In The News

London Free Press: Western University creates world’s smallest snowman

December 22, 2016

Forget about the Abominable Snowman. Researchers at Western University have created what they’re calling the world’s smallest snowman. Measuring less than three microns tall, this Frosty is way smaller than a strand of human hair, which is 75 microns across. To put the creation’s size in perspective, large bacteria can be up to three microns large. Researchers at Western’s Nanofabrication Facility, known as the NanoFab, fabricated the snowman from three 0.9 micron silica spheres stacked using electron beam lithography. Read the full article here.

One Step Off The Grid: York University prof helps build Canada’s first 100% renewable energy community project

December 15, 2016

Oxford County, Ontario, has just opened a wind farm as part of a project to go 100% renewables for electricity and heat. Craig Morris visited the project, which could become a role model for the entire country. “You are doing something special,” José Etcheverry tells a group of locals at an informal town hall meeting in Woodstock, the regional seat of Oxford County. “Yours is the first 100% renewable community project east of Vancouver,” he says with a smile. It’s a polite way of saying this is the only such project in the country. At the same time, the county will not ban fossil fuels. Instead, consumption would be offset by renewable energy production to produce net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. A professor of environmental studies at York University, Etcheverry helped get the Oxford County project moving, as the website Smart Energy Oxford acknowledges. Now, he wants to make sure as many Canadians as possible hear about it. But it’s an uphill battle. “When the wind farm was inaugurated recently, no one from the media was here,” says Kris Stevens, an energy consultant and former head of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA). Read the full article here.

Science Daily: Scientists examine antibiotic-resistant bacterium found 1,000 feet underground

December 15, 2016

Pioneering work being carried out in a cave in New Mexico by researchers at McMaster University and The University of Akron, Ohio, is changing the understanding of how antibiotic resistance may have emerged and how doctors can combat it in the future.

In research published in Nature Communications, the scientists examined one bacterium found 1,000 feet underground (called Paenibacillus) that demonstrated resistance to most antibiotics used today, including so-called "drugs of last resort" such as daptomycin. These microorganisms have been isolated from the outside world for more than four million years within the cave. The results show the bacterium is resistant to 18 different antibiotics and uses identical methods of defense as similar species found in soils. This suggests that the evolutionary pressure to conserve these resistance genes has existed for millions of years—not just since antibiotics were first used to treat disease. Read the full article here.

Ottawa Citizen: Brain damage visible long after concussion symptoms disappear

December 9, 2016

The damage done by concussions is apparent in the brain long after symptoms have gone away and could have profound effects as a person ages, according to new research done by a team of Ottawa neuroscientists. The research by Prof. François Tremblay of the University of Ottawa’s Brain and Mind Research Institute and his graduate student, Travis Davidson, measured how information is passed from the brain to the limbs and between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. They found that information moved slower in subjects who had suffered concussions than it did in a control group of people who had no history of brain injury. The study was published in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology. “When you do the comparison, you don’t expect to find differences,” Tremblay said. “But there were differences. “When we probed the transmission of information from one side to another, the group that had a history of concussion showed a delay in transmission. It was slower going from one side to the other.” Read the full article here.

Global News: Lasers on a toenail clipping reveal Franklin Expedition diet, cause of death

December 7, 2016

New research has shed more light on one of Canada’s enduring mysteries – the fate of the Franklin expedition. Scientists used lasers and high-energy beams from the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon to illuminate the last few months of the doomed 19th-century British voyage to the Northwest Passage. The study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, firms up earlier conclusions that the Franklin’s 129 crew members didn’t die of lead poisoning from canned food. It also suggests the expedition was running low on supplies long before its ships became stranded in ice – all from the careful examination of a tiny piece of toenail. “This is kind of like a Canadian myth,” said co-author Laurie Chan. “I get excited at the opportunity to work on it and talk about it.” The Franklin expedition headed north, never to return, in 1845. Some remains of its crew have been discovered, along with ghastly evidence of cannibalism. Its two ships, Erebus and Terror, were found within the last two years by underwater archeologists. Read the full article here.

London Free Press: Western University-developed HIV vaccine ready for human trials

December 5, 2016

On a day the world pauses to unite in the fight against HIV, it was a major development in London. Western University scientists, using an approach others haven’t tried because of possible safety concerns, are moving closer to extensive human trials of a vaccine to fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “If we can show that this vaccine is effective in preventing people from contracting HIV, we can stop the AIDS epidemic and that would be tremendous. It would be a tremendous contribution to humankind, and it would make all of our efforts worthwhile,” Western’s Chil-Yong Kang, who developed the vaccine with a team of London researchers, said in a statement Thursday, which was World Aids Day. The SAV0001 vaccine uses killed-whole virus to trigger an immune response, the same approach used to develop other effective vaccines against diseases such a polio, the flu, rabies, and hepatitis A. To deal with the possible safety issues of using the whole virus, the Western scientists genetically modified the virus to produce a less virulent one. In what’s called a Phase I trial, the inactivated virus was then tested for safety in a study involving 33 subjects. Read the full article here.