The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) was one of three winners in the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ) competition 2011-2012. The RI-MUHC won in the category of Projects for innovative strategic development aimed at supporting projects essential to maintaining the competitiveness of a research centre. This four-year grant of $1.4M will allow the RI-MUHC to lead an innovative research project to achieve their goal of developing Personalized Medicine.
"We believe that the time is ripe to undertake this innovative project with support from the FRSQ," says Dr. Vassilios Papadopoulos, Director of the RI-MUHC, the MUHC hospital-based research centre that focuses on translational research - the translation of research from the bench to bedside. "If successful, this work will create the roadmap to building personalized medicine programs across a spectrum of diseases that could lead to changes in healthcare delivery."
Under the auspices of this project, an interdisciplinary research team will combine recent advances in bioinformatics, state-of-the-art technologies, and new information about how biological systems interact, to create a new RI-MUHC competitive program in translational research. Researchers will focus on Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) - leading causes of chronic liver diseases that are emerging as a potential healthcare crisis.
"NAFLD and NASH will serve as a model for this new approach to treating disease and will provide the tools to better diagnose and manage a patient's disease or predisposition to it," explains Dr. Tommy Nilsson, Director of the Proteomics and Systems Medicine Program at the RI-MUHC, Professor at McGill University, Medical Faculty, and lead investigator of the project. "This will form the basis for personalized medicine in the future."
Frequently associated with obesity, NAFLD - where fat is deposited in the liver - affects about one third of the adult population worldwide. In 25% of those patients, NAFLD will progress to NASH leading to inflammation and damage. Currently, there is no single reliable biochemical marker that can diagnose NAFLD or its progression to NASH and there are few treatment options other than palliative support or liver transplantation. Diagnostic markers to accurately identify patients with NAFLD and NASH are urgently needed to provide cost-effective care.
"One of the goals of our project is to identify new and valuable disease 'predictors' or biomarkers that will allow physicians to better understand and predict the progression of NAFLD and NASH," explains Dr. Nilsson who is also Director of Proteomics at The McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre. "These predictors could form the basis of new diagnostic tests or treatment options. If successful in liver disease, the methods used here could be applied to other complex diseases."
This program will provide an excellent training opportunity for a new generation of scientists and clinicians in advanced techniques in molecular and cell biology and bioinformatics.
In addition to Dr. Tommy Nilsson (RI-MUHC/McGill), Dr. Peter Metrakos (MUHC/McGill), Dr. John Bergeron (RI-MUHC/McGill), Dr. Rob Sladek (RI-MUHC/McGill), Dr. Silvia Vidal (RI-MUHC/McGill), Dr. Rima Rozen (RI-MUHC/McGill), Dr. Barry Posner (RI-MUHC/McGill), Dr. Vassilios Papadopoulos (RI-MUHC/McGill) and colleagues from MUHC and McGill participated in this research program.
- Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec: www.frsq.gouv.qc.ca