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Complex Traits Group

The Complex Traits theme is one of the five research themes of the Life Sciences Complex, the largest construction project in the history of McGill University.  CFI and other support was used to create two inter-connected research spaces of the Life Sciences Complex (LSC), namely the Bellini Life Sciences Building (BLSB), and the Cancer Pavilion.  This substantial investment provides a modern infrastructure, with state-of-the art facilities, supporting the work of approximately 60 principal investigators and 600 researchers.  This integrative environment enables an ambitious program in basic multidisciplinary research along five major themes:  Developmental Biology, Cancer, Cell Information Systems, Complex Traits, and Chemical Genetics.  The concept of non-departmental based multidisciplinary research conducted by the five research themes in the same physical entity and supported by cross-cutting state of the art technology platforms and core facilities, is the corner stone of the Life Sciences Complex.  The Complex Traits program occupies laboratory and office space, located on the third floor of the Bellini Building (BLSB).

Most important human diseases, including cancer, infections, as well as metabolic, cardiovascular, and neurological disorders have a genetic component.  This genetic component is complex, heterogeneous and of variable penetrance in humans.  Mouse models of complex diseases constitute an attractive alternative to identify major gene effects, by genetic analysis in inbred, recombinant congenic and in chemically mutagenized or gene-targeted mouse stocks.  The Complex Traits (CT) research theme aims to implement genetic approaches in mouse models to study complex diseases of critical relevance to human health.  The ultimate goal is not only to identify genes and proteins constituting novel targets for diagnosis, prevention or therapeutic intervention in the corresponding diseases, but also to characterize the contribution of these proteins, and associated biochemical and cellular pathways to normal physiology and to the disease state.  Our research activities rely on robust and innovative genetic, biochemical, cell biological and immunological platforms.  The distinguishing feature of the research strategy is that it is based on synergy and collaboration amongst scientists with complementary expertise in the CT theme as well as with the other four themes of the complex.  This collaborative enterprise is facilitated by several cores (mouse and transgenic cores, imaging core, histology core, small molecule screening platform, phenotyping platforms, etc.), and by the unique layout of the building.

Members of the CT program at the Bellini Life Sciences building currently focus their research activity on several aspects of host: pathogen interactions, including early sensing of pathogens, inflammatory response, as well as innate and acquired immunity against bacterial, viral and parasitic infections.  The current effort not only targets the host genes, proteins and response pathways involved, but also the microbial pathogenicity determinants that trigger such responses.  The effect of these cellular and biochemical responses on the regulation of other important events such as cell division, cell death and neoplastic transformation is also being investigated by members of the group.  For these studies, members of the CT theme are using genetic and cell biology approaches in experimental mouse models of infection, inflammation and immunity, to gain insight into normal function and basic pathophysiology of specific conditions.  They also aim to translate basic knowledge obtained in these animal models into clinical outcomes in humans, through collaborative studies with other scientists at McGill and elsewhere in Canada and abroad who have access to the relevant clinical materials. Through the expertise of its current members, the CT theme has established major research strengths in the fields of genetics, genomics, immunology, cell biology and biochemistry.  In particular, the CT theme has quickly become a center of excellence at McGill for the genetic and cell biology analysis of infectious and inflammatory diseases.  In addition, the CT theme has developed and/or maintains a unique set of genetic/genomics platforms with associated expertise that enables the study of any complex traits.  Aside from current CT theme users, these tools and know-how additionally represent unique campus-wide resources for the study of any normal physiological process and/or associated disease state, and will continue to provide a productive interface for interactions with members of the McGill community.  These include on-going large-scale chemical (ENU) mutagenesis to generate germ-line mutations in mouse, and a unique set of AcB/BcA recombinant congenic mouse strains to deconvolute complex genetic traits.