A to Z: Dictionary of disease research

Tackling tough topics from ALS to Zika virus, Faculty of Science researchers are addressing society's most pressing health needs, one disease at a time.

Jennifer Pascoe - 13 November 2018

From Alzheimer's to dementia, Roger Dixon (psychology) conducts longitudinal and epidemiological research in healthy, normal, impaired, and neurodegenerative aging, focusing on the genetic, biological, health, and neurocognitive influences in normal aging versus neurodegenerative disease.

For Debbie McKenzie, associate professor (biological sciences), using genomic and metabolomic techniques to tackle the role of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) affecting cervids as food sources means that she and her team can potentially wipe out this slowly progressing, brain-destroying fatal disease. CWD persistently accumulates in the environment with untold negative effects on our ecology. There is no known cure and no vaccine. McKenzie hopes to develop an early detection and rapid response system to reduce the spread of CWD in Canada.

Therapeutic hypothermia can help to lessen cell death and promote functional recovery as a means of reducing the harmful effects of stroke, the second top cause of death globally in 2016, according to statistics from the World Health Organization. Fred Colbourne, psychology professor and Canada Research Chair in intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke, is focused on evaluating and improving the use of therapeutic hypothermia for ischemic and hemorrhagic brain injuries.

Whether neurodegenerative diseases like ALS or Parkinson's, the prion diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow"), or the human form Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, if it is a disease influenced by misfolding proteins, it's likely a subject of interest in physics professor Michael Woodside's lab. The Guggenheim Fellow's work stands at the intersection of physics, molecular biology, and biochemistry. While protein folding is a normal part of the molecular process, misfolding may lead to serious consequences, as is the case with the aforementioned diseases.

Tracy Raivio (biological sciences) is focused on understanding how microbial cells sense and adjust to environmental changes. The work in her lab-informing the process of how bacteria grow and thrive, how they cause infection, and how they can be engineered to perform beneficial processes-is dedicated to exploring the development of novel therapeutic agents to address the virulence determinants in enteropathogenic E. coli, a major cause of infantile diarrhea.

Applying the artificial intelligence of machine learning, computing science professor Russ Greiner is working to produce tools for mental health clinicians to assist with objective, data-driven diagnosis and treatment planning, to predict and identify instances of ADHD and schizophrenia.

Interested in supporting research into some of society's most pressing health problems? Contact give2sci@ualberta.ca to learn how your donation can make a critical difference