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Studies assess impact of environmental factors on human health and disease


Ottawa, ON The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) is providing funding to nine teams of researchers examining how environmental factors can alter the expression of human DNA and health. The funding comes from a partnership between CIHR and Genome BC, Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS) and the Japan Science & Technology Agency.

The teams include six Canadian teams and three teams composed of Canadian and Japanese researchers. The following researchers will lead Canadian teams focused on improving the translation of epigenetics research into better human health:

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

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

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