News Archive​

2016:

 
Congratulations to recipients of Stem Cell Network funding
November 24, 2016 

Congratulations to BC Children’s Hospital researchers who were awarded grants from the Stem Cell Network’s (SCN's) annual funding competition. Our researchers are either principal investigators or co-investigators for five projects that received grants.

The research projects focus on stem cell therapies and/or explore ways of making them more effective or feasible. Four of these projects are focused on diabetes.  

One of the grants will fund a first-of-its-kind clinical trial that will recruit Type 1 diabetes patients in British Columbia. 

The Stem Cell Network (SCN)’s funds originate from the federal government’s $12 million, two-year investment in stem cell research, announced in March. The grants were announced Nov. 24 in Ottawa by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, federal Minister of Science.

“These projects encourage partnerships between universities, hospitals and businesses—and that collaboration is a key component of a healthy innovation system,” Minister Duncan said. “Through the Stem Cell Network, people are gaining a better understanding of this promising research, which in turn, helps to inform more effective public policy.”

Michael Rudnicki, Scientific Director of SCN, said research into stem cells is now at a “tipping point, with the potential to see breakthroughs in our generation.” 

The projects being led by or involving investigators at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute are:

     

Genetic manipulation of hESC-derived insulin-producing cells to improve graft outcomes

Principal investigator: Bruce Verchere, Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Professor, Department of Surgery, UBC


Co-investigators: Megan Levings (Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Professor, Department of Surgery, UBC), Francis Lynn (Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Associate Professor, Department of Surgery. UBC), Tim Kieffer (Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, UBC)

Amount: $490,000

Dr. Verchere’s project will edit the genome of human embryonic stem cells to make insulin-producing cells with better function and survival after transplantation into people with diabetes. They will replace a gene that creates toxic products with a safer gene, and they will insert a gene to protect the transplanted cells from immune attack. With further study, the researchers intend to prepare these modified cells for clinical trial.

Garbage to Gold: Expansion of therapeutic regulatory T cells from discarded thymus

Principal investigator: Megan Levings, Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Professor, Department of Surgery, UBC

Amount: $100,000

For many patients with blood cancers, the only option for cure is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), but that can cause the donor immune cells to attack the patient’s healthy tissues – known as “graft-versus-host disease.” HSCT would be safer if we could prevent or reduce graft-versus-host disease without affecting the donor cells’ anti-cancer action. Dr. Levings’s team is developing a novel cellular therapy with regulatory T-cells to treat graft-versus-host disease that results from HSCT, but it is difficult and time-consuming to obtain enough regulatory T-cells with the correct properties. Dr. Levings team has shown that appropriate T-cells can be harvested from the thymus gland, which is discarded in children undergoing heart surgery. In this project, her team will develop methods for large-scale expansion of thymic regulatory T-cells, working with a private sector partner to create new reagents and protocols to achieve this aim. This ground-work will be a key step in translating this approach to the bedside to test if delivering thymic regulatory T-cells can reduce graft-versus-host disease.

A stem cell therapy for insulin replacement in patients with diabetes

Principal Investigator: Tim Kieffer, Professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences and member, Life Sciences Institute

Co-principal investigators: David Thompson (Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine), Graydon Meneilly (Professor and Head, Department of Medicine), Garth Warnock (Professor, Department of Surgery) and Megan Levings (Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Professor, Department of Surgery, UBC).

Amount: $500,000

Diabetes is a disease caused by insufficient production of the hormone insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels and damage to several tissues leading to debilitating complications. This project – along with four others also funded by the SCN this year (see below) – seeks to develop a cell-based therapy for diabetes by transplanting differentiated stem cells under the skin, whereby the cells take over the automatic production of insulin and control of blood sugar levels.

This project will recruit patients with type 1 diabetes to examine if higher doses of the cells can restore normal control of blood glucose levels and reduce, or even eliminate, the need for insulin injections. If successful, this clinical trial may lead to the development of a product that can cure millions of patients with diabetes, putting an end to insulin injections and making another major accomplishment in Canada’s diabetes research history.

