plant science, and that the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) was located on campus.

“I didn’t know how really great it is,” he said. “During my interview I found out that excellent colleagues and amazing facilities for plant science are housed in GIFS and the university. It was way above my expectations. That’s why I decided to join GIFS and USask for my future research.”

Ham is now research chair in plant molecular long-distance signalling at GIFS and assistant professor in the biology department.

He is working at the new Roots of Food Security laboratory established by Kochian in GIFS, currently housed in the National Research Council building on campus. Ham’s research interest is how plants communicate between their root system and “shoot tissues,” such as leaves and flowers, through the plant vascular system.

The vascular system transports water and dissolved minerals to the leaves, and photosynthetic nutrients from mature leaves to all developing parts of the plant. But Ham has helped show that the system transports much more than sugars, water and nutrients.

When plants are grown in mineral nutrient-limited conditions, their root system undergoes adaptive responses, informing the shoots about the nutrient limitation. In return, the shoots send signals to the roots to reprogram them, leading to changes in root architecture and function to enhance the uptake of the limiting nutrient. These root-shoot communication signals play an important role in reprogramming plant growth processes for nutrient acquisition and redistribution.

Ham’s research goal is to identify how the molecules involved in the signalling work to integrate root and shoot growth under stress conditions, and how this information can be used to develop plants with more efficient and effective root systems that enable the production of sustainable crop yields under non-optimal soil conditions.

TextComputational biologist Dave Schneider has joined the U of S from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, as the GIFS chair in digital and computational agriculture.Image/images/2018/Dave Schneider.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Dave Schneider.jpgnewsDave Schneider.jpgDave Schneider.Align left

He is a professor in the USask School of Environment and Sustainability, where he is graduate chair.

“I live in an interesting research world made possible by having learned the languages of multiple disciplines—chemistry, physics, applied mathematics, computer science and several dialects of biology,” he said.

With an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, he did graduate work in chemical physics at Cornell before going into computer science at IBM, University of Illinois and then Cornell. When Cornell began its genomics initiative in the late 1990s, he was able to help biologists and computer scientists exchange and integrate ideas because he understood the “language” of both camps.

“It has been my niche since then,” said Schneider. “Leon recruited me to serve that catalytic role in being able to work with all the biologists here who are doing traditional molecular biology in addition to high-throughput genomics studies.”

As well, Schneider is involved with image analysis to characterize root system architecture, and serves as the interface between the worlds of physics and engineering with his background in chemical physics.

“Leon is trying to create an environment where students are being mentored not just in biology but also in the computational and statistical methods needed to understand the meaning of the experiments they conduct,” he said. “It’s training the students and post-doctoral fellows to be more self-sufficient in a way not being done elsewhere.”

For the highly multidisciplinary work being done with his CERC, Kochian is negotiating with a plant molecular and quantitative geneticist to join USask and is advertising to hire an assistant professor in engineering to work on digital imaging of root growth and development.

He foresees up to 15 post-doctoral fellows and up to 15 graduate students eventually training in the laboratory.

Sarath Peiris is assistant director Research Profile and Impact at USask.

cfi-funds-high-tech-tools-at-u-of-s-for-cancer,-water-and-food-security-researchtrue1547843924627imj129CFI funds high-tech tools at U of S for cancer, water and food security researchFive researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) have been awarded a total of $625,000 by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for state-of-the-art equipment that advances leading-edge work in precision medicine, water research and swine welfare.research, 1523464020000/articles/research/2018/cfi-funds-high-tech-tools-at-u-of-s-for-cancer,-water-and-food-security-researchnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/cfi-funds-high-tech-tools-at-u-of-s-for-cancer,-water-and-food-security-researchimj1291547654866674imj1291547654866674show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/silvana-petros-papagerakis.jpgsite://news/images/2018/silvana-petros-papagerakis.jpgnewssilvana-petros-papagerakis.jpgSilvana and Petros Papagerakis. NoNoneNo/
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“This investment in sophisticated technology at the U of S will enable our talented researchers to have a global impact with ground-breaking research in the key areas of food security and water security and health solutions at the animal-human-environment interface,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad.

A husband-and-wife team of Petros and Silvana Papagerakis, recruited from the University of Michigan in 2016 to help the U of S advance its medical research program, was awarded a total of $300,000 toward the purchase of two pieces of specialized equipment for developing precision medicine (formerly known as personalized medicine).

One machine separates and isolates, at the single-cell level, biological samples, and the second analyzes the cells at the RNA/DNA-level to see whether there are mutations or misexpressions, thus providing an in-depth analysis of the cell make-up of a specimen. For instance, 80 per cent of cells could be malignant, 10 per cent pre-malignant and 10 per cent benign. Researchers can then add different drugs to see how a patient would respond to treatment at the single-cell level.

“More and more we realize that people have particularities that need different treatment. We can hopefully adapt drug therapies to kill every single cell in the tumor of a patient, for example, and get much less relapse,” said Petros Papagerakis, associate dean of research and associate professor in the U of S College of Dentistry.

Silvana Papagerakis, associate professor of surgery and faculty member in the cancer research cluster at the College of Medicine, researches how the body’s circadian rhythm (known commonly as the “body clock”) is disrupted in cancer patients, and how that correlates with cancer metastasis and aggressiveness.

Research has shown that disruptions to the circadian rhythm, which regulates such things as the body’s gene activity, as well as physiological and biochemical processes, are linked to health problems.

“My specialty is about autoimmune diseases where the circadian clock is actually suppressed, which is correlated with the destruction of organs and impaired regulation of the immune system,” said Petros Papagerakis.

Potential use of the equipment extends to research in vaccine and drug development, and animal health, on which they will work in collaboration with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and other colleges.

Canada Research Chair John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures (GWF), and Canada Excellence Research Chair Laureate Howard Wheater, were awarded $200,000 toward the purchase of a custom drone for the newly established Smart Water Systems Laboratory.

The laboratory was established to help mitigate the impacts of climate change by improving the capability to predict water futures and assess water-related risks such as floods, drought, fires and pollution. The laboratory is developing new sensors to measure snowpacks, ice sheets, open water, flooding, streamflow, soil moisture, wetlands, vegetation, and algal growth.

The new drone, equipped with sophisticated sensors, is capable of flying below clouds for more than eight hours and covering hundreds of square kilometres, enabling water scientists to observe vast areas of remote cold regions to detect large-scale hydrological changes in a relatively short time.

Yolande Seddon, assistant professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the U of S and a specialist in animal behaviour and welfare, was awarded $125,000 toward equipment and software that directly support her research on swine welfare.

Seddon, working with 14 industry partners, recently was awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair. She undertakes research that helps place Canada at the forefront of progressive swine management by accommodating animal welfare, and supporting sustainable and ethical food production.

The CFI grant will go toward a suite of automated feeders for piglets and growing pigs, an automated water monitoring system for use in a commercial barn, and software that analyzes swine behaviour to answer a variety of key research questions related to animal welfare.

The CFI grants for all three projects are expected to be supplemented with contributions from government and other public and private sources.
u-of-s-training-the-next-generation-of-soil-scientiststrue1547843924627imj129U of S training the next generation of soil scientistsWith only hundreds of boarded-up former gas station sites being cleaned up every year, at the current pace it would take centuries to deal with the more than 30,000 contaminated locations across the country.James Shewagaresearch, 1523637120000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-training-the-next-generation-of-soil-scientistsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-training-the-next-generation-of-soil-scientistsimj1291547654866886imj1291547654866886show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/soil-OCN.jpgsite://news/images/2018/soil-OCN.jpgnewssoil-OCN.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Soil science and toxicology professor Steven Siciliano believes there has to be a better way.

With little financial incentive—or penalties—motivating most companies to deal with this massive and largely urban environmental problem, Siciliano and his fellow researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are developing improved and more cost-effective solutions to remediate contaminated fuel and fertilizer sites from coast-to-coast.

“Some people think that you can’t benefit the environment and benefit the economy at the same time, but that is simply not the case,” said Siciliano, who has become a national leader in soil remediation over two decades of research on campus. “We are working on new ways to remediate these sites that are more cost effective and make both environmental and economic sense. We are working on methods of soil remediation that can save billions of dollars for industry.”

Simply put, it is cheaper for companies to pay minimal property taxes while keeping the sites boarded up, than it is to pay for costly cleanups. That makes dealing with these contaminated sites one of the most pressing issues facing communities across the country, with environmental, economic, social and health issues at stake.

“In urban centres where we have these sites, the contamination is not readily apparent when it is happening underground, but it is our groundwater that is being contaminated and that is a major environmental issue and health issue for all of us,” said Siciliano.

“There are four intertwined issues: The first has to do with economic development, the second has to do with social justice, the third has to do with the health of the environment, and the fourth has to do with the health of humans. We try to make these sites cheaper and easier to clean because it’s easy to say it should be done automatically. But realistically, there’s too many sites and it’s too expensive, so we need to make it an easy situation that improves the economics of these businesses, while also helping the environment.”

TextImage/images/2018/Siciliano-OCN.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Siciliano-OCN.jpgnewsSiciliano-OCN.jpgSteve Siciliano continues to develop new techniques while also preparing the next generation of soil scientists and environmental leaders.Align right

Finding better ways to protect the environment is not only Siciliano’s profession, it’s his passion. Hearing former U.S. President Ronald Reagan blame acid rain on trees in the 1980s helped crystalize Siciliano’s commitment and career path as he began his university studies.

“Reagan famously said that Canadian trees were the problem and that’s what was causing the toxicity and that was incorrect,” said Siciliano who earned his PhD in toxicology in 1998 at the U of S before becoming a professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

“My honours thesis as an undergrad was on that topic and it made me realize that most people don’t understand what’s causing environmental issues. So, then I came to the University of Saskatchewan where there were professors like Jim Germida, who was working on that. And we developed plant-based systems to clean up contaminated soils, kick-starting a whole new industry called phytoremediation.”

Over the years, Siciliano and his fellow researchers have refined the process and developed new techniques to break down hydrocarbons from polluted sites, using everything from naturally occurring bacteria and fungi, to converted biowaste from cattle processing plants, to biochar derived from heating biological ingredients such as wood. Siciliano said the array of unique facilities available to U of S researchers has been critical in developing soil science solutions.

“The U of S is certainly acknowledged as a national leader in soil science, and internationally I think we can claim to be one of the centres of excellence of soil science in the world,” he said. “We are developing the expertise in what is being called the ‘Tron City’ with the phytotron, the cyclotron and the synchrotron. Those three are all nationally unique facilities, so we are well-situated to lead the way.”

TextPullquoteIf a student wants to get a good job in industry where they can do something to benefit the environment, I can help make that happen.Steve Siciliano /Align left

Backed by federal funding from the likes of the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and companies like Saskatoon-based Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), Siciliano said current U of S research is leading to more effective and more economically-feasible solutions to deal with contaminated soil.

“The technique that we are using now, called In Situ Remediation, is very promising,” said Siciliano, the NSERC/FCL Industrial Research Chair in In Situ Remediation and Risk Assessment at the U of S. “I think with the application of the cyclotron and the synchrotron, myself and my collaborators such as Derek Peak here at the University of Saskatchewan and Aram Teymurazyan from the University of Regina, we are going to be able to turn In Situ Remediation into a reliable and effective technology.”

Siciliano said the new techniques need to be combined with a new governmental approach to provide financial incentives for companies to remediate the soil, protect the environment and make sites safe for development into homes, businesses and parks.

“The single largest change that we could make to improve the environment in Canadian cities is to improve how we deal with asset retirement obligations to incentivise companies to deal with these environmental issues,” he said. “It’s not even tax breaks. If accounting standards were updated to help environmental management, the responsible companies would actually gain a competitive advantage by doing the right thing.”

