Scientists at the University of Montreal’s Quebec Research Group in Animal Pharmacology have found a way to recognize and treat osteoarthritis in cats – a condition that the owner might not notice and that can make even petting painful. “Osteoarthritis frequently affects cats’ elbows, backs and hips and joints in the hind limbs, and its prevalence increases dramatically with age. More than 80 % of cats older than 11 years old have it,” explained lead author Eric Troncy of the university’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. “Despite the fact that cats are the most popular pet in North America, nobody had found a way to easily diagnose and treat cat osteoarthritis. We used our knowledge of cat behaviour and worked with experts in human osteoarthritis to develop a diagnosis tool and test an effective medication: meloxicam.” Osteoarthritis induces chronic pain that results in a decrease in cat’s daily activity, a reluctance to jump and other behaviours that owners may notice.

The researchers examined 120 cats and found that 39 were suffering from osteoarthritis. They established an evaluation chart for measuring the cats’ pain by looking at their kinetic gait analysis, which reveals impairment in their limbs, their daily activity as recorded by an accelerometer, and how sensitive the cat is to touch by testing what level of force will cause the cat to withdraw its paw.

Once the researchers had standardized their evaluation tools, they proceeded to the treatment part of the study. For 74 days, a control group was fed a placebo while the others were fed different dosages of meloxicam. Meloxicam is an anti-inflammatory drug that is already used in the treatment of other animals. “Our study demonstrated that daily oral meloxicam administration over four weeks provided various levels of pain relief, depending on the amount of the drug the cat was given. Cats that were in treated with the high dosage continued to enjoy pain relief for five weeks after dosage stopped. None of the cats had any side-effects,” Professor Troncy said. “As expected, the drug unfortunately does not appear to reduce pain associated with touch, such as stroking – the same flawing occurs in hypersensitive osteoarthritic people treated with anti-inflammatory drugs.”

The study opens a range of possibilities for the application of the findings. “The touch hypersensitivity occurrence rate of 30% in our osteoarthritic cats sample is quite similar to what is reported in osteoarthritis-affected human beings. In pain research and development, we have so desperately looked for validated translational experimental models, when they could be here, in front of us, with natural diseases in pet animals,” Troncy said.

Nevertheless, the cats were able to regain the rest of their normal life. “Unalleviated chronic pain induces functional limitations, contributes to behaviour troubles and loss of the human-animal bond leading potentially to pet euthanasia or surrender,” Troncy explained. “The development of adapted therapy protocols to correctly treat arthritis associated chronic pain will provide a better quality of life particularly in older cats and will in turn have a direct impact on owners, as their cat will be more active and sociable.” The researchers will now start looking at how brain scans may further improve our understanding of pain in cats, particularly with regards to the neurophysiological hypersensitive process.

Meloxicam will be considered for use in cats by the Europe Medicines Agency on April, 2013.

About this study
This research was supported by funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Morris Animal Foundation and by a partnership with the animal health pharmaceutical industry (Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.). It results from a rich collaboration between the Quebec Research Group in Animal Pharmacology (GREPAQ) and the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) Research Centre – Musculoskeletal Diseases Axis. The studies were published in Research in Veterinary Science on February 13, 2013 (Moreau M, et al Kinetic peak vertical force measurement in cats afflicted by coxarthritis: Data management and acquisition protocols) and in theVeterinary Journal on February 14, 2013 (Guillot M, et al of osteoarthritis in cats and meloxicam efficacy using objective chronic pain evaluation tools). The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.

Media contact:

William Raillant-Clark
International Press Attaché
University of Montreal (officially Université de Montréal)
Tel: 514-343-7593

Fonds de recherche du Québec highlights three stunning students as government slashes budget

If you support government funding for research in Quebec, please join the Je suis Michèle movement

Announcement of the February winners of the Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles Award

Montreal, February 4, 2013 – Québec’s Chief Scientist, Rémi Quirion, is pleased to announce the February winners of the Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles Award, a competition spearheaded by the three Fonds de recherche du Québec.

Award winner, Fonds Nature et Technologies

Michel Lavoie, PhD student in in environmental studies at INRS

Award-winning publication: Influence of Essential Elements on Cadmium Uptake and Toxicity in a Unicellular Green Alga: the Protective Effect of trace Zinc and cobalt concentrations. Published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 31(7):1445-52, July 2012.

Award winner, Fonds Santé

Jean-Baptiste Pingault, Postdoctoral student at Université de Montréal’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.

Award-winning publication: Childhood trajectories of inattention, hyperactivity and oppositional behaviors and prediction of substance abuse/dependence: a 15-year longitudinal population-based study. Published in Molecular Psychiatry, 06-2012.

Award winner, Fonds Société et Culture

Leslie Tomory, Postdoctoral student in history at McGill University.

Award-winning publication: Progressive Enlightenment: The Origins of the Gaslight Industry,1780–1820. Published by Cambridge: MIT Press, mars 2012.

In addition to promoting careers in research, the competition aims to recognize the exceptional research contributions of college and university students, postdoctoral fellows and members of professional bodies who are enrolled in advanced research training programs in the areas covered by the three Fonds de recherche du Québec.

Every month, each Fund will award $1000 to a student researcher. An overview of the recipient’s project and a photo of the recipient will be featured on the Web site

Dr. Quirion sends his congratulations to the winners.