Optimizing stem cell derived beta-cell therapy for diabetes

Principal Investigator: Tim Kieffer, Professor, Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences; member, Life Sciences Institute

Co-Principal Investigators: Brad Hoffman (Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, UBC), James Johnson (Professor, Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences), Francis Lynn (Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, UBC)

Amount: $500,000

This project will seek to develop and test what many believe are presently the world’s best protocols for coaxing stem cells towards insulin-producing cells. Both functional and gene analysis technologies will be critical to pinpoint deficits in currently produced cells, and also to validate when we successfully produce mature insulin-producing cells. This team, with its highly complementary skills, is poised to develop methods to manufacture mature insulin-producing cells for what promises to be a new paradigm in diabetes treatment.

Using human pluripotent stem-cell derived cardiomycytes to investigate the mechanisms of ibrutinib-induced atrial fibrillation

Principal investigator: Liam Brunham, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine; Principal Investigator, Centre for Heart+Lung Innovation

Co-investigators: Zach Laksman (Department of Medicine), Glen Tibbits (Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Professor, Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, SFU)

Amount: $100,000

Ibrutinib is a new, highly effective medication used to treat blood cancers. However, up to 10 per cent of patients receiving this medication develop atrial fibrillation (AF) that can cause stroke, for unknown reasons. Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can be used to generate human heart cells (cardiomyocytes) representing different heart chambers, and thus are an excellent model system for studying drug-induced heart injury. The overall goal of this project is to use hPSC-derived cardiomyocytes to investigate the mechanisms of ibrutinib-induced AF. Dr. Brunham’s team aims to use these stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes to explore the mechanisms of this side-effect, allowing predictions about which patients may be most sensitive to ibrutinib, and to identify medications to treat or prevent AF in patients who receive ibrutinib — ultimately making treatment with this important new drug safer and more effective.

2015:

 
​Vancouver Diabetes Research Day 2015  

 
Vancouver Diabetes Research Day was held on Friday September 25, 2015. The aim of this event is to bring together the diabetes research community from across Vancouver including; BCCH, UBC, VGH, UBCO and SFU. Over 100 participants came to this years event held at the BC Children's Hospital Research Institute, formerly called the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI).

PI presentations were given by; Lucy Marzban, Marc Horwitz, Jim Johnson, Dan Luciani and Elizabeth Rideout.

Katie McKilligan was our impact speaker with type 1 diabetes. Trainees presented their posters and gave talks as well.

The event was made possible through the generous support of our Sponsors:
  • Alpco
  • Thermo Fisher / Life Technologies
  • Biolegend
  • StemCell
  • eBioscience/Affymatrix
  • CFRI Research Education Office
  • Canucks For Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories
  • UBC Diabetes Group

Special thanks to our volunteer organizing committee for making the event a success; Nicole Krentz, Paul Sabatini, Stephanie Campbell, Thilo Speckmann, Søs Skovsø, Sigrid Alvarez, and Bruce Verchere.

 Vancouver Diabetes Research Day 2015

 

This year's annual Vancouver Diabetes Research Day will be held at  BC Children's Hospital Research Institute.

Friday, September 25, 2015 | BC Children's Hospital Research Institute, 950 W 28th Ave

For more information, contact Vancouverdiabetes@gmail.com.

You can register online here.

An event poster is available: Vancouver Diabetes Research Day


2014:

Canucks for Kids Fund Diabetes Catalyst Awards 2014-2015

The Canucks for Kids Fund: Diabetes Catalyst Grants jumpstart exciting and innovative projects aimed at finding a cure for diabetes and improving the lives of children with diabetes.

Thanks to the generous support of the Canucks for Kids Fund and BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, this pilot funding competition has invested $555,000 in 16 inventive research projects since its inception in 2009.

We’re pleased to congratulate this year’s grant recipients:

  1. Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer: IAPP as the Missing Link?