In the meantime, Siciliano continues to develop new techniques while also preparing the next generation of soil scientists and environmental leaders.

“As university professors, I think our role is to help people achieve their life dreams, and that should be our primary passion,” he said. “If a student wants to get a good job in industry where they can do something to benefit the environment, I can help make that happen. If a student wants to pursue an academic career, we can also help make that happen.

“Our role is to provide Canada with a happy and highly qualified workforce that can address tomorrow’s problems. Because the students we train today will be the decision makers of tomorrow, tackling the challenges that Canada will be facing in 2040 and beyond.”

wcvm-today-playtime-for-pigletstrue1547843924627imj129Playtime for pigletsIt’s playtime for piglets at the Prairie Swine Centre (PSC), where Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) researcher Dr. Yolande Seddon hopes to find out whether piglets that play are better able to cope with life’s stresses.Nicola Schaefer1523964120000/articles/research/2018/wcvm-today-playtime-for-pigletsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/wcvm-today-playtime-for-pigletsimj1291547654867070imj1291547654867070show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/piglets-at-play.apr.26.2018.jpgsite://wcvm-today/images/2018/piglets-at-play.apr.26.2018.jpgwcvm-todaypiglets-at-play.apr.26.2018.jpgPiglets enjoy some play time at the U of S Prairie Swine Centre. Photo by Christina Weese. NoNoneYesNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/piglets-at-play.apr.26.2018.jpgsite://wcvm-today/images/2018/piglets-at-play.apr.26.2018.jpgwcvm-todaypiglets-at-play.apr.26.2018.jpgPiglets enjoy some play time at the U of S Prairie Swine Centre. Photo by Christina Weese. NoNoneNo/
TextImage/images/2018/piglets-tunnel.apr.26.2018.jpgsite://wcvm-today/images/2018/piglets-tunnel.apr.26.2018.jpgwcvm-todaypiglets-tunnel.apr.26.2018.jpgResearchers included a tunnel in some of the piglets' pens to see how much they played compared to other piglets that didn't have access to the prop. Photo by Nicola Schaefer. Align right

Animals play only in the absence of stress, pain and fear, says Seddon, an assistant professor in swine behaviour and welfare at the WCVM. Additionally, play has a critical role in the behavioural development, influencing learning, development of socials skills and motor skills. It is also hypothesised that play could be a source of pleasure, reinforcing performance of this behaviour.

“If we can find out that [play] benefits the behavioural development, physiology and the mental state of the pigs, then there is a strong basis to try and offer opportunities for play in modern production systems to promote good pig welfare,” says Seddon, who also holds the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Chair in swine welfare.

Seddon believes that enriching piglets’ environment will do far more for them than relieve boredom. It may set them up with beneficial skills and help them through the most stressful period of their lives. At weaning for example, piglets are separated from their mother, changed from a liquid to a solid diet, moved to a new location, and then required to live with piglets that are from other litters.

All of this change can lead to health issues for pigs such as digestive problems and/or a drop in body weight. Seddon hopes her play research may help piglets better adjust, reducing stress for piglets and the medications used to support them.

“The pig’s immune system is also developing at that point,” says Seddon. “And it’s the period of time when antibiotics are frequently required in pig production to control health disease outbreaks.”

If Seddon’s team finds evidence that playing improves pig welfare, using methods that producers could easily adopt could lead to real opportunities for enhancing pig welfare in existing production systems. Science has already shown that more space and interesting environments are good for pigs, but to help improve health and hygiene, pigs are still largely raised in barren environments.

Seddon explains the challenge of simply providing extra space in an industry with fluctuating hog prices.

“Space is very expensive. If you’re going to provide more space within an existing barn footprint, you’re going to put less pigs through, and can you make the finances work?” she asks.

That’s why the preliminary play studies by Seddon are identifying how important extra space is to promote play, or whether can play be promoted through modifying use of existing pen space.  

Additionally, Seddon is investigating how providing opportunities for play periodically could enhance any beneficial effects.

“It’s the fact that [the pigs] are getting it periodically that makes it a more exciting event … and that is something that can likely work in a production unit,” she says.

Funded by an undergraduate student research award from the University of Saskatchewan, a research team worked last summer to answer the initial question: what simple adjustments are needed for piglets to play more in a standard production environment?

The team made simple modifications to the environment of a group of piglets at the Prairie Swine Centre, giving them periodic access to a few square feet of extra space or to a tunnel inside their pen for 30 minutes a day (modifying the use of existing pen space). Then they compared how much these piglets played to piglets raised without these treatments.

“We’re comparing the treatments … one where [the piglets] are having space outside the pen, and one where we’re trying to get [them] to use the existing pen space differently,” says Seddon. “They’re all probably going to stimulate different types of play … provision of extra space we know is going to stimulate more locomotive play, but how does it alter social play?”

Seddon suspects the piglets will use the tunnel to hide and chase each other through, which may improve their social development — an idea she developed having observed piglets using a pop-hole in a farrowing pen to play through.

When pigs have experience with extra space or a tunnel, they have had greater exposure to new life experiences, and this can drastically alter their development.

If the research can show that play will benefit the welfare of pigs and their productivity, Seddon says this will have big implications for the barns of the future, which may have opportunities for play built right in.

“We need to develop production systems that meet economic, environmental and animal welfare sustainably … I personally think the impact play could have is huge,” she says.

Nicola Schaefer is a second-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She is originally from Winnipeg, Man. Her story is part of a series of articles written by WCVM summer research students.

/articles/2018/playtime-for-pigletsshow-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNosite://wcvm-today/articles/2018/playtime-for-pigletswcvm-todayplaytime-for-pigletsArticle headlinePlaytime for pigletsIt’s playtime for piglets at the Prairie Swine Centre (PSC), where Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) researcher Dr. Yolande Seddon hopes to find out whether piglets that play are better able to cope with life’s stresses.Headline news, research, livestock healthNicola Schaefer17-Apr-2018 11:22 AM
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the-hidden-history-of-indigenous-stereotypes-in-tabletop-gamestrue1547843924627imj129The hidden history of Indigenous stereotypes in tabletop gamesTabletop games have entertained and even educated people for over a century. While games today often sanitize conquest in North America rather than glorify it, they continue to grapple with the same questions about race, culture and history that game-makers 100 years ago encountered.Benjamin HoyCollege of Arts and Science, 1524845940000/articles/research/2018/the-hidden-history-of-indigenous-stereotypes-in-tabletop-gamesnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/the-hidden-history-of-indigenous-stereotypes-in-tabletop-gamesimj1291547654867407imj1291547654867407show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/indig-games-1.JPGsite://news/images/2018/indig-games-1.JPGnewsindig-games-1.JPGYesNoneNo/
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Despite the increased popularity of video games, tabletop games are still thriving. The game and puzzle industry in the United States now exceeds $2 billion in annual sales. Dozens of board game cafés, including the wildly popular Snakes and Lattes in Toronto, dot North America’s urban centres.

Board games even have their own holiday. On April 28, thousands of board and card game players from around the world will celebrate International Tabletop Day. It’s marked by charitable events, live-streamed broadcasts and, best of all, gaming.

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Looking only at the industry today, however, conceals a past that has contributed to the ways that stereotypes are passed between generations.

TextImage/images/2018/indig-games-2.jpgsite://news/images/2018/indig-games-2.jpgnewsindig-games-2.jpgJohn W. Huff & Company’s The Game of Ten Little Indians. Align right

In the 19th century, board game companies in the United States and Europe realized the potential of using Indigenous imagery to sell their merchandise to boys in particular. These early game-makers depicted Indigenous people as savage enemies or peaceful children. They borrowed these stereotypes from Wild West shows and dime novels.

Indigenous imagery offered more than a marketing opportunity. It also offered a way to teach American children about their history and culture. The games introduced complex ideas like territorial annexation and assimilation while players were still too young to fully understand these ideas.

The Game of United States History (circa 1903), for example, depicted the pre-contact residents of North America as “roving tribes of warlike Indians.” It contrasted these pre-contact depictions with Indigenous Americans who attended residential schools, wore European clothing and embraced “civilized occupations.”

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These rosy before-and-after depictions left the horrors of the schools untouched and implicitly told children that American expansion had been honourable and for the benefit of Indigenous people.

Tabletop games slowly changed the ways they depicted Indigenous communities in the aftermath of the Second World War. The increased importance of advertising encouraged board game companies to rely on well-known brands, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, instead of developing new ones.

The emerging Indigenous civil rights movement — such as the Indians of All Tribes’ occupation of Alcatraz in 1969-71 and the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 — was also difficult for the industry to ignore.

TextImage/images/2018/indig-games-3.jpgsite://news/images/2018/indig-games-3.jpgnewsindig-games-3.jpgTwentieth century tabletop games contributed to society’s stereotype of Indigenous people in North America. Author provided Above content
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Despite these pressures, game companies remained resistant to change throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In August 1973, a leading trade magazine for the American toy industry noted that while the industry reflected a wider variety of life experiences, there had been little engagement with Indigenous communities “probably because such markets are not considered large enough to be worth the trouble.”

In the long run, the Civil Rights Movement changed what the American public was willing to buy. Caricatures certainly remain, but financial pressures splintered the way game-makers depicted Indigenous people.

Many modern companies have moved towards sanitizing an often violent and difficult past to make it accessible to a young audience. That approach has created as many new problems as it’s solved. The best companies have developed products that are capable of retaining the complexity of the past, while making them accessible.

History, unfortunately, is complicated and unflattering. For game designers who are asked to represent identities and histories with bits of wood, plastic and cardboard, the task is certainly a challenging one — one they have been grappling with for more than 100 years.

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The Conversation

Benjamin Hoy is an assistant professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan.

astronaut-training-program-leads-u-of-s-student-to-marstrue1547843924627imj129Astronaut training program leads U of S student to “Mars”University of Saskatchewan graduate student Doug Campbell, who dreams of a career in space, is currently on a “space mission” to Mars, simulated deep in the Utah desert.Federica Giannelliresearch, 1525708860000/articles/research/2018/astronaut-training-program-leads-u-of-s-student-to-marsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/astronaut-training-program-leads-u-of-s-student-to-marsimj1291547654867707imj1291547654867707show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Doug Campbell-1.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Doug Campbell-1.jpgnewsDoug Campbell-1.jpgUniversity of Saskatchewan graduate student Doug Campbell, who dreams of a career in space, is currently on a "space mission" to Mars, simulated deep in the Utah desert. (Photo: Shawna Pandya)NoNoneNo/
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“I am looking for opportunities to build my skills and resume for the next time the Canadian Space Agency puts out a call for astronauts,” said the master’s student in biomedical engineering.

His two-week mission simulation at the Mars Desert Research Station ranges from growing his own food to doing outdoor explorations in a spacesuit.

Campbell has been selected to join a two-year scientist-astronaut training program based in the United States that will help him prepare for venturing into outer space research, once space flight becomes more accessible. The simulation at the research station is one of the last steps before completing his training in August.

He works in a landscape that is an actual geologic Mars analog — minus the dangerous atmosphere. The station is owned by the Mars Society, which supports Earth-based research for human space exploration, and has received some funding from the Musk Foundation.

Along with 19 other candidates from around the world, Campbell has also been through sea and land survival, high-gravity flight training, and hypoxia training (adapting to perform with reduced oxygen). The training is funded by the non-profit educational organization SeaSpace Exploration & Research Society through its PHEnOM (Physiological, Health, and Environmental Observations in Microgravity) project.

