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South Pole telescope to probe 'dark energy'

The South Pole Telescope, a 22-metre tall, 280-ton monstrosity housed in one of the coldest places on Earth, has successfully collected its first test observations. And now astrophysicists hope it will shed light on the mysteries of the universe. CTV speaks with McGill astrophysicist Matt Dobbs, who is involved in the project.

Published: 13 Mar 2007

Knowledge transfer

"There's a mountain of clinical practice guidelines and recommendations out there, unfortunately, they're collecting dust on shelves." Dr. Eddy Lang, an emergency doc and assistant professor of medicine at McGill, should know. A longtime disciple of evidence-based medicine, Dr. Lang works in the fast-growing and relatively new area of medical research known as knowledge transfer, or KT for short. The holy grail of KT is getting medical research results to make the leap into clinical practice.

Published: 12 Mar 2007

How touching

Haptics is the science of simulating pressure, texture, vibration and other sensations related to touch. Most of today's haptic devices rely on motors that either prod or vibrate the skin, but a new technology is emerging that is an even more flexible and effective means of stimulating the sense of touch: skin stretch. By laterally stretching the surface of the skin (without pushing or poking into it) it is possible to mimic the feeling of complex shapes and sensations. This is because the sense of touch seems to depend far more on the way in which the skin is deformed and stretched than it does on the degree of pressure applied. So it should be possible to recreate sensations purely by stretching skin, says Vincent Hayward, a researcher who first developed such a device at the Centre for Intelligent Machines at McGill University.

Published: 9 Mar 2007

Printing better bones

Jake E. Barralet of McGill's Faculty of Dentisty and colleagues have adapted a printer to produce synthetic, three-dimensional structures to make bone grafts. Tests indicate that such porous, tailor-made structures could one day be implanted into patients to serve as biodegradable scaffolds for regrowing missing or damaged bone.

Published: 9 Mar 2007

Newly infected spread half of HIV

Half of all new HIV transmissions occur when people are unlikely to know they carry the virus and in some cases, wouldn't test positive for it because they are so newly infected, according to a new study authored by Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill AIDS Centre. The study is to be published in the April edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases and is one of the first in the world to quantify how many of the newly infected are responsible for spreading the disease to others.

Published: 2 Mar 2007

McGill women's hockey gets $1-million boost

The McGill Martlets women's hockey team is the beneficiary of the largest single monetary donation to a women's sports program in Canadian university history. David Kerr and his wife Sheryl, Montreal natives and former McGill student-athletes, have bestowed a $1-million gift to ensure the women's program will always have a full-time head coach.

Published: 2 Mar 2007

Non-invasive heart treatment to mend a broken heart

McGill cardiologists perform a new procedure that lets patients avoid open-heart surgery and return home within 48 hours. According to Dr. Joe Martucci and Dr. Adrian Dancea, the procedure can significantly delay the need for open-heart surgery and greatly reduce the life-long morbidity associated with some heart malformations.

Published: 23 Feb 2007

Making the edible urban landscape

Vikram Bhatt, Director of the Minimum Cost Housing Group of the McGill School of Architecture, and his team of students have been travelling the world over the last three years with a project called "Making the Edible Urban Landscape," designed to use even an impoverished piece of land to benefit those who live there — and the planet itself.

Published: 19 Feb 2007

Breathing tied to waist size

Morbidly obese men tend to have more breathing difficulties than morbidly obese women, partly because they have much larger waistlines, a new study suggests. Dr Gerald S. Zavorsky from the McGill University Health Centre and colleagues led the study.

Published: 18 Feb 2007

Evolutionary psychology

"The idea that evolution is an important determinant of who we are as human beings is unquestionable," says Laurence Kirmayer, director of the division of social and transcultural psychiatry at McGill. "The question is, what does our evolutionary history or our theories of evolution tell us specifically about the nature of human problems or about their potential solutions?" The Los Angeles Times writes on evolutionary psychology, a burgeoning field that is starting to influence psychotherapy. Evolutionary psychology sees the mind as a set of evolved mechanisms, or adaptations, that have promoted survival and reproduction.

Published: 16 Feb 2007

A mother's love

McGill researchers have found that a good dose of motherly love may be enough to alter our genetic code, leaving us less fearful and stressed out in later life. If the finding is confirmed it could lead to dramatic new insights into the effects of upbringing and life experiences on a vast range of medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes and depression. The study, by Moshe Szyf, Michael Meaney, Ian Weaver and their team at McGill, is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Published: 14 Feb 2007

What's in your milk?

A McGill- and Harvard-sponsored conference held recently in Boston brought together about three dozen dairy researchers, from nutritional epidemiologists to dairy scientists, to discuss the hypothesis that hormones and growth factors in dairy increase cancer risk. Michael Pollak, an oncologist who studies cancer risk and IGF-1 at McGill, was one of the conference organizers.

Published: 13 Feb 2007

The Charter @ 25

The country's deep thinkers gather in Montreal this week for a conference marking the Charter of Rights and Freedoms' 25th birthday on April 17. Supreme Court judges from Canada and the U.S., constitutional experts and even the backroom boys who helped draft the law have been invited. Antonia Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, is calling the event a "celebration," a review of both the triumphs and questions arising from this pivotal piece of legislation.

Published: 13 Feb 2007

New genes point to diabetes risk

The genes associated with a risk of developing type 2 diabetes have been identified. The research, published online in Nature, is the first time the genetic makeup of any disease has been mapped in such detail. It should enable scientists to develop a genetic test to show an individual their likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Rob Sladek and Constantin Polychronakos from McGill, along with scientists from Imperial College, London, and other international institutions, believe their findings explain up to 70% of the genetic background of type 2 diabetes.

Published: 12 Feb 2007

Brain, music and sound research centre

Science Magazine looks at the International Laboratory for Brain, Music, and Sound Research (BRAMS), a joint project of McGill and Université de Montréal. The members of BRAMS, including McGill's Robert Zatorre, Université de Montréal's Isabelle Peretz and nine other Montreal-based lead investigators, aim to explore music's mysteries. They seek to understand how humans cooperate to perform together, how children and adults learn to play music, and the relationship between music and language. "BRAMS will allow us to use music as a portal into the most complex aspects of human brain function," says Dr. Zatorre.

Published: 12 Feb 2007