    Bruce Verchere, $40,000grant

  2. Identifying Autophagy-Regulated Mechanisms of β-Cell Failure and Death in Diabetes

    Dan S Luciani, $35,000 grant

  3. Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Complications in Children with Type 1 Diabetes

    Angela Devlin, $25,000 grant(Co PI’s Dina Panagiotopoulos and Kevin Harris)

  4. The impact of health coaching for parents of children with Type 1 Diabetes on their children’s health related quality of life, medication adherence, diabetes family conflict and glycemic control – A pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.
    Brenden Hursh, $20,000 grant

Applications to the Diabetes Catalyst Grant Competition are evaluated by researchers from across the country and international. This year, the reviewers ranked all applications extremely high before ultimately selecting the four winners.

The annual internal grant competition is open to on-site members of the Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories. BC Children's Hospital Research Institute scientists who are not on-site members of the Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories are encouraged to apply with an on-site program member as a co-investigator. For more information, contact Meg Hughes, the Diabetes Research Program Manager, at mhughes@bcchr.ca.

Vancouver Diabetes Research Day 2014

2014 Vancouver Diabetes Research Day

The first item is to announce we held a successful Vancouver Diabetes Research Day for the research community from across Vancouver. The inaugural Vancouver Diabetes Research Day was held on World Diabetes Day (November 14th 2014). November 14th is acknowledged by the World Health Organization as World Diabetes Day and is held on the anniversary of Dr Frederick Banting’s birthday, the Canadian medical scientist who won the Nobel prize in 1923 for discovering insulin.

Our event was held off-site at the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Alumni House. We hosted 93 attendees from the University of British Columbia, UBC-Okanagan and University of Northern British Columbia. This event, organized and led by trainees, showcased our strong local diabetes research community, with 14 talks from graduate student and post-doctoral trainees, a poster session, three young investigator talks, and one plenary speaker (Dr. Greg Korbutt from the University of Alberta). Plans are underway to hold the Vancouver Diabetes Research Day event again in November 2015.

Canucks for Kids Fund Diabetes Catalyst Awards 2014-2015

Award Amount: $25,000-$50,000 for one year
Application Deadline: January 30, 2015,4:00 p.m.

Description:
The Canucks for Kids Fund Diabetes Catalyst Awards support pilot studies in childhood diabetes research which are aimed at finding a cure for or improving the lives of children with diabetes. A Canucks for Kids Fund (CFKF) Diabetes Catalyst grant may; generate preliminary data, create or test new methods and technologies, create new collaborations and/or encourage multi-disciplinary research, stimulate new directions in diabetes research, or launch a research project from an early stage to a more comprehensive investigation.

History:
The Canucks for Kids Diabetes Catalyst Award was established in 2009 by the generous support of the Canucks for Kids Fund charity. In 2015 the fifth competition is being held to stimulate new research by members of the Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories.



Contact:
Meg Hughes
Program Manager
mhughes@bcchr.ca| 604-875-2000 ext. 4905

Alberta-BC Islet Workshop

The 4th Annual Alberta-British Columbia Islet Workshop is being organized by Dr. Francis Lynn from the Diabetes Research Program at BC Children's Hospital Research Institute. This joint workshop, sponsored by the Universities of Alberta and British Columbia, will be held at the Silver Star Resort near Vernon BC between February 9-12th, 2015.

We are excited to announce that our visiting guest speakers this year will be Alan Attie from the UW-Madison and Marc Prentki from the Université de Montréal. Topics that will be included in the sessions are: stem cells and development; islet transplantation and immunology; insulin secretion and islet biology; beta-cell mass; genetics and epigenetics; new techniques and methodologies etc. Please visit for more information: www.isletmeeting.ca

Celebrating the retirement of Dr. Janet Chantler

On Friday, October 3, We hosted a special event to celebrate the retirement of one of our founding principal investigators, Dr. Janet Chantler. Read more in Research Reporting.

Pictured (left to right): Dr. Aubrey Tingle, Dr. Chantler and Dr. Bruce Verchere.