The “full Mars” experience in the Utah desert tests Campbell and his four fellow crew members on teamwork, and on research and interpersonal skills in a stressful environment. A mix of Americans and Canadians, the crew includes experts in health, geology, and engineering.

“We have to be entirely self-sufficient for two weeks, rationing our own food, water and supplies,” said Campbell. “But we can contact mission control off-site if we need to do so.”  

As the science officer on the mission, Campbell oversees the crew’s science work, ensuring that projects move along and that data are collected.

Campbell has invented and is currently testing a waterless dishwasher as a special part of his space simulation. His device holds promise for making astronauts’ lives easier when space travelling.

“We take water for granted on Earth,” he said. “Dishwashing is a luxury crews on Mars would likely not have because there is no water available.”

TextImage/images/2018/Doug Campbell-2.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Doug Campbell-2.jpgnewsDoug Campbell-2.jpgAs part of the training, Doug Campbell has developed and is testing a waterless dishwasher that may help one day make astronauts' lives easier when space travelling. (Photo: Shawna Pandya)Above content

Campbell’s early results show that the device works at cleaning plates. After removing debris from dirty plates, these can go into the dishwasher, which uses ultraviolet (UV) light for 15 minutes to kill bacteria. He has found the bacteria count is similar to that on plates washed with soap and water.

In a world where water resources are getting scarcer and scarcer, a waterless dishwasher could also make a difference on Earth.

“It is just a prototype, but there is a chance that it could drastically reduce the amount of water we use as a society.”

A typical day at the Mars site starts early. The crew takes shifts watering plants in the greenhouse (the GreenHab) and doing work at their living facility (the Habitat). Depending on their assigned roles, they work on engineering issues, astronomy or other science-related tasks.

“We go outside once a day for about three or four hours to explore the environment — essentially a walk on Mars!” he said. “I have enjoyed scouting for emergency shelter locations and documenting views around the station.”

The crew is only allowed to go outside in spacesuits that simulate the more expensive suit that astronauts would use on a real Mars mission.

“In case of emergency, I am happy that we could just ditch our spacesuits,” said Campbell. “I will be safe no matter what, and that’s not necessarily a feeling I would have on Mars.”

Campbell plans on applying for grants that will help him build his reputation in the space research community, while continuing his studies at the U of S and keeping his day job at the Saskatchewan Health Quality Council.

“My career is in healthcare quality improvement, and space research is a side passion I pursue on my own time.”

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Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit. 

This article first ran as part of the 2018 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

u-of-s-researchers-receive-funding-to-improve-health-care-systems-and-practicestrue1547843924627imj129Three U of S researchers awarded grants for patient-oriented research to improve Indigenous healthThree University of Saskatchewan researchers are among six recipients of the Patient-Oriented Research Leader Awards recently announced by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) for projects focused on Indigenous health, mental health and addictions.research, health sciences, 1525808820000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-receive-funding-to-improve-health-care-systems-and-practicesnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-receive-funding-to-improve-health-care-systems-and-practicesimj1291547654867909imj1291547654867909show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2017/aerial-campus.jpgsite://news/images/2017/aerial-campus.jpgnewsaerial-campus.jpgaerial-campus.jpgNoNoneNo/
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These jointly funded awards will support research teams across the province. Each researcher will receive up to $250,000 over three years to support their work with patients in rural and remote communities, provide evidence-informed improvements for the health care system, and improve patient outcomes through relevant and timely research.

The researchers will lead the engagement and collaboration of researchers, decision makers, patients, families, communities and health care providers to address patient-identified or community-driven priorities.

The U of S researchers who received awards are:

  • Angela Bowen, College of Nursing: Walking With Mothers: The Journey to Culturally Secure Birth in Saskatchewan. This program is meant to improve the birth experience of Indigenous women who are often forced to leave home in rural or remote areas for a hospital, an experience that can leave them feeling lonely, isolated and alienated.
  • Gary Groot, Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine: The Indigenous Health Collective: Advancing Indigenous Health Knowledge in Saskatchewan. Engaging Indigenous patients in the North as partners to pinpoint and address identified local health care needs is the goal of this research program, which will establish an Elders’ council to provide culturally appropriate guidance to researchers.
  • Vivian Ramsden, Academic Family Medicine, College of Medicine: Wellness – Building on Strengths: Working with Sturgeon Lake First Nation. This program, which co-creates research with the community, is designed to improve health and well-being, and minimize health disparities. This process enables researchers to explore and address community-identified issues through a collaborative and action-oriented processes.

“Indigenous peoples are a signature area for our university, and these collaborative and patient-oriented research projects are a key aspect of improving health care in distant and rural Indigenous communities,” said U of S Associate Vice-President Research Darcy Marciniuk.

“The projects not only represent a better way of working with patients and communities in research, but also provide the needed support to further strengthen our research expertise.”

The funding supports an entire research program carried out by each team rather than just single projects.

These researchers will also support SCPOR’s mandate to build capacity and collaborations to conduct responsive, equitable, innovative, patient-oriented research that continuously improves the care and health of Saskatchewan people.

“Patients, families and communities can make considerable contributions to research at every stage of the process,” says Malcolm King, Scientific Director and Interim Co-Lead of SCPOR. “Recipients of the

Patient-Oriented Research Leader Awards will ensure we continue to enrich health research, making it more relevant and improving patient care in Saskatchewan.”

To see full recipient details, visit

u-of-s-researcher-investigate-the-business-of-blood-and-tissuetrue1547843924627imj129U of S researcher investigates the business of blood and tissue in CanadaAlana Cattapan, assistant professor in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS) at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has been awarded the Canadian Blood Services (CBS)’ James Kreppner Award ($43,275) to study the commercialization of blood and tissue in Canada. research, jsgs, 1525880820000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researcher-investigate-the-business-of-blood-and-tissuenewssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researcher-investigate-the-business-of-blood-and-tissueimj1291547654868076imj1291547654868076show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Alana-Cattapan-OCN.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Alana-Cattapan-OCN.jpgnewsAlana-Cattapan-OCN.jpgAlana Cattapan. (Photo: Dave Stobbe)NoNoneNo/
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Alana Cattapan, assistant professor in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS) at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has been awarded the Canadian Blood Services (CBS)’ James Kreppner Award ($43,275) to study the commercialization of blood and tissue in Canada.

“James Kreppner was a former CBS board member and a strong advocate for blood safety.  He was also a fellow lawyer, with a clear-thinking approach to legal, ethical, and policy issues,” says Judie Leach Bennett, CBS vice-president, general counsel and corporate secretary.  “Named in his honour, this award supports high quality research to inform legal and policy questions related to the products and services provided by our organization today.  Alana Cattapan’s work will help provide provinces and territories with comparative research and advice on harmonizing and reforming legislation that will benefit all of Canada.”

Cattapan’s project will identify how renewable and reproductive (e.g., blood, sperm, eggs, bone marrow) tissues are governed across Canada. Human tissue legislation varies from province to province, and her research will examine the ways that this legislation has evolved in different jurisdictions, including provisions that allow for the sale of different human tissues. Her research will also address ethical, legal, and social concerns about the commercialization of human tissues, and will make recommendations for legal reform to promote harmonization.

“I am honoured to be able to do this work with the support of Canadian Blood Services and the James Kreppner award,” says Cattapan. “My hope is that by studying the history of tissue exemptions, we can inform discussions of legislative reform on matters related to donation of blood, blood products, and other tissues in Canada.”

Supported by the JSGS Centre for the Study of Science and Innovation Policy, her research will involve leading experts on tissue legislations and commercialization – Barbara von Tigerstrom (College of Law, U of S), Erin Nelson (College of Law, University of Alberta) and Rosanne Dawson (CBS legal counsel) – as well as law and public policy students.

Alana Cattapan speaks to Canadian Blood Services about her research. 

ending-energy-dependencetrue1547843924627imj129Ending energy dependenceProviding education and access to services for remote communities is a daunting task. Not all communities have the same opportunities, but the University of Saskatchewan has faculty and alumni who work on a daily basis to reduce the inequity between the north and the south.CHELSEA LASKOWSKIsens, research, 1525886340000/articles/research/2018/ending-energy-dependencenewssite://news/articles/research/2018/ending-energy-dependenceimj1291547654868317imj1291547654868317show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Northern_Lights.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Northern_Lights.jpgnewsNorthern_Lights.jpgYesNoneNo/
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School of Environment and Sustainability professor and Fulbright Scholar Greg Poelzer envisions a future where communities in northern Saskatchewan have access to sustainable energy to meet their need.

“What few people in Saskatchewan realize or even know is that Saskatchewan has two power grids—a northern grid and a southern grid that are not connected to one another,” said Poelzer. “Moreover the northern grid is built on the Precambrian shield and is not grounded, leading to frequents power outages.”

These frequent power outages are often caused by lightning or winter storms, which can last upwards of 24 hours. In a sustainable future, there would be local generation of energy sources and communities would be on micro-grids that protect them when the northern grid is down.

The vision Poelzer has is not just a pipe dream. He can easily recite a long list of reasons why projects like solar power and biomass—which turns wood waste into power and energy – are not only feasible, but desirable, for all sectors of society. Introducing these methods would help the province move towards its goal of increasing renewable energy use by 50 per cent by 2030; and the federal government would benefit from moving closer to its Paris Climate Agreement goals.

TextImage/images/2017/greg-poelzer-snow.jpgsite://news/images/2017/greg-poelzer-snow.jpgnewsgreg-poelzer-snow.jpggreg-poelzer-snow.jpgGreg Poelzer Align left

But the needs of northerners are first and foremost in Poelzer’s rationale for renewables, which he sees as a potential way to decrease the disparity in wealth between the provincial north and the rest of Canada.

“You're sitting with this enormous opportunity for economic development for employment, wealth generation in northern communities,” he said.

Luckily, no one needs to reinvent the wheel in finding those energy solutions. Instead, they can look to other jurisdictions and adapt them to the unique needs of Saskatchewan’s North.

The Netherlands and northern Sweden are 15 to 20 years ahead of Canada in renewable energy deployment, Poelzer said, and he is particularly interested in using Alaska as a guide for northern Saskatchewan because they have similar climates and remote communities.

“Everyone thinks of two things about Alaska: Sarah Palin and oil. [They] don't realize that [Alaska is] actually a world leader in micro-grid deployment and renewable energy deployment in severe weather conditions in off-grid communities that are run and led by Indigenous people,” Poelzer said.

Just last year, Poelzer and a colleague from the University of Alaska’s Centre of Energy and Power went to Deschambault Lake and Pelican Narrows to scope out the most feasible options for renewable energy deployment for Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation.

However, Poelzer knows that buy-in from the communities themselves is the most important element of any potential project. This is why he and others are creating a network of Alaskan, Norwegian, Swedish and Saskatchewan academics that will connect northern Canadian communities to sister communities in those other countries. He emphasizes the importance of partnerships with communities in Saskatchewan.

“We're all treaty peoples and if we're going to be successful as a province, politically, socially, economically, environmentally, we need to walk together and support each other,” he said.

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The University of Saskatchewan has established the world's first multi-sectoral partnership of utility and industry, Indigenous communities and academic institutions to tackle the policy challenges and barriers to renewable energy deployment in remote and Indigenous communities.

Read more about Greg Poelzer's work with this flagship program.

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science-competition-inspires-future-researcherstrue1547843924627imj129Science competition inspires future researchersThe U of S recently hosted the Saskatchewan edition of the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition, a national science research competition that pairs high school students with academic mentors to pursue real-world projects. Brett Makulowich1525964460000/articles/research/2018/science-competition-inspires-future-researchersnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/science-competition-inspires-future-researchersimj1291547654868511imj1291547654868511show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/bhullar-student.jpgsite://news/images/2018/bhullar-student.jpgnewsbhullar-student.jpgNoNoneNo/
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“We are excited to be nurturing these talented young scientists and challenging them to carry out research projects with potential real-world impact in the life sciences area,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research.