Speed and ecstasy associated with depression in teenagers

A five year study conducted with thousands of local teenagers by University of Montreal researchers reveals that those who used speed (meth/ampthetamine) or ecstasy (MDMA) at fifteen or sixteen years of age were significantly more likely to suffer elevated depressive symptoms the following year. “Our findings are consistent with other human and animal studies that suggest long-term negative influences of synthetic drug use,” said co-author Frédéric N. Brière of the School Environment Research Group at the University of Montreal. “Our results reveal that recreational MDMA and meth/amphetamine use places typically developing secondary school students at greater risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.” Ecstasy and speed-using grade ten students were respectively 1.7 and 1.6 times more likely to be depressed by the time they reached grade eleven.

The researchers worked with data provided by 3,880 students enrolled at schools in disadvantaged areas of Quebec. The participants were asked a series of questions that covered their drug use – what they had used in the past year or ever in their life – and their home life. Depressive symptoms were established by using a standard epidemiological evaluation tool. 310 respondents reported using MDMA (8%) and 451 used meth/amphetamines (11.6%). 584 of all respondents were identified as having elevated depressive symptoms (15.1%). The range of questions that the researchers asked enabled them to adjust their statistics to take into account other factors likely to affect the psychological state of the student, such as whether there was any conflict between the parents and the participant. “This study takes into account many more influencing factors than other research that has been undertaken regarding the association between drugs and depression in teenagers,” Brière said. “However, it does have its limitations, in particular the fact that we cannot entirely rule out the effects of drug combinations and that we do not know the exact contents of MDMA and meth/amphetamine pills.”

The study’s authors would like to do further research into how drug combinations affect a person’s likelihood to suffer depression and they are keen to learn more about the differences between adults and adolescents in this area. “Our study has important public health implications for adolescent populations,” said Jean-Sébastien Fallu, a professor at the University of Montreal and study co-author. “Our results reinforce the body of evidence in this field and suggest that adolescents should be informed of the potential risks associated with MDMA and meth/amphetamine use.”

Images: 1. Depression is also the greatest cause of high school dropouts - Martin Chamberland - La Presse. 2. Albrecht Dürer's engraving Melencolia I, ca. 1514. Wikimedia Commons.

About this study
Frédéric N. Brière, Jean-Sébastien Fallu, Michel Janosz, and Linda S. Pagani published “Prospective associations between meth/amphetamine (speed) and MDMA (ecstasy) use and depressive symptoms in secondary school students” in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health on April 18, 2012. The study received funding from Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Santé et la Société (FQRSC, 2007-NP-112947). Frédéric Brière is affiliated with the University of Montreal’s School Environment Research Group. Jean-Sébastien Fallu is affiliated with the University of Montreal’s School Environment Research Group, School of Psycho-Education, and Public Health Research Institute. The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.

For further information: 
William Raillant-Clark 
International Press Attaché
Université de Montréal 
Tel: 514-343-7593

Quebec - a great place for university research

This tumblr started as a whimsical experiment, and more of a replacement for posting links to Facebook than anything else. However, it’s rapidly became the cornerstone of my professional and personal communications – a looking glass that offers a glimpse into research at universities in Quebec and out to the cultural and geographical dimensions that colour my work and my life.

The name came to me as I was coming down from the Rutherford physics building at McGill. Rutherford, such a hearty sounding name. And a brilliant scientist who was born in New Zealand – I can’t claim much in common with the great man, but I can claim that. So can Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield was a poet and an artist who left Wellington to pursue her artistic interests in the South of France. I think the two names go together quite nicely, and the combination of their careers reflects the kind of juxtaposition I would like to offer my readers. The combination also sounds vaguely évocateur of the place names you find in Montréal.

Créer un compte tumblr, c’était pour moi question d’expérimenter avec les médias « sociaux » et surtout évoluer au-delà du simple partage des liens sur Facebook. Or, cet outil est rapidement devenu la pierre angulaire de mes communications professionnelles et personnelles – une vitrine qui vous permettra de découvrir la recherche scientifique entreprise par les universitaires québécois.

J’ai conçu le nouveau titre à la sortie du Pavillon Rutherford à McGill. Rutherford, ça comporte un certain cachet sonore. C’était un scientifique excellent né en Nouvelle-Zélande ; à part le lien McGill, c’est probablement la seule chose que j’ai en commun avec cette sommité de la physique. C’est également une racine que je partage avec Katherine Mansfield, une poète et une artiste qui a quitté Wellington pour s’installer dans le sud de la France afin de poursuivre sa carrière. Je trouve que les deux noms vont ensemble bien, et la conjugaison de leurs profils représentent bien celui du contenu que j’aimerais proposer à mes lecteurs. De coup, « Rutherford-Mansfield », c’est assez évocateur de la toponymie montréalaise, à mon avis.

Why is the taxpayer funding this study?

Maggie Koerth-Baker vient de publier le texte suivant… Il m’a beaucoup touché. J’espère qu’il vous inspirera la prochaine fois qu’on vous demande de justifier une subvention à la recherche.

Senator John Pastore: “Is there anything connected with the hopes of this accelerator that in any way involves the security of the country?”

Physicist Robert Rathburn Wilson: “No sir, I don’t believe so.”

Pastore: “Nothing at all?”

Wilson: “Nothing at all.”

Pastore: “It has no value in that respect?”

Wilson: “It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of man, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.”

— From the testimony of Robert Rathburn Wilson before the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, 1969. As quoted in a lovely memorial to Wilson and the Fermi National Laboratory’s Tevatron by science blogger Jennifer Ouellette