Cancer Rant

I had to tell someone I love last night that lemon juice will not cure his cancer. FUCK antiscientific rumours and false hope. They just distract from the best possible medical healthcare and the reality of the situation a person faces. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are dedicating their lives, wholeheartedly, to a cure. They publish what they discover in books that anyone can read. When they find something that helps, we all know about it, including front line doctors. There is no evil conspiracy to hide the cure, it’s not hidden a test-tube somewhere in a vault. I wish it was, because it wouldn’t take long for someone else to replicate the result anyway. Next time you see some FUCKING BULLSHIT on the Internet, don’t hesitate to stomp it out.

Researchers prevent autistic behaviours in mice

McGill and Université de Montréal researchers revealed yesterday that autism-like behaviors can be rectified in adult mice with compounds inhibiting protein synthesis, or with gene-therapy targeting neuroligins (a membrane protein that regulates synapse formation between neurons.) Their study is published in the journal Nature.

“The autistic behaviours in mice were prevented by selectively reducing the synthesis of one type of neuroligin and reversing the changes in synaptic excitation in cells,” explained Prof. Jean-Claude Lacaille at the University of Montreal’s Groupe de Recherche sur le Système Nerveux Central and Department of Physiology. “In short, we manipulated mechanisms in brain cells and observed how they influence the behaviour of the animal.” The researchers were also able to reverse changes in inhibition and augment autistic behaviors by manipulating a second neuroligin. “The fact that the balance can be affected suggests that there could be a potential for pharmacological intervention by targeting these mechanisms.”

“Since the discovery of neuroligin mutations in individuals with ASD in 2003, the precise molecular mechanisms implicated remain unknown,” said Christos Gkogkas, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill and lead author. “Our work is the first to link translational control of neuroligins with altered synaptic function and autism-like behaviors in mice. The key is that we achieved reversal of ASD-like symptoms in adult mice. Firstly, we used compounds, which were previously developed for cancer treatment, to reduce protein synthesis. Secondly, we used non-replicating viruses as vehicles to put a break on exaggerated synthesis of neuroligins.”

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) encompass a wide array of neurodevelopmental diseases that affect three areas of behaviour: social interactions, communication and repetitive interests or behaviors. According to the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children suffer from ASD, and the disorder is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. ASDs are almost five times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).

Links

To reach Dr. Lacaille

William Raillant-Clark
Media Relations 
Université de Montréal 
w.raillant-clark@umontreal.ca

Stephen Wilshire, an artist with autism, at work on a panorama of London. From his website.

Awesome science image by Dorian Pirot, an Université de Montréal researcher. Good graphics are essential part of effective science communications (and the biggest challenge I have in my job). This is entitled « Le soleil magnétique » (The Magnetic Sun). It reveals the immense magnetic fields of the sun, which is in fact composed of highly conductive gases. The image won a competition organized by the Association francophone pour le savoir - Acfas. And of course, because it’s French, they asked a poet to comment on the beauty of the image. :) You can read more about it here (in French).

Awesome science image by Dorian Pirot, an Université de Montréal researcher. Good graphics are essential part of effective science communications (and the biggest challenge I have in my job). This is entitled « Le soleil magnétique » (The Magnetic Sun). It reveals the immense magnetic fields of the sun, which is in fact composed of highly conductive gases. The image won a competition organized by the Association francophone pour le savoir - Acfas. And of course, because it’s French, they asked a poet to comment on the beauty of the image. :) You can read more about it here (in French).

Abandoned Mine Tunnels Might Ferry Geothermal Energy from Deep Underground

Underground mining is a sweaty job, and not just because of the hard work it takes to haul ore: Mining tunnels fill with heat naturally emitted from the surrounding rock. A group of researchers from McGill University has taken a systematic look at how such heat might be put to use once mines are closed. They calculate that each kilometer of a typical deep underground mine could produce 150 kW of heat, enough to warm 5 to 10 Canadian households during off-peak times.