The winner of the regional competition was Harkirat Bhullar, a Grade 11 student at Evan Hardy Collegiate, whose project looked at applying machine learning to identify novel antibiotic resistance factors.

“The results were really interesting—the developed computational framework identified genomic features that have never been implicated in resistance before,” said Bhullar who was mentored by Tony Kusalik, U of S computer science professor faculty and Jo-Anne Dillon, department head, microbiology and immunology of the College of Medicine at the U of S.

“Honestly, it’s incredible to have such a great group of mentors to help me. I have been working with Professor Kusalik and his students since Grade Nine,” said Bhullar. “I also received help from Professor Dillon. Her expertise in antimicrobial resistance from a biological standpoint was very helpful to work on this problem. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be associated with such a supportive group of individuals who are also great researchers.”

Centennial Collegiate student Catherine Sun won second prize at the regional competition for her project, Identification of fusarium species associated with fusarium head blight of wheat through visual and molecular diagnostics.

Darshana Lanke, a student at Walter Murray Collegiate, won third prize for her project, Comparative study to characterise wheat allergenicity in ancient and modern wheat cultivars.

For winning first prize, Bhullar received $2,000, a portion of which goes to his school. He went on to compete in the national Sanofi Biogenius competition this week in Toronto where he placed fourth.

Besides fostering an interest in research, the Sanofi Biogenius competition is an opportunity for young researchers to connect with each other.

“Meeting fellow young individuals interested in research was quite inspiring,” said Bhullar of his experience at the national competition.

Brett Makulowich is a communications officer with Teaching, Learning and Student Experience.

the-accidental-discovery-of-stem-cellstrue1547843924627imj129The accidental discovery of stem cellsUnexpected results can happen at any level of research, says James Till, and “it’s how they’re dealt with that matters.”Colleen MacPhersonCollege of Arts and Science, research1526400540000/articles/research/2018/the-accidental-discovery-of-stem-cellsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/the-accidental-discovery-of-stem-cellsimj1291547654868699imj1291547654868699show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Till_1975.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Till_1975.jpgnewsTill_1975.jpgJames Till in his University of Toronto laboratory in 1975. (Photo: Fred Phipps / University of Toronto Archives)NoNoneNo/
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Till knows of what he speaks; it was almost 60 years ago that the renowned University of Saskatchewan graduate, along with a colleague, found something unexpected in research results that simply could not be ignored.

Although they did not know it at the time, the two scientists were on the path to discovering stem cells and the great potential they hold for treating everything from blindness to spinal cord injuries.

The discovery was not a eureka moment, Till says, “but our reactions were the same. We both thought, ‘That’s really interesting.’ ”

Till was a researcher at the Ontario Cancer Institute in 1960 when he and his colleague, Ernest McCulloch, spotted an anomaly during a study they were conducting into the effects of radiation on mice.

The mice were irradiated with enough X-rays to kill them within 30 days if they did not receive a transplant of bone marrow cells. The mice were also injected with a varying number of cells in order for the researchers to determine how many cells it would take to keep the animals alive.

On a Sunday morning, several days after injecting the cells, McCulloch examined samples taken from the mice. The hematologist noticed small lumps on the spleens of the mice, one lump for every 10,000 injected bone marrow cells.

“Dr. McCulloch’s observation that the number of clumps, which we both thought of as colonies, was linearly related to the number of transplanted marrow cells suggested that the colonies might be clones—that they derived from single cells,” says Till.

“We weren’t sure what track we were on, but we quickly agreed on what we would do next. We needed more evidence that the colonies were clones.”

TextImage/images/2018/Till_UofT.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Till_UofT.jpgnewsTill_UofT.jpgJames Till in 2017. (Photo: Laura Pedersen / U of T News) Above content

Till and McCulloch published their initial observation in 1961 in the journal Radiation Research to little fanfare, and then dedicated themselves to confirming their suspicion. Their work was also aided by graduate student Andy Becker and senior scientist Lou Siminovitch, with Becker’s experiments demonstrating “quite convincingly that the colonies were clones,” says Till.

Those results were published in Nature in 1963.

At the same time, Siminovitch, a molecular biologist and Till’s mentor for his postdoctoral work, was the lead investigator for studies “that revealed the cells that gave rise to colonies had, among their descendants, cells that could themselves give rise to new colonies. So, colony-forming cells could self-renew.”

Siminovitch’s work, also published in 1963, combined with the previous findings, “convinced us that we had blood-forming stem cells. Before then, we only referred to them as colony-forming units—CFUs—because we weren’t sure what we were dealing with.”

That ability to self-renew, says Till, “seemed to us to be one crucial defining property of stem cells,” and it is the definition of stem cells that is still in use today.

“It took us three years to establish that we were, indeed, dealing with something of considerable significance,” he says.

Till and McCulloch’s work formed the basis for all stem cell research going on today, and paved the way for advances such as bone marrow transplants to treat cancer. It also opened the door to the field of regenerative medicine—in which scientists seek ways to regrow, repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, use therapeutic stem cells and even produce artificial organs.

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This article first appeared in Arts&Science – read more here.

unprecedented-study-reveals-major-shifts-and-threats-to-global-freshwater-suppliestrue1547843924627imj129Unprecedented study reveals major shifts and threats to global freshwater suppliesAn article in the research journal Nature by the incoming executive director of the Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) reveals the dramatic impact of climate change and human activities on the availability of freshwater around the globe.Sarath Peiriswater, 1526496720000/articles/research/2018/unprecedented-study-reveals-major-shifts-and-threats-to-global-freshwater-suppliesnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/unprecedented-study-reveals-major-shifts-and-threats-to-global-freshwater-suppliesimj1291547654868905imj1291547654868905show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/water-jay.jpgsite://news/images/2018/water-jay.jpgnewswater-jay.jpgJay Famiglietti, incoming executive director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan.NoNoneNo/
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“With a changing climate, the increasing severity of flooding and drought, and unsustainable use of groundwater to meet increased food production demands due to population growth, the world’s freshwater resources are under a level of stress unseen before,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

Famiglietti, the paper’s senior writer, was recently named U of S Canada 150 Research Chair in Hydrology and Remote Sensing, and will join GIWS effective July 1.  

The Nature article, published online today, is based on an unprecedented level of data gathered using NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, other satellites and traditional sources. In this first-of-its-kind study, the authors relied heavily on observations by the GRACE mission of terrestrial water storage. The result is a startling new global map that depicts changing freshwater availability during the 2002-2016 period.

“Our study points to a distinctive, underlying pattern of the mid-latitude areas of the world getting dryer, while the bordering tropical and high latitude areas are getting wetter,” said Famiglietti.

“The observed trends reinforce the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models that global precipitation will generally decrease in the mid-latitudes, and increase in low and high latitudes by the end of the century.”

Embedded within this pattern are 34 major global hotspots where freshwater storage has changed over the 14-year study period, two-thirds (23) of which have been, or probably been, caused by global change or human water management. A majority of the hotspots (19) are losing water rapidly because of excessive groundwater pumping, or the melting of ice sheets or glaciers. 

The key environmental challenge of this century could be globally sustainable water resources management, said the authors, noting a recent study that estimates five billion of the global population of 7.6 billion people live in areas where water security is at risk.  

Famiglietti and his former doctoral student Matt Rodell, first author of the study, pioneered the use of the novel GRACE satellites to identify and quantify groundwater depletion from the globe’s major aquifers. Rodell is now chief of the Hydrological Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

An issue for Western Canada will be decreasing replenishment of water supplies in aquifers and reservoirs, as glaciers and snowpack in British Columbia disappear, Famiglietti said.

Glaciers of the Canadian Archipelago, west of Greenland, are also melting rapidly. This is against a backdrop of increasing water storage in much of Canada’s higher northern latitudes.

Canada’s sub-Arctic lakes are vulnerable to drying as snowcover and permafrost decline. The recent bouts of drying may be unprecedented in the past 200 years, according to the paper.

A wetting trend in the northern Great Plains of southern Canada and the U.S. is likely the result of a prolonged period of higher-than-average precipitation and flooding, said the authors.

Along with Rodell, two other team members are Famiglietti’s former PhD students. John Reager is a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Min-Hui Lo is an atmospheric sciences professor at National Taiwan University.

During the study period, all but one of the 34 regions lost or gained more than 32 billion cubic metres of water. For context, that’s more water than is contained in Lake Mead near Las Vegas, the largest human-made U.S. reservoir. Eleven regions lost or gained more than 10 times that volume.

The team supplemented GRACE information with U. S. Geological Survey Landsat imagery, observed changes in lake water levels, and data from sources such as published reports of human activities involving irrigation, mining, reservoir operations and inter-basin water transfers.

Across the globe, co-operation among nations and stakeholders will be needed to balance competing demands in regions affected by declines in water supplies,according to the authors. For instance, avoiding potential conflicts will require the inclusion of groundwater sharing in transboundary agreements. 

“The need for water-saving technologies and improved management and governance of water will become increasingly clear, and will be essential to future water and food security,” said the authors.

Watch a NASA video on the Nature paper.

NASA news release on Nature paper.

novel-mri-technology-will-monitor-astronauts-health-----true1547843924627imj129Novel MRI technology will monitor astronauts’ health in spaceWith more than $700,000 in funding from two major Canadian granting agencies, University of Saskatchewan researcher Gordon Sarty is building new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology for use on space missions to monitor the health of astronauts.research, 1527261300000/articles/research/2018/novel-mri-technology-will-monitor-astronauts-health-----newssite://news/articles/research/2018/novel-mri-technology-will-monitor-astronauts-health-----imj1291547654869095imj1291547654869095show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/sarty new group.jpgsite://news/images/2018/sarty new group.jpgnewssarty new group.jpgPhD student Pallavi Bohidar, post-doctoral fellow Abbas AlZubaidi, PhD student Hammed Ejalonibu, professor Gordon Sarty, and undergraduate students Sierra Francis, Darshan Patel.NoNoneNo/
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Sarty, interim chair of biomedical engineering and head of psychology, was awarded a $100,000 contract today by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to design and engineer an ankle-sized MRI device for the International Space Station (ISS).

Sarty and his team are designing a lightweight MRI that meets high safety standards required for space travel and will ultimately monitor the bone health of astronauts during prolonged space trips, where weightless conditions lead to the loss of bone mass.

The portable MRI will weigh about 30 kilograms, while the imaging behemoths patients encounter when undergoing a medical scan at a hospital can weigh 15 tonnes or so. The goal is to test an ankle MRI on astronauts aboard the ISS by the early 2020s.

After the ankle-size MRI, Sarty plans to build a helmet-sized MRI for possible use on a deep-space getaway station orbiting the moon and, far closer to home, in remote areas such as northern Saskatchewan where access to a portable MRI can save the lives of patients with potentially fatal head injuries.

“As a kid watching men walk on the moon, I was pretty sure that I would walk on the moon when I grew up,” recalls Sarty.

“As a grown-up, I worked as an engineer on space projects at SED Systems in Saskatoon. It was a dream job, but I returned to graduate school in part because I wanted my own project. This MRI work is that project. I may not make it to the moon, but my MRI will.”

The CSA earlier awarded him a grant of $500,000 to actually build an ankle MRI and test it on Earth using a steeply climbing and diving jet to create zero-gravity conditions. The requirements for such an experimental device aren’t as high as designing an MRI for use on the ISS.

As well, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) awarded Sarty a $105,000 Discovery Grant in 2016 to develop new MRI technology.