UBC promotions mark career milestones for BC Children's Hospital Research Institute investigators

Francis Lynn and Pascal Lavoie

Congratulation to:

  • Dr. Francis Lynn, CFRI Scientist, promoted to Associate Professor with the Division of General Surgery in the Department of Surgery at UBC.
  • Dr. Pascal Lavoie, CFRI Clinician Scientist and Neonatologist at BC Children's and BC Women's, promoted to Associate Professor with the Department of Pediatrics at UBC.

Canucks for Kids Fund: Diabetes Catalyst Grant recipients

The Canucks for Kids Fund: Diabetes Catalyst Grants jumpstart exciting and innovative projects aimed at finding a cure for diabetes and improving the lives of children with diabetes.

Thanks to the generous support of the Canucks for Kids Fund and BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, this pilot funding competition has invested $435,000 in 12 inventive research projects since its inception in 2009.

We’re pleased to congratulate this year’s grant recipients:

  • Dr. Brad Hoffman
    Project: “Identification of trxG complex factors involved in β-cell specification and maturation” $40,000
  • Dr. Francis Lynn
    Project: “High efficiency generation of human embryonic stem cell reporter lines to improve in vitro formation of beta cells” $35,000
  • Dr. Shazhan Amed
    Project: “Engaging youth through technology-based behaviour tracking, goal setting, and interactive communication – the future of childhood obesity prevention” $25,000

Applications to the Diabetes Catalyst Grant Competition are evaluated by researchers from across the country. This year, the reviewers ranked all applications extremely high before ultimately selecting the three winners.

Diabetes cover story

New research from Clara Westwell-Roper, Dr. Jan Ehses andDr. Bruce Verchere was featured on the cover of the May 2014 issue of Diabetes. The image (left) is a color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a macrophage.

The publication, "Resident macrophages mediate islet amyloid polypeptide–induced islet IL-1β production and β-cell dysfunction," holds promising implications for better long-term treatment for patients with type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Discovery



Speaking of Children (Spring 2014)

Dr. Bruce Verchere is interviewed in the latest issue of Speaking of Children magazine. Read more: Sweet Discovery: A potential cure for type 1 diabetes is on the horizon.

Can a promising treatment for type 1 diabetes eliminate the need for insulin?

BC Children's Hospital Research Institute researchers were recently awarded an exciting new grant to support clinical trials of a drug with the potential to reduce or eliminate the need for insulin injections in children and adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Read more.

Type 2 diabetes and the immune system: Q&A with Clara Westwell-Roper


“If we can target the inflammation that compromises insulin production, then maybe we can ‘turn down the dial’ on type 2 diabetes and prevent long-term damage,” says Clara Westwell-Roper, a UBC MD/PhD candidate and 2013 Featured Trainee.Read more.

New role for insulin: affects immune system as well as metabolism

Researchers have found a previously unknown link between metabolism and immunity, discovering more about why chronic inflammation develops in people who have obesity.

In new research, Dr. Megan Levings and colleagues demonstrate that insulin can damage regulatory immune cells, causing more inflammation in fat tissue. Read more.

2013:

Four BC Children's Hospital Research Institute PhD students receive Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships


September 23, 2013- The Vanier Scholarships are intended to attract and retain world-class doctoral students to Canada and are awarded to students from around the world who have displayed leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement. The scholarships are worth $50,000 per year for three years.

Among the recipients was Dominika Nackiewicz (PI: Dr. Jan Ehses) for her project: "Using regulatory macrophages (Mregs) to promote beta cell regeneration during islet inflammation." 
Read more.

Q&A with Dr. William Gibson: Translating research into clinical practice

August 26, 2013 -Weaver Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that is distinguished by accelerated growth with rapidly-maturing bones. This extra growth begins before birth and continues throughout childhood.

In 2011, Dr. William Gibson led the team that pinpointed the gene. They did this by identifying several mutations that cause Weaver Syndrome, and their discovery led to a breakthrough in improving care for patients with the syndrome by enabling a definitive DNA-based diagnosis.

