Archive for category: News & Announcements

Bruno Lamas awarded a Michael G. DeGroote Fellowship Award in Basic Biomedical Science

Bruno Lamas comes to the Verdu lab after a PhD from Auvergne University, France and a post-doctoral fellowship at UPMC University in Paris and MICALIS Institute at INRA. He is interested in the relationship between the products of metabolism and the host’s immune system, in the context of intestinal inflammatory disorders. Here at McMaster, supported by a Michael G. DeGroote Fellowship Award in Basic Biomedical Science, he will investigate the role of the gut microbiota metabolism on the inappropriate intestinal immune response observed in celiac disease patients. His long-term goal is to identify new mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of celiac disease, that can lead to development of novel preventive and therapeutic strategies.

Approximately 300,000 Canadians suffer from celiac disease (CeD), one of the most common food sensitivities. CeD is triggered by ingestion of gluten-containing food, that causes destruction of the small intestinal lining leading to abdominal, skin and neurological symptoms. The HLA-DQ2 or -DQ8 gene is necessary, but insufficient alone, to develop CeD suggesting additional environmental factors are required. Large, undigested fractions of gluten are responsible for the development of a pathogenic gluten-specific T cell response and this, in conjunction with the activation of intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL), leads to intestinal atrophy. The trigger(s) for IEL activation in CeD, however, remain unknown. During his PhD Bruno showed that changes in gut bacteria lead to altered production of molecules that signal through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which affects inflammation in the gut. Importantly, AhR influences IELs that are key for the development of intestinal damage in CeD. Thus, the central aim of his proposed work is to determine if gut bacteria from celiac patients activate IELs through impaired capacity to produce AhR ligands from tryptophan metabolism. Currently, a strict life-long gluten-free diet is the only efficient treatment available for CeD. This is financially and socially difficult for patients, contamination with hidden sources of gluten is frequent, and many patients do not respond favorably to dietary gluten restriction. Bruno’s work will identify new mechanisms involved in the innate immune activation pathway of CeD in hopes of elaborating novel preventive and therapeutic strategies based on identification of AhR-activating bacteria, or their metabolites.

Gutsy Walk fundraising Kicks Off

Be GUTSY with us! On Sunday, June 4, 2017, the Farncombe Institute’s team will be GUTSY and walk alongside over 23,000 people across Canada to help stop the pain, multiple surgeries, and missed moments that Crohn’s and colitis can cause.

If you want to contribute head over to to register, join or donate. Even if you can’t join us for the walk on June 4th you can still join the team and collect pledges to help us obtain our fundraising goal. Check out our Gutsy walk page to see photos from previous years’ walks.

Hamilton CCA gives to the McMaster Celiac Clinic

The Hamilton chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association has made a generous gift to support patient care through a donation to the recently opened Celiac Clinic here at McMaster University, which is the only adult clinic of its kind in Canada. The money will be used for innovative research projects and gluten measurement kits. We thank Hamilton CCA for their gift that will directly benefit patients from greater Hamilton area and other areas of Ontario with no access to an adult Celiac Clinic.

BASEF winners

On April the 4th 2017, our Farncombe Institute was pleased to hand out awards to two students who presented their science project at the 57th annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair (BASEF), where almost 400 projects were on display. This year’s Farncombe judges were Jennifer Lau, Sharif Sharib and Jan Huizinga. We awarded Matthew Gilbreath, grade 7 at St Augustine, for his project: “Stomach Acid: The Mush Maker”, and Liam McGrath, grade 8 at Immaculate Conception, for his project: “Knock! Knock! Probiotics, are you really there?”. Both students were passionate about understanding our gut and what we can do to keep us healthy!

Deb Sloboda Honoured as a YWCA Woman of Distinction

debThe YWCA Women of Distinction Awards page begins with:

“You know her. She has broken new ground or old barriers. She has inspired women by shaping the future. She has paved the way for women today. “

Which a perfect description of our colleague Dr. Debora Sloboda. On March 9th, Dr. Sloboda was recognized for her commitment to the development of women and improvement of the community as a Woman of Distinction in the Science, Technology and Trades category. Through her research into prenatal risks and long-term disease risk, she is leading the translation of this research for women’s community health groups and she is an important mentor to young women here in the Farncombe Institute and McMaster University. She is committed to expanding the visibility of women in science.