So far, a post-doctoral fellow, three PhD students, a master’s student and seven undergraduates have been involved in the portable MRI project.

Back in 2014, using CSA funding Sarty and his team designed a wrist-sized MRI that weighed about 50 kilograms. The space agency then asked about an ankle MRI, deeming it better suited for space experiments on bone health.

“We couldn’t do an ankle-size because the magnet design we had at that point would be too heavy,” said Sarty. “Since then we’ve been developing a new magnet technology that’s considerably lighter.”

The new technology doesn’t need a perfectly uniform magnetic field. This breakthrough allows for a design that uses cheaper and lighter magnets.

While the magnet in the original design for a wrist MRI would have cost about $1 million, Sarty and his team since have built a wrist MRI with a non-uniform magnet that used off-the-shelf components, weighs five kilograms and cost $5,000.

He’s working with Logi Vidarsson of LT Imaging of Toronto to now design and build a larger magnet for the ankle MRI. Three PhDs and a post-doctoral fellow will test the ankle MRI in spring 2019 under zero-gravity conditions aboard a jet that will make steep climbs and dives at altitudes between 10,000- and 20,000-feet.

“Eventually I’d like to see our technology move into emergency rooms,” Sarty said. “You already have CAT scans, ultrasound and X-ray that are at that level, but MRIs aren’t used in the ER yet.”

He also envisions eventually developing small MRIs for use in tandem with surgical robots to treat astronauts on long duration space travel — to Mars, for example — and for use on the moon and other places in the solar system.

But the first step in that long journey is to show that the technology works in zero-gravity, and then deliver preliminary engineering plans for the space station MRI to the CSA for review in January 2019.

For Sarty, it isn’t a far-fetched notion to be doing all this in Saskatoon.

For example, there’s work done at the Institute for Space and Atmospheric Studies (ISAS) to build and operate instruments for studying the upper atmosphere from satellite, high-altitude jet and balloon platforms, Sarty said. ISAS is also where projects involving radar networks such as SuperDARN are operated.

“Innovative training programs like CanNoRock, which allows students to launch rockets from Norway, and the NSERC CREATE Space Mission Training Program are both in full swing, not to mention the award winning space elevator and rover designs that have come from the student-run U of S Space Design Team,” he said.

“We’ve always had this space-oriented research and activity in Saskatoon, and I’m proud to be part of that.”

In addition to Sarty’s two MRI-related projects, four other U of S researchers have a total of eight active projects funded by CSA.

Sarath Peiris is Assistant Director, Research Profile and Impact.

u-of-s-study-targets-enzymes-role-in-breast-cancer-true1547843924627imj129U of S study targets enzyme’s role in breast cancer With one in nine women expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime, someone close to you could get the potentially fatal disease, as University of Saskatchewan graduate student Raghuveera Goel knows too well. Federica Giannelliresearch, 1527523800000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-study-targets-enzymes-role-in-breast-cancer-newssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-study-targets-enzymes-role-in-breast-cancer-imj1291547654869261imj1291547654869261show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Raghuveera Goel- Breast Cancer- 3.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Raghuveera Goel- Breast Cancer- 3.jpgnewsRaghuveera Goel- Breast Cancer- 3.jpgStudent Raghuveera Goel studies an enzyme linked to breast cancer. (Photo: Dave Stobbe)NoNoneNo/
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“I saw my mother’s best friend passing away in just one month after she was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Goel, PhD biochemistry student. “That’s why I was drawn to cancer research.”

After coming from India to join biochemistry professor Erique Lukong’s lab in 2014, Goel started investigating the role that an enzyme called SRMS may have in breast cancer. His initial results showed that high SRMS levels correlated with more aggressive cancer, and that SRMS appeared in the breast cancer cells of patients in larger quantities than in adjoining cells.

“Knowledge about SRMS cellular functions has been limited,” said Lukong. “The enzyme was discovered in 1994 but has been understudied for the past 20 years. We are getting close to solving the mystery.”

In a recently published article in the Molecular and Proteomics Journal, Lukong and Goel have been the first to identify and map more than 660 proteins targeted by the SRMS enzyme. 

This discovery will help scientists develop treatment strategies that could suppress the activity of SRMS and limit its potential impact on the proliferation of breast cancer cells. The end goal is to offer better tools for early diagnosis and monitoring disease progression.

SRMS belongs to a class of enzymes called tyrosine kinases that target specific proteins within cells. They trigger chemical changes that regulate processes such as cell shape, growth and energy consumption. When they go rogue, these enzymes wreck cellular processes, forcing cells to unruly replication, for example. Past studies have linked the occurrence of cancer to malfunctions of tyrosine kinases.

“Our research has been a big step forward. We didn’t know which proteins the enzyme targets and when, or how,” said Goel. “Now we know.”

The team has used a unique set of tools to complete the mapping of the proteins. They collected data using an advanced mass spectrometer housed at the University of Michigan, and did their analysis with software developed by the University of Toronto. The research is funded by the federal agency NSERC.

The researchers have also customized a peptide array, a new screening tool that helps identify the role of enzymes in proteins. The array, developed with U of S biochemistry professor Scott Napper, may be applied to determine targeted treatments by detecting how SRMS is active in a patient’s cancer.

Despite the promising results, Lukong and Goel caution that more research is needed to fully understand the role of SRMS in breast cancer.

“The next step will be testing how SRMS levels affect different cancer types and identifying how SRMS regulates target protein function in these cancers,” said Goel.

Despite a 44-per-cent reduction in breast cancer death rates since 1987, as reported by the Canadian Breast Cancer Society, early detection and better treatments are paramount for ensuring women’s survival, he said.   

He said he was attracted to the U of S by the chance to work with Lukong and by major developments at the U of S College of Medicine including new research labs, acquisition of sophisticated instruments and funding opportunities.

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This article first ran as part of the 2018 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit.

viruses-can-cause-global-pandemics,-but-where-did-the-first-virus-come-fromtrue1547843924627imj129Viruses can cause global pandemics, but where did the first virus come from?Viruses such as Ebola, influenza and Zika make headlines. They grab our attention with their potential to cause widespread disease and death.Arinjay Banerjee, Karen Mossman, Vikram Misraresearch, 1527604920000/articles/research/2018/viruses-can-cause-global-pandemics,-but-where-did-the-first-virus-come-fromnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/viruses-can-cause-global-pandemics,-but-where-did-the-first-virus-come-fromimj1291547654869500imj1291547654869500show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/ebola-men.jpgsite://news/images/2018/ebola-men.jpgnewsebola-men.jpgHealth workers get ready to spray insecticide in advance of the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to combat the mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus in this Jan. 26, 2016 photo. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)YesNoneNo/
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But where did these viruses first come from?

Unlike bacteria, viruses aren’t living organisms — they can’t reproduce on their own. Instead, they hijack cells to multiply, spread and cause disease.

But what if it wasn’t always this way?

Scientists studying a so-called giant virus called a Tupanvirus (named for the South American Guarani God of Thunder) found that it, unlike the viruses we encounter today, had an almost complete machinery to take care of itself.

This recent discovery has refuelled the debate over the origin of viruses.

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There is no physical fossil record of viruses like there is for the dinosaurs.

One way scientists detect viruses, and study their origins, is to look for their genetic material— molecules of DNA or RNA — in animal tissues and soil.

Even though the movies might have you believe otherwise, viral genetic material has never been detected in fossilized plant leaves or in insects trapped in amber.

However, some ancient viruses have been detected in permafrost in Siberia, and there are hopes of discovering more as global warming continues to thaw ground that has been frozen for thousands of years. Until then, we remain limited in our ability to precisely reconstruct the origin of viruses.

TextImage/images/2018/ebola-cell.jpgsite://news/images/2018/ebola-cell.jpgnewsebola-cell.jpgBeautiful, but deadly. A colourized scanning electron micrograph magnified 20,000 times of Ebola virus particles (green) from a chronically infected African Green Monkey kidney cell (blue). (BernbaumJG/Wikimedia Commons), CC BY Above content
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Arinjay Banerjee is a PhD candidate in veterinary microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan.

Vikram Misra is a professor of veterinary microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan.

u-of-s-researchers-named-to-arctic-groups-true1547843924627imj129U of S researchers named to Arctic groups With renewed global interest in Arctic resource extraction opportunities, transportation and tourism, tackling issues such as climate change, sustainable development and social and health impacts on Indigenous residents is becoming important for Arctic nations.research, international1527777120000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-named-to-arctic-groups-newssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-named-to-arctic-groups-imj1291547654869751imj1291547654869751show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/nathcher-jenkins.jpgsite://news/images/2018/nathcher-jenkins.jpgnewsnathcher-jenkins.jpgEmily Jenkins and David Natcher. NoNoneNo/
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Two University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researchers have been chosen to represent Canada on the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), a non-governmental organization that encourages co-operation in all aspects of Arctic research. The researchers will attend the POLAR2018 conference June 16 in Davos, Switzerland, with other IASC members. 

IASC was founded in 1990 by the eight Arctic countries — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, and 15 non-Arctic nations have joined the group since then.

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Emily Jenkins, associate professor in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, has been selected to serve on IASC’s terrestrial working group starting in January.

Jenkins has done extensive research in Northern and Western Canada on diseases transmitted between animals and people, including environmentally spread parasites, vector-borne diseases such as West Nile, and food-borne diseases such as toxoplasma, commonly caused by a parasite found in undercooked meat. She studies Indigenous and wildlife health, and the safety and security of traditional foods in Canada’s North.

“It seems to me that parasites and wildlife are a bit of a departure for IASC’s terrestrial working group, so I will be taking it in an interesting direction,” said Jenkins.

“I’m an unusual choice for this working group, and hope to bring more of a ‘We need to worry a bit more about what people in the North worry about – their health and the health of their wildlife’,” she said.

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David Natcher, a professor in the agricultural and resource economics department, and a research chair with the Global Institute for Food Security, will join IASC’s social and human working group in September.

“I’m thrilled. It’s an enormous opportunity,” said Natcher. “As a cultural anthropologist, I hope to bring a slightly different perspective to the working group, one that emphasizes the cultural well-being of Arctic Indigenous people and others who now call the Arctic home.”

Canada is looked upon as a leader at IASC, Natcher said. The appointment of two U of S members to the committee is in keeping with a tradition of faculty from many areas of the U of S, including soil science, toxicology, public policy, geography, and environment and sustainability contributing to Arctic and northern research.

Jenkins was also among three Canadians invited by the U.S. State Department under its premier International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to represent Canada on a 10-day International Health Surveillance in the Arctic tour in mid-May.

“A big piece is to make One Health a reality in the Arctic and operationalize it,” said Jenkins.

The One Health approach recognizes that human, animal and environmental sectors are inextricably linked, and seeks to find health solutions at the interface of these sectors.  

Under the program, One Health experts from other Arctic Council member nations visited Fairbanks and Anchorage in Alaska to exchange information and identify best practices in achieving optimal health outcomes.

The prevalence of zoonotic diseases is a challenge for Alaska. Jenkins said the issue is familiar to Canada — providing access to traditional ways of Indigenous people and other remote area residents who rely heavily on living off the land.

“In the North, wildlife health is human health,” she said. “The One Health approach is also knowing who is not at the table, and it means thinking outside of the box.”

canadas-paris-pipeline-paradoxtrue1547843924627imj129Canada’s Paris-pipeline paradoxThe Canadian government’s decision to purchase Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project shortly after ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change creates an interesting paradox and a national challenge.Markus Hecker and Jackie DawsonResearch 1528217160000/articles/research/2018/canadas-paris-pipeline-paradoxnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/canadas-paris-pipeline-paradoximj1291547654869984imj1291547654869984show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/pipeline-1.jpgsite://news/images/2018/pipeline-1.jpgnewspipeline-1.jpgYesNoneNo/
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The environmental implications of pipeline development have already caused British Columbia and Alberta to feud, culminating in an outright trade war between the two provinces. Canadians are clearly divided on energy and climate politics.

