In The News

CBC: McMaster study gives greater understanding to autism’s root cause

November 9, 2016

A new study out of McMaster University's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute gives a greater understanding of the root causes of autism, researchers say. Armed with that information, scientists will be able to begin the process of studying drugs to see if they are able to treat the disorder, said scientist Karun Singh. "Essentially, we can kind of pinpoint what could be the problem with a specific genetic fingerprint," he said. "You can't solve the problem until you can pinpoint exactly what it is." The findings, which were published Tuesday in Cell Reports, point to a kind of "on button" on a strand of protein that instructs brain cells to form connections between brain cells during development. Researchers say they have isolated the genetic changes that keep this particular protein strand "turned off" in some people who have autism. Singh says that researchers can now start looking for drugs that will correct these synaptic connections. Read the full article here.

London Free Press: Western University researcher co-develops pioneer concussion-detecting blood test

November 9, 2016

Requiring just a drop of blood taken from a finger, London scientists have developed a simple test that can determine if adolescent athletes have suffered a concussion and should be benched. The researchers suspect their breakthrough, with its potential to change the handling of hockey injuries, could be applied to other elite athletes and members of the general population. “We have some more work to do, but this is the first step,” Douglas Fraser, a physician in the pediatric critical-care unit at Children’s Hospital and a Lawson Health Research Institute scientist, said Monday. The inexpensive blood test has a certainty greater than 90 per cent, a development that startled the researchers, whose work has been published in the international journal Metabolomics. Read the full article here.

CBC: University of Waterloo students hoping to win big in Hyperloop competition

November 4, 2016

Students at the University of Waterloo hope their design has what it takes in the race to build a passenger pod that can go between Ontario and British Columbia in three short hours. The 120-person team, comprised primarily of undergraduates, is the only Canadian group that made the semi-final cut in an international competition aimed at accelerating the pace of Hyperloop technology. Organized by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the contest's aim is to develop a passenger module that could travel in a pneumatic tube at speeds as high as 1,200 km/hr. Montgomery de Luna, a team lead on the aptly named Waterloop project, laughs when he says: "How would I describe this to my grandmother?" The 24-year-old, who is also working on his master's degree in architecture, spearheaded the University of Waterloo's application to the SpaceX contest. "You could think about it like a train because it runs on a track but with speeds closer to an airplane than a train," he says. "The thing is, it also levitates." Read the full article here.

Edmonton Journal: How an Ottawa startup is building a better bionic eye

November 4, 2016

If you happen to go to a University of Ottawa photonics lab to check out an innovation aimed at helping blind people see and expect some futuristic gadget, you will be disappointed. The next step in retinal implants — also known as the “bionic eye” — is a computer chip so small a dozen of them could easily fit on a thumbnail. Which is exactly the point. “Everything has to be very small,” said Ross Cheriton, a PhD student in physics who is working with the Ottawa-Gatineau startup company iBIONICS to develop a solution to power this chip when it is implanted in the eye. “The smaller, the greater the chance for success.” The bionic eye is nothing new, with a research history that goes back about 30 years. The idea for a bionic eye predates even Star Trek: The Next Generation, which featured a blind character called Geordi La Forge who wore a visor used to scan the electromagnetic spectrum for visual input that created an image in his brain. Read the full article here.

The Record: No need to capture species for proof; University of Guelph device would find trace DNA

November 4, 2016

Guelph researchers are working on a hand-held device to detect if an elusive species has been in a river or lake.

With a small sample of water, the testing tool would be able to track endangered or invasive species through traces of DNA left behind.

It will be a real time saver for environmental research, "instead of spending a really long time searching for something that may be very rare in an environment," said University of Guelph post-doctoral researcher Amanda Naaum.

Naaum is part of a team of researchers at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario that received a $125,000 Idea to Innovation grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to perfect the mobile biodiversity monitoring instrument.

Read full article here.

CBC: Spending more time outside could lower risk of nearsightedness in children

November 3, 2016

Children who spend just one extra hour a week outside lower their risk of developing nearsightedness by 15 per cent, a new study from the University of Waterloo has found. "There's a school of thought that people are spending more time up close, they're using more time on the screen, there's probably more studying than before," lead investigator Mike Yang told CBC KW's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on Wednesday. "Some of the new research has shifted away from the close work by saying doing close work is taking time away from outdoor time, and it's really the decreased outdoor time that's causing things to shift to a younger age." Read the full article here.