Funding: CIHR announces Project Grant recipients

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) have announced more than $7.7 million in research funding through their project grants competition for 10 projects at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“The grants will enable studies by researchers in several areas, such as musculoskeletal health, infectious diseases, cancer, neurosciences, cardiovascular disease and health during pregnancy – projects that offer the promise of improvements in our health,” said David Litchfield, PhD, Vice Dean of Research and Innovation. “They will also capitalize on unique research infrastructure that includes state-of-the-art facilities for biomedical imaging and the ImPaKT Facility and will promote superb opportunities for research training.”

Projects receiving funding include a mix of clinical and basic science and reflect the diversity of research specializations at the School.

Stephen Renaud, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, is examining the role of immune cells in placental development and pregnancy health.

The project, which received more than $646,000 in funding, also involves Dr. Genevieve Eastabrook, Associate Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Jefferson Frisbee, PhD, Professor and Chair, Medical Biophysics.

During pregnancy, the placenta burrows into the mother’s uterus to ensure the baby gets the food and oxygen it needs. But if the placenta burrows too deep or too shallow, dangerous pregnancy problems can occur that make both the mother and baby sick.

“We think that the mother’s immune cells play an important role in controlling how deep the
placenta burrows,” Renaud explained. “We have recently found that a protein, called osteopontin, is highly produced by these immune cells, and we believe that this protein may have a key role in controlling how the placenta develops and how deep it burrows into the uterus.”

The project will explore the role of osteopontin in the formation of the placenta and also test whether inflammation alters how much of the protein is produced.

“This funding will be instrumental in moving our program forward as we unravel the complexities of the maternal-placental interface,” Renaud said. “We hope our discoveries will lead to better diagnostic tools to identify at-risk pregnancies so all babies can get off to a healthy start.”

Congratulations to the successful CIHR Project recipients:

Corey Baron, Assistant Professor, Medical Biophysics and Scientist, Robarts Research Institute – Microstructural MRI in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Frank Beier, Professor/Chair, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology - The role of PGC1alhpa in osteoarthritis

Brian Corneil, Professor, Physiology and Pharmacology and Scientist, Robarts Research Institute – A subcortical circuit for coordinating express reaches

Elizabeth Finger, Associate Professor, Clinical Neurological Sciences, – Neurodevelopmental vs. Neurodegenerative: A study of neurodevelopmental consequences of FTD genetic mutations in at-risk youth

Richard Kim, Professor, Medicine – Organic Anion Transporting Polypeptide (OATP), P-glycoprotein (Pgp), and Breast Cancer Resistance Protein (BCRP) transporters modulate tamoxifen response during breast cancer therapy

Tianqing Peng, Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine – Preventing organ failure in sepsis by NAD(+) repletion: mechanistic insights and therapeutic potential

Geoffrey Pickering, Professor, Medicine, Scientist, Robarts Research Institute – Smooth muscle cell diversity and thoracic aorta vulnerability

Jessica Prodger, Assistant Professor, Microbiology & Immunology – Neovaginal health for transfeminine people: the microbiome, inflammation and post-vaginoplasty outcomes

Rithwik Ramachandran, Associate Professor, Physiology and Pharmacology – Targeting the Protease Activated Receptor (PAR) – Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid-4 (TRPV4) signalling axis in osteoarthritis

Stephen Renaud, Associate Professor, Anatomy and Cell Biology – Control of placental development and pregnancy health by uterine immune cells and osteopontin

Congratulations to the CIHR Priority Announcement recipients:

Lauren Flynn, Associate Professor, Anatomy and Cell Biology – Harnessing adipose-derived stromal cells for subcutaneous soft tissue regeneration: targeting regenerative and immunomodulatory functionality

Marco Prado, Professor, Physiology and Pharmacology and Scientist, Robarts Research Institute – Interactions between hippocampal vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) loss and amyloid pathology in circuit and cognitive deficits in Alzheimer's disease

A full list of Western University’s CIHR funding recipients can be found here.