The pipeline would increase current capacity by 590,000 barrels per dayto deliver oil and gas to national and international markets. The government, as well as many Canadian businesses and citizens, have argued that this is critical for economic growth and the nation’s near-term prosperity.

On the flip side, these decisions have a significant impact on the ability of Canada to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets and to move towards a “greener” economy.

The fundamental question that needs to be solved is: Can Canada move towards a green economy and meet the GHG reduction targets of the Paris agreement while simultaneously expanding the fossil fuel economy via public ownership of what was the Kinder Morgan pipeline?

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Markus Hecker is a professor and Canada Research Chair in Predictive Aquatic Toxicology at the University of Saskatchewan. 

what-the-kinder-morgan-decision-says-about-investing-in-canadatrue1547843924627imj129What the Kinder Morgan decision says about investing in CanadaWould you invest a billion or two in Canada right now?Carin Holroyd and Ken S. Coatesresearch, 1528217820000/articles/research/2018/what-the-kinder-morgan-decision-says-about-investing-in-canadanewssite://news/articles/research/2018/what-the-kinder-morgan-decision-says-about-investing-in-canadaimj1291547654870175imj1291547654870175show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/pipeline-2.jpgsite://news/images/2018/pipeline-2.jpgnewspipeline-2.jpgPeople listen during a protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on May 29, 2018. The federal government’s decision to buy the project doesn’t inspire confidence for potential investors eyeing Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl DyckNoNoneNo/
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By buying the Trans Mountain pipeline, the government of Canada has made a stunning admission. They cannot assure a major company, one with a long and successful track record in Canada, that a legal, comprehensively reviewed and fully authorized major project will proceed to completion.

Let’s park the conversation about the relative merits of the pipeline itself and think about the message that this decision sends to the investment community, particularly relating to natural resource development.

Canada has, for generations, been a major beneficiary of foreign and domestic investmentin resource projects and related infrastructure. That investment flow is now at risk.

The protests against Kinder Morgan are fully understandable. In a properly functioning democracy, people debate with passion and conviction the major issues of the day, including energy policy and pipeline construction.

The opponents have many different and honourable motivations, from concerns about the pipeline itself and Indigenous rights to worries about protecting the coastal waters from a potential tanker disaster.

Others see the struggle with Kinder Morgan as an existential battle against climate change and, specifically, the exploitation of the oilsands.

These are perfectly legitimate concerns and, to date, the overwhelming majority of the protests and tactics used by opponents of the project have been well within acceptable bounds.

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Carin Holroyd is an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Ken S. Coates is a Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the University of Saskatchewan.

clone-wars-finding-buggy-code-copiestrue1547843924627imj129Clone wars: finding buggy code copiesComputer code makes the world go round, but it can also bring it to a grinding halt, like when a software bug in a self-driving car resulted in a pedestrian fatality this past March.Kris FosterCollege of Arts and Science, 1528405260000/articles/research/2018/clone-wars-finding-buggy-code-copiesnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/clone-wars-finding-buggy-code-copiesimj1291547654870382imj1291547654870382show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Chanchal Roy-OCN.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Chanchal Roy-OCN.jpgnewsChanchal Roy-OCN.jpgChanchal Roy, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. (Photo: Kris Foster)NoNoneNo/
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Code is ubiquitous and most industries around the world rely on code-based software to keep day-to-day operations running, said Chanchal Roy, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science.

“The simplest functions use code, and bad code can have a massive impact,” said Roy, who joined the College of Arts and Science in 2009. “Unfortunately, the way developers copy code can result in lots of bugs or errors, something my research addresses.”

It is common practice for software developers to copy, paste and modify a fragment of existing code to suit the task or tool they are working on. This is called cloning, and the resulting code from the copy-and-paste process is, of course, called a clone.

“There are valid reasons why cloning is so common,” said Roy, whose research is supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Accelerator Grant. “It saves time, there is low risk in using stable code, and it results in faster development. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.”

The problem, Roy is quick to point out, is that often cloning code results in cloning unknown “bugs” as well, and these errors can spread quickly.

“If you have a bug in the original code, you are copying errors over and over again,” he said. “Even if you find one instance of the bug, it is nearly impossible to find all of them … which results in a lot of industries using outdated code over new code that potentially has bugs.”

In part because of the issues related to cloning and the resulting buggy clones, up to 85 per cent of the cost of software development can go towards software maintenance, including clone detection.

“It is a double-edged sword,” said Roy. “Cloning is common because of the benefits to programmers, but clones can carry bugs that are also really troublesome.”

Clone detection, an area in which Roy has dedicated a lot of research time, means finding similar code fragments in order to resolve bug issues. In its simplest form, it is like doing a document search for specific words. In its most complex form, it is like searching for a needle in a haystack, especially if the original code has been modified (which is the most common form of cloning) and is in a program containing millions of lines of code.

To address this issue, Roy and his research collaborator James Cordy of Queen’s University have developed a number of clone detection systems that search for similar fragments of code. There are two main criteria needed for a good clone detection system: precision, which is the ability to detect clones correctly; and recall, a term referring to the percentage of clones detected out of the total number of clones present. Roy and Cordy have developed the first clone detection system, called NICAD, that excels in both precision and recall.

“Once we define what similarities to search for, NICAD can detect modified clones,” Roy said, noting that a great amount of human testing, including vetting over nine million cloned fragments, has gone towards ensuring the clone detection system is accurate.

Through his evaluation of clone detection, Roy has also become a world leader in the area of benchmarking clone detection tools with the development of the BigCloneBench tool.

The potential of Roy’s clone detection systems and benchmarking work is not going unnoticed. Roy and Cordy have recently received two Most Influential Paper awards, in recognition of the “lasting impact of contributions made within the previous 10 years.” Their work on benchmarking and NICAD were recognized by the International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution and Reengineering, and the International Conference on Program Comprehension, respectively.

Looking ahead to the next decade, Roy said he would like to develop a “safe cloning system” that not only detects corrupt clones, but is also able to advise on how to fix bugs in the system, or even remove them automatically.

“This has the potential to save a lot of time and money, but I am not sure I can do this even in the next 20 years,” said Roy with a slight smile and laugh.  

the-data-gaptrue1547843924627imj129The data gapAll scientific research depends upon reliable data, but it can be difficult to obtain and is often incomplete or flawed. Juxin Liu uses statistical tools to help health science researchers account for and analyze imperfect data.Mari-Lou RowleyCollege of Arts and Science, research, 1528408560000/articles/research/2018/the-data-gapnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/the-data-gapimj1291547654870545imj1291547654870545show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Juxin_Liu-OCN.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Juxin_Liu-OCN.jpgnewsJuxin_Liu-OCN.jpgProfessor Juxin Liu (Photo: David Stobbe)NoNoneNo/
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We’ve all likely done it—skewed the truth when asked about our weight, exercise or drinking habits. When trying to obtain accurate information on public health risks, however, these fibs can adversely affect the outcome of a study. Case in point, smoking while pregnant is underreported on health surveys, despite the increased risks of premature delivery and low birthrates that can lead to infant mortality.

Statisticians understand the world in terms of data: information gained by measuring or observing variables. The smoking status of pregnant women, long-term nutrition intake and physical activity are examples of variables that are difficult or costly to observe. Other variables in health science research are impossible to observe, such as depression or quality of life.

“These are more complicated problems,” said Juxin Liu, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. “Conceptually you can define these things, but how do you quantify them?”

Unveiling the “truth” masked by imperfect data is a vital area of research for statisticians like Liu.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and although early screening programs have reduced deaths from the disease, proper diagnosis—particularly of hormone receptor (HR) status—is crucial to effective treatment. For example, post-surgery drugs that are highly effective in estrogen-receptor positive tumours are not nearly as effective in tumours that are estrogen-receptor negative.

But HR status is difficult to measure. It is also costly and depends on multiple factors, including specimen handling, tissue fixation, antibody type, staining and scoring systems—all of which are subject to error. Liu was lead author on a study of HR misclassification errors, working with her former PhD supervisor at the University of British Columbia and clinicians from the University of Chicago.

Until 2010, the guidelines used by clinicians called for a tumour to be diagnosed with a positive HR status if 10 per cent of the sampled cells tested positive. Since then, the cut-off has been reduced to one per cent. Intuitively, one would think this a good thing, because the change increases the test’s sensitivity—the chance of correctly identifying HR positives. However, reducing the cut-off also decreases the specificity, meaning there is a greater chance of falsely identifying negatives as positives. The Bayesian methodology proposed by Liu and her colleagues takes this “tug-of-war” relationship between sensitivity and specificity into account in adjusting for misclassification errors.

Bayesian tools use historical information, or prior knowledge, in addition to the empirical data being analyzed. In the breast cancer study, the professional knowledge of clinicians was combined with the cut-off change to create a more accurate statistical analysis. It is one of the ways statisticians such as Liu assist other researchers in analyzing data that are misclassified, unknown or incomplete.

“For this study, the prior information about sensitivity and specificity comes from the clinicians’ expertise,” said Liu.

It’s her job to fill in the gaps.

TextNone/Above contentThis article was originally published in Arts&Science.
exercise-opposite-side-to-keep-casted-limb-strong-true1547843924627imj129Exercise opposite side to keep casted limb strong When you injure an arm, exercising the same healthy limb on the other side of the body may be key to maintaining strength and muscle size in the injured limb, a University of Saskatchewan study shows.Federica Giannelliresearch, 1528748220000/articles/research/2018/exercise-opposite-side-to-keep-casted-limb-strong-newssite://news/articles/research/2018/exercise-opposite-side-to-keep-casted-limb-strong-imj1291547654870717imj1291547654870717show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Justin Andrushko-Arm training.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Justin Andrushko-Arm training.jpgnewsJustin Andrushko-Arm training.jpgJustin Andrushko (right) and Jonathan Farthing study new ways to maintain strength of injured limbs. (Photo: Amanda Davenport for the University of Saskatchewan)NoNoneNo/
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“The strength preservation likely comes from a phenomenon related to how exercising one side of the body affects information exchange between the two sides the brain, and then influences the non-trained side of the body,” said Andrushko. This information exchange is well known from previous research, some of it by Farthing.

The students who did the “cross-education” training also preserved their muscle size, not just strength, compared to those who didn’t. Andrushko found the non-exercising group lost on average three per cent of muscle.

He is the first to study muscle size preservation by using a peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (pQCT) scanning, which offered a more in-depth picture of the entire forearm, unlike previous ultrasound-based studies.

The cause behind muscle size preservation is still a mystery, but the researchers think exercising may trigger a yet-unknown connection between the nervous system and a protein balance mechanism that helps maintain muscle size.

“We do not know much about the causes of muscle size preservation, so we need to dig deeper,” said Farthing. “This was an initial study on healthy, young people. There may be unknown factors at play when applying this to injured people, and the results could change.” 

While this study was Andrushko’s master’s project, he is now working with Farthing to study the effects of “cross-education” on stroke patients. Because strokes often cause serious loss of muscular strength on one side of the body, Andrushko is interested to see how exercising the less affected side could benefit rehabilitation.

Farthing’s projects are funded by the federal agency NSERC, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and the Royal University Hospital Foundation. Andrushko’s master’s project was also funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

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Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the U of S research profile and impact unit.