A number of communities in Canada and Europe already use geothermal energy from abandoned mines. Noting these successful, site-specific applications, the McGill research team strove to develop a general model that could be used by engineers to predict the geothermal energy potential of other underground mines.

In a paper accepted for publication in the American Institute of Physics’ Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, the researchers analyze the heat flow through mine tunnels flooded with water. In such situations, hot water from within the mine can be pumped to the surface, the heat extracted, and the cool water returned to the ground. For the system to be sustainable, heat must not be removed more quickly than it can be replenished by the surrounding rock. The team’s model can be used to analyze the thermal behavior of a mine under different heat extraction scenarios.

"Abandoned mines demand costly perpetual monitoring and remediating. Geothermal use of the mine will offset these costs and help the mining industry to become more sustainable," says Seyed Ali Ghoreishi Madiseh, lead author on the paper. The team estimates that up to one million Canadians could benefit from mine geothermal energy, with an even greater potential benefit for more densely populated countries such as Great Britain.

The authors acknowledge support from Vale Company and the Mitacs Accelerate program.

Photo: ”Coal Miners - Drivers, West Virginia,” 1908 photograph by the American photographer Lewis W. Hine. Courtesy of Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Press attaché schedule for the AAAS Annual Meeting

I am immensely proud to be representing Université de Montréal - the world’s second largest French-speaking university - at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that is taking place in Vancouver. I am going as the university’s principle journalist liaison person for scientific research and as its press attaché for English and Foreign language media.

In case you happen to be in Vancouver for the meeting, here is part of my provisional schedule. I hope to have the opportunity to meet up with you - please don’t hesitate to drop me an email at rw.raillantclark@gmail.com.

Je suis très fier de représenter l’Université de Montréal – la deuxième plus grande du monde francophone – à l’occasion de la réunion annuelle de l’American Association for the Advancement of Science, qui se déroule actuellement à Vancouver. Je participe en tant que principal chargé des relations avec les médias pour les questions scientifiques et en tant qu’attaché de presse pour les journalistes anglophones et allophones. Au cas où vous êtes participant-e à cette réunion, je me permets de vous communiquer certains éléments de mon agenda prévisionnel ; j’espère avoir l’opportunité de vous rencontrer, donc n’hésitez pas à prendre contact avec moi par courriel à rw.raillantclark@gmail.com

Friday-Vendredi 17

Saturday-Samedi 18 

Sunday-Dimanche 19

Monday-Lundi 20

Image: Ginger Pinholster. “Here is the view from [AAAS] Newsroom HQ. this is NOT photoshopped. Lucky us.

Big week of public outreach for neuroscience research in Montreal! Firstly, the Douglas Mental Health Hospital revealed its collection of brains to the public - check it out. Secondly, Brain Awareness Week is coming up and university researchers have the opportunity to go and talk to kids about why their work is important - more info just below. Lastly, I made a YouTube video about all of this AND a new study from France that links cats to brain cancer

Here’s the invitation from the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives - check out the website for further info.

Volunteers needed for Brain Awareness Week!

Brain Awareness Week, Montreal is an annual public information campaign created by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives in order to educate the public on the functions of the brain and the importance of brain research.  Since 1998, Montreal has participated in BAWby having undergraduate (second year) and graduate students from all four Montreal universities volunteer to present at numerous elementary and secondary educational institutes.  The event has earned us considerable praise from the schools visited and from the media, while nearly all the volunteers who participated reported it to be a valuable and enjoyable experience.

This year’s BAW will be taking place from March 12th to 18h. Many schools have registered for our presentations and we are currently calling on all students and post-docs to volunteer their time to support this great event during this week. You do not have to prepare the presentation – we will do that for you! All you have to do is pick up the kit with all the information in it, familiarize yourself with the content and go to the school to give the presentation. Your enthusiasm and desire to teach is invaluable to the success of the BAW Montreal campaign.

