The discoveries of two investigators from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) have been listed in the prestigious Québec Science magazine's Top Ten Discoveries of 2004. The February issue of the publication describes the pioneering work of Dr. Erwin Schurr and Dr. Qutayba Hamid. Dr. Schurr is recognized for his identification of leprosy susceptibility genes; Dr. Hamid is recognized for his identification of a new target for control of asthma. The magazine describes both discoveries as having the potential to "change the world."
"The work of Dr. Schurr and Dr. Hamid is an example of the outstanding research that is taking place at the MUHC," said Dr. Arthur T. Porter, Director General and CEO of the MUHC. "I congratulate both of them."
Dr. Porter noted that last year alone MUHC investigators published over 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific papers. "Research is one of the cornerstones of the MUHC and it is an important dimension of our plans for a new academic centre where we can create the best possible environment for patient care and the research that supports it," he added.
The MUHC would like to congratulate Dr. Schurr and Dr. Hamid on their groundbreaking research.
Identification of leprosy susceptibility genes — Dr. Erwin Schurr
The research of Dr. Erwin Schurr brought the eradication of leprosy, one of the world's oldest and most feared diseases, one step closer last year. As part of an international research team, Schurr discovered that small changes in certain genes — the Parkin 2 gene and its neighbor PACRG — result in an increased susceptibility to leprosy.
Schurr and his colleagues analyzed DNA samples from nearly 200 Vietnamese families with leprosy and confirmed their findings in Brazilian leprosy patients, demonstrating the significance of the results in the worldwide fight against leprosy. The research, published in a February 2004 issue of the research journal Nature, may help explain why, despite effective drug treatment, leprosy persists in many parts of the world. "By taking the genetic constitution of people who suffer from the disease into account, our results give an entirely novel view of the leprosy disease process," says MUHC molecular geneticist and James McGill Professor Dr. Erwin Schurr. Leprosy currently affects approximately one million people in 91 countries worldwide, and is on the rise.
Identification of new target for control of asthma — Dr. Qutayba Hamid
Last year, a new target for control of early-stage asthma was identified by Dr. Qutayba Hamid, Associate Director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and Leader of the Respiratory Axis of the MUHC Research Institute. The research revealed that a substance called acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase) — previously associated with parasitic infections — also plays a role in the inflammation of airways associated with allergic asthma. Inhibiting the expression of AMCase may therefore prove effective in controlling asthma. The research was published in the research journal Science in June 2004.
Dr. Hamid cautioned that these findings do not suggest a way to prevent or cure asthma but that they might lead, in the next five to ten years, to new treatments to help control the condition. It is estimated that there are about two million asthma sufferers in Canada and that about 5 to 10 per cent of the world's population is affected. McGill and MUHC researchers have been on the front lines of asthma research for more than 20 years. The importance of research on asthma continues to grow with the increased incidence worldwide.
About the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)
The Research Institute of the MUHC is a world-renowned biomedical and health care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, a university health centre affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 500 researchers, nearly 1,000 graduate and postdoctoral students, and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The research institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge. For further details visit www.muhc.ca/research.
About the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)
The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University — the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.