This article first ran as part of the 2018 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

2.8-m-nserc-cisco-chair-aims-to-transform-the-internet-of-thingstrue1547843924627imj129$2.8-M NSERC-Cisco chair aims to transform the Internet of ThingsUniversity of Saskatchewan (U of S) engineering researcher Ha Nguyen has been awarded $1.38 million by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)—and matching funding from industry partner Cisco Canada —for a research chair to help address the huge demand the Internet of Things (IoT) will create for transmitting and tracking data.research, 1528814220000/articles/research/2018/2.8-m-nserc-cisco-chair-aims-to-transform-the-internet-of-thingsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/2.8-m-nserc-cisco-chair-aims-to-transform-the-internet-of-thingsimj1291547654870871imj1291547654870871show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/ha2.jpgsite://news/images/2018/ha2.jpgnewsha2.jpgHa Nguyen NoNoneNo/
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The IoT aims to seamlessly connect via the Internet computing devices embedded in everyday objects—such as smart-phones, refrigerators, cars, and traffic lights—enabling them to send and receive data. By some estimates, as many as 50 billion sensor-equipped devices, ranging from smartphones and laptops to equipment in health care, mining, manufacturing, agriculture and transit systems, will be integrated via the Internet by 2020.

The IoT is gaining worldwide attention because of its immense potential to change how we live and work, with nearly everything from human beings to the machines we use increasingly becoming interconnected in cyberspace.

“This partnership combines expertise in our engineering college and at Cisco to develop new wireless sensing technologies that will potentially integrate any electronic object with the Internet and improve communications in a host of areas such as health care, pollution monitoring, transportation, home security, and mining,” said U of S Engineering Dean Suzanne Kresta.

Nguyen is developing a network that uses very little power to transmit information between devices or between devices and humans.  The network would operate on an unlicensed bandwidth that doesn’t require purchasing expensive wireless spectrum space. The low-power signals, sent from transmitters using ordinary batteries, would have to reach distances of up to 20 kilometres and efficiently serve indoor and underground applications.

“Boosting the range and reliability of information transmission over the wireless channel without consuming more power or radio bandwidth is a major part of the project, and I am excited about it,” said Nguyen, U of S electrical and computer engineering professor who has spent more than 16 years researching broadband wireless networks. “It’s a big challenge, but I am optimistic we will obtain innovative and useful solutions.”

Development work has begun over the last few months. “We got some very good results. We are in the process of filing a couple of patents with Cisco,” Nguyen said.

“Cisco strongly believes the future will continue to be shaped and defined by technology, and IoT will eventually touch all aspects of our lives,” said Rola Dagher, President, Cisco Canada.

“Investing in IoT research is not only a smart decision, it’s a necessary one if we are to evolve crucial areas such as education, employment, health care, transportation and employment. This new research chair is another exciting step in Cisco’s long and successful relationship with the University of Saskatchewan, and a great opportunity to drive the possibilities of IoT for all Canadians.”

The five-year NSERC-Cisco Industrial Research Chair in Low-Power Wireless Access for Sensor Networks will involve two postdoctoral fellows, five PhD and five master’s students, along with undergraduates as part of equipping them with a high degree of skills in signal processing, wireless communications and sensor technology in IoT.

Nguyen aims to work with other leaders in the industry to transform a technology called LoRa, patented by Semtech in the United States, for long-range, low power consumption, secure data transmission in IoT applications.

The second part of the research involves figuring out how to use the signals from sensors on various objects to compute their precise location. Current GPS-based localization services aren’t useful for indoor applications, tunnels or mines.

“Mining applications are one of the main targets,” said Nguyen. “The knowledge, expertise and technology developed from this project will be transferred to Cisco for IoT applications, including in the Canadian mining industry.”

Cisco has established relationships with several mining companies that will collaborate on the project. In Saskatchewan, the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII), of which the U of S is a partner, and Nutrien are providing in-kind support to Nguyen’s group as there are potential benefits for equipment use and worker safety.

The research program also aims to optimize the energy efficiency of the wireless network for data routing by having sensors in the network equipped to relay the information, instead of direct transmission as is the case with the LoRa system, Nguyen said.

a-tango-with-tangled-polymerstrue1547843924627imj129A tango with tangled polymersWhile statisticians are driven by real-world problems, U of S mathematics professor Chris Soteros is motivated by the more esoteric behaviour of long-chain molecules, such as polymers and DNA, and the mathematical problems they pose. MARI-LOU ROWLEYCollege of Arts and Science, 1528919520000/articles/research/2018/a-tango-with-tangled-polymersnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/a-tango-with-tangled-polymersimj1291547654871033imj1291547654871033show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Chris-Soteros_OCN.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Chris-Soteros_OCN.jpgnewsChris-Soteros_OCN.jpgChris SoterosNoNoneNo/
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Her work involves analyzing the folding and “packaging” behaviour of these molecules. Given that two metres of DNA are folded into each cell in our body, studying the behaviour is daunting indeed.

To help unpack the problem, Soteros simplifies and simulates these molecules on a three-dimensional lattice, then uses mathematical tools such as random and self-avoiding walks to model their behaviour.

The sporadic path of a random walk is often described as “a drunkard’s walk home,” and is used to model random movements in large data sets—from stock market fluctuations to particle physics. A self-avoiding walk is a random walk that cannot cross the same path or retrace steps. Since no two atoms can occupy the same space, in three dimensions it is an ideal tool to model polymer behaviour.

To study polymer behaviour, Soteros models a polymer solution by using a lattice walk to represent the polymer and the empty spaces surrounding it to represent the solvent molecules of the solution.

In experimental solution at high temperatures, the polymer behaves like a self-avoiding walk. “At these temperatures, the polymer prefers to be close to the solvent molecules, but if you decrease the temperature, the polymer prefers to be closer to itself,” explains Soteros.

Surprisingly, at a specific lower temperature the polymer behaves like a random walk, and below that temperature a “collapse” transition occurs, and the polymer folds in on itself.

“It wasn’t until the late ‘70s that the collapse transition was observed in the lab, and you had to have a very large molecule in a very dilute solution to see the transition,” says Soteros. “This is an example of mathematics predicting a behaviour before it was confirmed by experiments.”

Sometimes theories are discovered the other way around. Former student Michael Szafron (MSc’00, BEd’09, PhD’09)—now assistant professor in the School of Public Health—came to Soteros with a complex problem. Long strands of DNA can become knotted when packed into the confines of a cell nucleus, but in order to replicate successfully, DNA must be unknotted. Enzymes called type II topoisomerases perform the necessary untangling by cutting one strand of DNA, passing the other strand through the break and then reattaching the ends of the broken strand. How does this startling solution work so well, and how can it be mathematically modelled?

It helps to imagine a long necklace that has a knot; unfastening the clasp helps to untangle the knot. “The problem is that a necklace clasp could be far away from where the knot is, so it would be difficult to pull it through,” says Soteros. Yet these enzymes seem to know exactly where to cut the DNA.

By modelling the basic behaviour of very large molecules in solution, Soteros is building mathematical evidence to understand how these enzymes work so efficiently—and how they might be used to develop new antibiotics and anticancer drugs.

TextNone/Above contentThis article was originally published in Arts&Science.
toxic-leftovers-from-giant-mine-found-in-snowshoe-harestrue1547843924627imj129Toxic leftovers from Giant Mine found in snowshoe haresEven though it was closed decades ago, the Giant Mine on the outskirts of Yellowknife has left a long environmental legacy.Som Niyogi, Solomon Amunoresearch, 1528996560000/articles/research/2018/toxic-leftovers-from-giant-mine-found-in-snowshoe-haresnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/toxic-leftovers-from-giant-mine-found-in-snowshoe-haresimj1291547654871818imj1291547654871818show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/hare-conversation.jpgsite://news/images/2018/hare-conversation.jpgnewshare-conversation.jpgSnowshoe hares near the now closed Giant Mine outside of Yellowknife, N.W.T show signs of arsenic contamination. (Denali NPS/flickr), CC BY-SANoNoneNo/
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The gold extraction process, which required roasting ores at extremely high temperatures, created a toxic byproduct called arsenic trioxide. For about 55 years (1948-2004), arsenic and other toxic elements were released into the environment, causing widespread contamination of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems around Yellowknife.

About 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide dust is buried underground, and several nearby lakes show arsenic contamination.

Elevated arsenic levels have also been reported in soil, vegetation and fish around Yellowknife, but we knew little about how it has affected the health of the small mammals that live in the area.

Many of these fur-bearing animals are still being trapped for their pelts and for food, so knowing their arsenic levels is also important for human health.

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Small mammals can serve as sentinels for environmental contamination. Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) live in a relatively small area and eat soil, so they are likely to accumulate higher levels of arsenic and other trace metals from the environment.

Exposure to elevated levels of arsenic can cause damage to the liver and other organs. And cadmium, a toxic metal and another byproduct of the gold extraction process, can replace calcium in the bones, leading to bone deformities and weakness.

In humans, chronic arsenic exposure (usually from water) can lead to changes in skin colour, skin growths and cancers of the skin, lung and internal organs.

When we measured arsenic and cadmium levels in hares living within two kilometres of the Giant Mine and compared them to hares living about 20 kilometres away from Yellowknife, the results were striking.

The arsenic levels in the guts of snowshoe hares living near the Giant Mine were 20-50 times greater than those living away from it. We also saw higher concentrations of arsenic in the organs and nails of the Giant Mine hares.

Cadmium levels were also higher but the difference wasn’t as marked. Hares from both locations had weaker bones and showed signs of osteoporosis, probably due to chronic exposure to cadmium.

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This chronic exposure to elevated levels of arsenic and cadmium may explain why snowshoe hares living near the Giant Mine are in poor health.

Wildlife living in metal contaminated areas in other parts of the world have also shown problems with reproduction, osteoporosis, neurological damage and chronic metabolic disease. But in Canada, it’s the first time we’ve seen small wild mammals with chronic arsenic poisoning.

The high levels of pollutants could compromise the long-term survival of the snowshoe hare and other small mammals in the Yellowknife area.

The high arsenic and cadmium burden in hares could have consequences for other animals that prey on them, such as foxes, wolves or other carnivorous mammals, and for the people who hunt them.

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Read more at The Conversation. 

The Conversation

Dr. Som Niyogi is a professor at the Department of Biology and an associate faculty of Toxicology Program, University of Saskatchewan. 

Dr. Solomon Amuno is adjunct professor at the School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan. 

u-of-s-researchers-help-to-preserve-last-remaining-sask.-residential-schooltrue1547843924627imj129U of S researchers help to preserve last remaining Sask. residential schoolUniversity of Saskatchewan researchers in archaeology and anthropology are assisting the Muskowekwan First Nation and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to preserve the last remaining residential school in Saskatchewan.College of Arts and Science, 1529603760000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-help-to-preserve-last-remaining-sask.-residential-schoolnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-help-to-preserve-last-remaining-sask.-residential-schoolimj1291547654872027imj1291547654872027show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Muskowekwan .jpgsite://news/images/2018/Muskowekwan .jpgnewsMuskowekwan .jpgMuskowekwan Residential School (Screengrab from CTV)NoNoneNo/
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U of S faculty members are joining researchers from the University of Alberta at the Muskowekwan Residential School to examine a number of sites that are believed to be the final resting place for several Indigenous children who attended the school, according to a recent story by CTV.

The Muskowekwan First Nation hopes to see the building turned into a museum. Band councillor Cynthia Desjarlais told CTV Regina that the goal for now is to put up a memorial for the unidentified children believed to have been buried on the property.

Read more on this story.