La Semaine Cerveau en tête est une campagne annuelle d’information publique créée par «The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives» dans le but d’éduquer la population sur les fonctions du cerveau ainsi que sur l’importance de la recherche s’y rattachant. Depuis 1998, des étudiants(es) provenant des quatre principales universités de Montréal ont participés à la Semaine «Cerveau en Tête» en donnant des présentations dans plusieurs écoles primaires et secondaires. Cet événement est très apprécié par les écoles visitées et nous a mérité plusieurs critiques élogieuses des médias. De plus, la majorité des bénévoles ont trouvé l’expérience amusante et enrichissante.

Cette année, la «Semaine Cerveau en Tête» aura lieu du 12 au 16 mars et nous sollicitons la participation de plusieurs étudiants(es) et stagiaires postdoctoraux pour effectuer des présentations dans les écoles. Vous n’avez absolument rien à préparer ; Nous l’avons déjà fait pour vous! Vous n’avez qu’à venir chercher la trousse d’information et à vous familiariser avec le contenu avant de vous rendre à l’école avec le matériel fourni.

Oxytocin me baby!

These people are getting stock-photo freaky on oxytocin.

Oxytocin is widely known as the “love hormone” released during birth and breastfeeding to bond a mother and child, but it’s released other times, too. Oxytocin supposedly overflows us with positive feelings about one another.

Or does it?  

The truth will be revealed by Dr. Jennifer A. Bartz (Psychology, McGill) at McGill’s Redpath Museum on February 10 at 5pm, as part of its ongoing “Freaky Friday” series. Her presentation will be followed by the film The Notebook

Redpath Museum Auditorium                          

859 Sherbrooke Street West      

Metro: McGill  Bus: 24      

FREE          

Everyone welcome 

No reservation necessary        

INFO: 514-398-4094

This is what I do, and this is why I’ve been quiet

Sorry if this blog has been a little boring lately, I’ve been a bit preoccupied by my day job. This week was huge for scientific research in Quebec and in particular Université de Montréal. Firstly, I had the immense honour of organizing two international tele-press conferences (French then English) with Science - which included the pleasure of welcoming the AAAS’ Natasha Pinol and Ginger Pinholster to Montreal.

Here’s a snapshot of the big day (Nov 3, the same day Labuda’s article was published), taken in uMontreal’s videoconferencing room.

Unfortunately my iPhone camera isn’t that great, plus as you can imagine, taking photos wasn’t my number one priority (especially when Bell Canada disappointed me in a major way).

So what was the news? Well, why don’t I let the media tell you about it? For example:

Radio-Canada’s Chantal Srivastava also did extensive and in-depth interviews that I understand will be broadcast on Années-lumière this Sunday.

On a side note, SciPak, Science’s news service, is on Tumblr! Check it out - follow!

As if that wasn’t enough, world leading autism researcher Laurent Mottron published in Nature… the day before the press conference. The subject was amazing, so I obviously couldn’t resist the opportunity to put together and push out a release… and I’m so glad I did, because the media was also very interested in his thoughtful and unusual article!

Both researchers have even more exciting and in-depth coverage coming up in the near future.

Anyway, so now you know why Rutherford Mansfield has been a little quiet! Thanks for your patience :) I have plenty more stuff cooking :D - STAY TUNED.

mcgilldiaries:

If you care to get a glimpse, this is what the life of a second-year Anatomy & Cell Biology student at McGill looks like on a good day.  On a side note, how attractive is my TATA-Box? (Of course, this is just from 3 lectures in 1 course. No need to tell me I have no life; that’s already been established.)

mcgilldiaries:

If you care to get a glimpse, this is what the life of a second-year Anatomy & Cell Biology student at McGill looks like on a good day.
On a side note, how attractive is my TATA-Box?
(Of course, this is just from 3 lectures in 1 course. No need to tell me I have no life; that’s already been established.)