The Women of Distinction Awards are nationally recognized as one of the most prestigious awards for women. YWCAs across Canada join in the celebration each year, honouring the remarkable achievements of women.

Congratulations Deb!

You can see the awards page here and the Hamilton Spectator coverage here.

High school student gets first author paper in the flagship journal of the British Physiological Society

Ruihan Wei, a grade 11 student at Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton, has showed that he’s ready for the next wave of methodologies to reveal mechanisms underlying body functions and disease. Brain research is leading the way but research in network physiology is needed for every body function. Mathematical modelling is needed for the understanding of complex networks, which is where Ruihan has excelled. His paper on network properties of interstitial cells of Cajal is set to increase our understanding of the role of pacemaker networks in creating motor patterns in the intestine. Notably, after Sean Parsons and Jan got him going, Ruihan did all the experiments himself that created the publication in the journal Experimental Physiology, and the whole Huizinga lab is proud of his accomplishments and welcomes him back the coming summer.

See the publication summary here

Wei, Ruihan, Sean P. Parsons, and Jan D. Huizinga. “Network properties of interstitial cells of Cajal affect intestinal pacemaker activity and motor patterns, according to a mathematical model of weakly coupled oscillators.” Experimental Physiology (2017).

Student excellence in research at the Medical Sciences Research Day


Graduate research excellence was on display at the Medical Sciences Research Day 2017. Of the research presented, two Farncombe graduate students were recognized for the high calibre of their work. Elizabeth Perez, a Masters student in the Collins/Bercik lab,247-farncombe-2015 won a first place prize for her oral presentation entitled: “Gnotobiotic mice colonized with GAD microbiota display anxiety-like behaviour, innate immune activation, and altered BDNF expression”. Luna ElDakiky, a Masters student in the Stearns lab, IMG_7205 EDITwon second place for her poster presentation on “Development of a Targeted Bacterial Culture Strategy to Study the Impact of Solid Food Introduction on Development of the Infant Gut Microbiome”. Congratulations to both of them.

Gluten research highlighted on AGA’s Gastro Journal blog

Recently published research on the role of intestinal bacteria in celiac disease has been featured on the American Gastroentrology Association Journals blog. The research was a collaborative effort between several members of the Farncombe Institute and McMaster University lead by Dr. Elena Verdu and her postdoctoral fellow Alberto Caminero.

Dr. Verdu wins 2017 CAG Visiting Research Professor Award

Dr. Elena Verdu was recently awarded the 2017 CAG Visiting Research Professor Award by the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology. This award encourages academics working in gastroenterology to visit at least six different sites or institutions around Canada from July 2017 to June 2018. As Dr. Verdu remarks, “This award is a great opportunity to share the work performed in my Lab at the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Institute and to enhance interactions with colleagues and students in other Canadian universities. This is not only important to promote knowledge dissemination, but to foster collaborations and attract highly qualified trainees to Farncombe’s labs”.

This award also puts the spotlight on Dr. Verdu’s trajectory. She admits to never actually planning a strict career path, but states she was always certain she was passionate about gastrointestinal research. From her early beginnings her interest was set at studying bacterial-host interactions which shifted focus with time to microbiome-dietary interactions in biomedical research. This personal history provided the basis to develop a research program aligned with the interests of the Farncombe Institute when she became faculty in 2006.

Dr. Verdu highlights the importance of team-work by recognizing how interactions between academic colleagues, mentors and trainees throughout the years was paramount for the success of her career. She finds that one of the benefits of these interactions is to allow members of the Institute to stay up to date and face some of the challenges in academia, including creative and critical thinking in order to continue to lead microbiome research in gastroenterology.

Dr. Verdu’s Lab main research interest relates to how bacteria that reside in the gut and the food that we eat interact to either increase or decrease inflammatory conditions. They recently found that opportunistic pathogens and commensal bacteria digest food components differently, and in this way they can produce food metabolites with a higher or lower antigenic capacity. The CAG Visiting Research Professor Award offers a great opportunity for Dr. Verdu to make this ground breaking research known around Canada and to open her research program to collaborative work.