Read more: U of S partners with National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

u-of-s-researchers-win-cas-award-for-work-on-patient-safetytrue1547843924627imj129U of S researchers win CAS award for work on patient safetyTwo University of Saskatchewan anesthesiology residents working to improve patient safety have received an award from the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society (CAS), as part of the society’s annual meeting this week. A third researcher is one of six finalists for the Residents’ Competition. Federica GiannelliResearch, medicine, 1529685600000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-win-cas-award-for-work-on-patient-safetynewssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-researchers-win-cas-award-for-work-on-patient-safetyimj1291547654872167imj1291547654872167show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/cas.jpgsite://news/images/cas.jpgnewscas.jpgU of S researchers (l to r) Fabio Magistris, Patrick Valcke and Stefan Kojic.NoNoneNo/
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“This award provides important recognition for the significant work of our residents in research that positively impacts patient care, and for the critical role of our medical school and its researchers in delivering healthcare improvements,” said Preston Smith, dean of the U of S College of Medicine.

Researchers Stefan Kojic and Fabio Magistris were awarded the Ian White Patient Safety Award for their research on potential damage caused by an artificial airway with balloon-like cuffs that provide a seal to anesthetized patients’ airways.

By measuring the pressure in these cuffs, Kojic and Magistris’ study shows that most patients had airway cuff pressures outside of the safe range, leading to an increased risk of permanent airway damage. When they interviewed over 200 anesthesiologists across Canada, many underestimated the risk or were unaware of it, said Kojic. 

“Our study improves patient safety by raising awareness of cuff pressures and airway damage,” said Magistris. His and Kojic’s project was titled “Airway cuff pressures: prospective observational multicenter study with a Canadian-wide survey.”

Anesthesiology resident Patrick Valcke was a finalist in the CAS Resident’s Competition with a project titled “Passive leg raise to facilitate pediatric peripheral intravenous placement.” His worklooked at whether raising children’s legs before surgeries makes it easier to place intravenous catheters (IV)—needles—in children’s arm veins. 

He found that elevating children’s legs did not increase the size of the veins because of higher blood flow, as happens in adults, but the technique did reduce the number of attempts needed to place an IV.

“We are excited by these results because nobody likes needles,” said Valcke. “By doing this low-risk and no-cost manoeuvre, we can decrease the number of pokes it takes to place needles in kids.”

Federica Giannelli is a student intern in the U of S research profile and impact office.

how-to-show-consumers-the-benefits-of-genetically-modified-foodstrue1547843924627imj129How to show consumers the benefits of genetically modified foodsGenetically modified (GM) foods for human consumption have long been a subject of intense public debate, as well as academic research.David Di Zhang and Grant Alexander Wilsonresearch, 1530222000000/articles/research/2018/how-to-show-consumers-the-benefits-of-genetically-modified-foodsnewssite://news/articles/research/2018/how-to-show-consumers-the-benefits-of-genetically-modified-foodsimj1291547654872481imj1291547654872481show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/grain.jpgsite://news/images/2018/grain.jpgnewsgrain.jpgYesNoneNo/
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Despite the lack of scientific evidence to suggest GM foods are less safe than conventional foods, previous studies have shown that consumers are reluctant to fully embrace them and are wary about the technology that produces them.

In our upcoming article in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, we show that consumers’ attitudes toward GM foods, their willingness to purchase them and the price they are willing to pay could be significantly improved if GM products had a direct benefit to them personally.

Our findings at the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business have the potential to change how agriculture biotechnology companies promote their products —while also creating significant value.

Particularly, we found that consumers are willing to accept and pay premiums for GM foods that have value that’s personally relevant to them.

In other words, changing the value proposition from industry-centric to consumer-centric may help to mitigate the negatives associated with GM food.

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In 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations identified global food security as an increasingly critical issue as the world population grows, and said that meeting the growing demand for food will require agricultural biotechnology. Therefore it’s necessary to build widespread consumer support for GM foods.

Creating GM food with direct consumer benefits could play a pivotal role in gaining such support. Not only does promoting direct consumer benefits have the potential to change perceptions, as shown by our study’s data, it may also be a profitable endeavour.

We surveyed 750 Canadian consumers on different ways of presenting GM foods.

The first group of consumers saw ads for GM foods that promoted several industry-oriented benefits that might indirectly appeal to consumers, such as higher yield, less pesticide usage and enhanced global food supply. These messages were similar to those typically promoted by GM food proponents.

The second group of consumers saw ads focusing on direct consumer benefits, such as better taste and enhanced nutrition.

The third group of consumers saw ads for GM foods that promoted both direct and indirect consumer benefits.

The result of the survey showed that, not surprisingly, the participants in the first group were less inclined to buy GM foods even at a price that was significantly lower than comparable non-GM foods.

The consumers who were accepting of GM foods appreciated that GM technology had positive benefits and was creating value. However, they believed that the technology has only benefited the industry, and demanded that a portion of the value is passed onto the consumers.

In contrast, the participants who were presented a value proposition that directly benefited both the industry and consumers reported better attitudes toward GM foods, expressed higher purchase intentions —and they were willing to pay a premium for such products.

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These findings suggest that how consumers assess the value of GM foods to themselves personally, as opposed to solely how or why the food is made, is fundamental to consumers’ attitudes, purchase intentions and willingness to pay.

Many previous studies have examined consumer perceptions of GM foods and explored why or why not consumers were reluctant to accept them.

A 2016 study conducted meta-analyses that reviewed hundreds of prior studies and how consumers’ personal characteristics could influence their acceptance of GM food. Those factors included gender (men might be more likely to accept genetically modified foods than women), education, income (consumers with higher income might be less likely to accept GM foods), prior knowledge and family situations, etc.

In other words, the emphasis has been on figuring out how to change consumers so that they would accept GM foods.

But our research points to the need for the GM industry to change how it’s promoting the products, and to begin producing foods that directly benefit consumers. The agricultural biotechnology industry needs to place consumer interests at the centre of their focus, not only at the time of selling their products, but also during the research and development processes.

Indeed, in a previous University of Saskatchewan study, we found that in Canada, consumer-oriented biotechnology companies generally outperform those that aren’t consumer-oriented.

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The idea of a second generation of GM products — the kind that could hold real appeal to consumers — is now gaining momentum.

Earlier this year, the Canadian government approved the sale of a vitamin-fortified golden rice that contains higher levels of Vitamin A. It’s potentially beneficial to those consumers who may suffer from Vitamin A deficiencies.

Nonetheless, promoting direct consumer benefits is not a total panacea.

Even while successfully showing consumers how GM foods can benefit them personally, there were still a substantial portion of the participants in our study (35 per cent to 50 per cent, depending on the products presented) who refuse to purchase GM foods no matter the price.

This indicates that consumer acceptance of GM foods is a complicated matter. There’s still a long road ahead to convince shoppers at the grocery stores to consider genetically modified foods as personally beneficial.

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Read more at The Conversation. 

The Conversation

David Di Zhang is an associate professor in Management & Marketing, University of Saskatchewan.

Grant Alexander Wilson is a faculty member in the Department of Management & Marketing, University of Saskatchewan.

u-of-s-research-team-aims-to-develop-salmonella-vaccine-true1547843924627imj129U of S research team aims to develop salmonella vaccine With 94 million cases of gastroenteritis — “stomach bug” — every year worldwide, protecting against salmonella is more relevant than ever. Federica Giannelliresearch, 1530636540000/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-research-team-aims-to-develop-salmonella-vaccine-newssite://news/articles/research/2018/u-of-s-research-team-aims-to-develop-salmonella-vaccine-imj1291547654872749imj1291547654872749show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/Akosiererem Sokaribo 1.jpgsite://news/images/2018/Akosiererem Sokaribo 1.jpgnewsAkosiererem Sokaribo 1.jpgAkosiererem Sokaribo has been working on a salmonella vaccine. (Photo: Dave Stobbe for the University of Saskatchewan)NoNoneNo/
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At the University of Saskatchewan, researchers have been working on a novel salmonella vaccine that holds promise for preventing this food-borne infection. The vaccine, being developed at the university’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization — International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), has shown positive preliminary results in animal models.

“As salmonella strains are becoming more antibiotic-resistant, treating the infection is more difficult,” said VIDO-InterVac scientist Aaron White, U of S Jarislowsky Chair in Biotechnology.

“Developing a vaccine will reduce the need for antibiotics and may slow down the development of antibiotic-resistant strains.”

Salmonella infection causes gastroenteritis which involves vomiting, fever and diarrhea. People can get infected by eating contaminated meat, eggs, or milk, or when foods have come into contact with manure. Pets such as cats, dogs, and reptiles may also carry and spread the infection.

White’s PhD student Akosiererem Sokaribo has genetically modified a salmonella strain to generate a new variant that produces high quantities of the vaccine antigen, a molecule that induces immune responses to the bacteria.

“Our vaccine may be unique for its potential to protect against multiple salmonella strains because it relies on an antigen that is common to the strains that cause gastroenteritis,” said Sokaribo, a student who has come from Nigeria to VIDO-InterVac for the opportunity to work at a world-class institute for infectious diseases and vaccine research.

“With more than 1,500 salmonella variants causing gastroenteritis, so far it has been difficult for researchers to develop a vaccine that could work for all,” she said.

TextPullquote“Delivering a low-cost vaccine is important, especially in low-income countries where salmonella remains a huge burden."VIDO-InterVac scientist Aaron White/Align left

Sokaribo has tested the novel vaccine on more than 50 healthy mice to determine whether their immune systems were activated. All animals showed a strong immune response to the vaccine.

“This is a very good sign. If we didn’t get any immune response, it means the vaccine would not work,” said Sokaribo.

She presented her results on June 25th at the fifth International One Health Congress in Saskatoon, organized by the U of S and the One Health Platform.

The team’s next step is to test the efficacy of the vaccine in protecting mice against salmonella infection, and they hope they will complete the new trials by the end of 2018.

Even though it was a preliminary trial, Sokaribo said the testing was a success because she was able to purify the antigen in large quantities. This means potential costs could be reduced if the vaccine enters production.

“Delivering a low-cost vaccine is important, especially in low-income countries where salmonella remains a huge burden,” said White.

The researchers’ vaccine potentially targets both humans and animals. The work is an example of the U of S excellence in One Health research that focuses on the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health.

The project has been funded by the federal Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF), and the Jarislowsky Chair in Biotechnology through combined funding from the U of S, the Saskatchewan government and Stephen Jarislowsky, a Montreal businessman who has established a philanthropic legacy of supporting research in Canada.

Federica Giannelli is a graduate student intern in the University of Saskatchewan research profile and impact unit. This content runs through a partnership with The StarPhoenix.

This article first ran as part of the 2018 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

how-to-fight-desertification-and-drought-at-home-and-awaytrue1547843924627imj129How to fight desertification and drought at home and awayA growing human population and runaway consumption are putting unsustainable pressures on the natural resources we depend on for survival. Our misuse and abuse of land and water is changing fertile land into deserts.Andrew Slaughterresearch, 1530828420000/articles/research/2018/how-to-fight-desertification-and-drought-at-home-and-awaynewssite://news/articles/research/2018/how-to-fight-desertification-and-drought-at-home-and-awayimj1291547654873137imj1291547654873137show-in-navNoshow-navYesshow-prev-nextNoshow-feedbackNoNoNoYesMatching keywordsYesImage/images/2018/farm-conv.jpgsite://news/images/2018/farm-conv.jpgnewsfarm-conv.jpgA farmer plows a dry and dusty cotton field near Phoenix, Ariz., while a drought affects the Southwest. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)NoNoneNo/
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The word “desertification” conjures up images of the spread of existing deserts, with tall dunes spilling into villages and farmer’s fields. But it is actually