The Gibson Lab has leveraged this opportunity to provide biobanking support and diagnostic testing to clinicians across Canada and internationally. Read more.

2012:

Early puberty and mental health in girls

August 7, 2012:A recent Globe and Mailarticle looks at whether there is a link between early puberty and depression in girls. One of the experts interviewed for the story was Dr. Dina Panagiotopoulos.

2012 Canucks for Kids Fund Diabetes Catalyst Grant Competition Results

The committee received 11 excellent innovative research proposals. After an external peer review process the successful grant applications for the 2012 Catalyst Grant Competition were:

  • William Gibson, $50,000 grant
    Role of p300 protein in B-cell function and survival
  • Megan Levings, $50,000 grant
    Gene signatures of T regulatory cells as molecular biomarkers in type 1 diabetes

Diabetes researcher honoured with new award

Dr. Francis Lynn was announced as the first recipient of the new Alan Permutt Career Development Award by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The award honours research in the field of beta cell therapies.

12th International Conference on the Immunology of Diabetes

February 15, 2012: Dr. Bruce Verchere and Dr. Rusung Tan are co-chairs of the 12th International Conference on the Immunology of Diabetes, taking place on June 15-June 19th, 2012 in Victoria, British Columbia.

IDS 2012 will feature novel discussions on a wide range of current topics, including clinical trials, the microbiome, immunopathology of type 1 diabetes, issues of transplantation, and new models of diabetes. Click here for more details on the early abstract deadline (Feb 29th) or visit www.ids2012.ca for more details about the conference.

Genetic variation increases risk of metabolic side effects in children on some antipsychotics

January 24, 2012:Researchers have found a genetic variation predisposing children to six-times greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome when taking second-generation anti-psychotic medications. The research is published today in the medical research journalTranslational PsychiatryDr. Dina Panagiotopoulos and Dr. Angela Devlin were co-authors of the study.

2011: 

Gene discovered for Weaver syndrome

December 15, 2011: Scientists have found a gene that causes Weaver syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that typically causes large size at birth, tall stature, developmental delay during childhood, and intellectual disability. Published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the discovery means that testing the EZH2 gene for mutations could help families who are seeking a diagnosis for their child. The study was led by Dr. William Gibson.

Gene therapy stimulates protein that blocks immune attack and prevents type 1 diabetes in mice

July 5, 2011: Increasing a specific protein in areas of the pancreas that produce insulin blocks the immune attack that causes type 1 diabetes, report BCCHR researchers in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, published early online. The research team includes Dr. Bruce VerchereDr. Loraine BischoffDr. Joel Montane, and Dr. Rusung Tan.

Geneticist's lab ready to aid obese: Specialist hopes more MDs make use of facility

May 12, 2011: Dr. William Gibson talks to the Times Colonist about research that aims to help people with rare genetic obesity disorders.

A weighty issue: How much sugar is too much?

March 15, 2011: Dr. Daniel Metzger talks to the Vancouver Sun about sugar in beverages.

Canucks for Kids Fund donates $5 million to BC Children's Hospital

March 14, 2011: The Canucks for Kids Fund announced a gift of $3-million to support BC Children's Hospital Foundation's Campaign for BC Children and $2-million to the Diabetes Research Laboratory at BC Children's Hospital Research Institute.

2010:

Global BC story on diabetes research

December 12, 2010Dr. Bruce Verchere spoke to Global BC TV about diabetes research.

T cell discovery shows promise for Type 1 diabetes treatment: UBC-CFRI study

October 5, 2010:Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Diabetes Research Program at BC Children's Hospital Research Institute have identified the role of a type of T cell in type 1 diabetes that may lead to new treatment options for young patients.

Researchers from the Diabetes Research Group receive funding from Canada Foundation for Innovation

May 13, 2010:We are pleased to congratulate diabetes research scientists Dr. Francis Lynn and Dr. Brad Hoffman who recently received $250,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation through the Leaders Opportunity Fund for their project "Beta Cell Genesis Research Facility."