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Agriculture in the City is Back

This free public event will be Saturday, March 18, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at The Forks Market (Room 201 on second floor) and will offer visitors a chance to explore the vibrant and innovative world of agriculture in Manitoba. Stop by the booth hosted by the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health & Medicine, (CCARM) to learn more about their research areas and recruitment for clinical trial participants!

The UM Food Fight will take place 10 am. Come watch the University of Manitoba Food and Human Nutritional Sciences students present their new food product concepts that they have taken from drawing board to test kitchen. Student teams will “pitch” their product ideas and provide a product sample to a panel of judges. Who knows, maybe you’ll see their unique entries at a store near you one day!

While you are there, come visit the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre booth where they will be handing out MAKE recipe cards and providing a “living necklace” hands-on activity. Throughout the event, there will be exhibits and information from many of Manitoba’s agricultural and food sector organizations, including lots of giveaways, games and interactive fun from planting strawberry plants to crushing canola.

Bring the family and join in the fun!   For more details, visit

ICS researchers call to end Daylight Savings Time

As Spring Forward Day approaches and clocks are turned back one hour this Sunday, the call for an end to Daylight Savings Time (DST) is being heard from two leading cardiovascular scientists.  

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum and Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, both with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research, have conducted new studies that further highlight the negative health consequences of DST. As the two Manitoba members of the Canadian Society of Chronobiology (CSC) which advocates for the elimination of twice-yearly time changes, Drs. Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin support a move for Manitoba to switch to permanent Standard Time (ST) as a mechanism for improved public health.

“Our labs study the link between circadian rhythm and cardiovascular health,” explains Dr. Kirshenbaum, who is Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, and Professor, Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, at University of Manitoba. 

“Recent work we’ve been doing is showing a strong link that further substantiates the very real and detrimental effects of DST on cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of heart attacks and heart disease in people who work shifts, and it may differ between men and women,” he says.  

Drs. Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin believe that a move for Manitoba to switch to permanent standard time would be a positive investment in the long-term health outcomes of Manitobans.

Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin, who is Principal Investigator, Women’s Heart Health and Cardiometabolic Function at St. Boniface Hospital Research and Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, explained how Standard Time would put the social clock closer to our intrinsic body clock, our circadian rhythm, which is set by the dawn.

“We specifically found that the circadian clock regulates a crucial adaptive stress response which affects the ability of the heart to control quality control mechanisms and survival of heart cells after a heart attack. So, maintaining a healthy circadian clock is important not only for disease prevention, but also affects the outcomes following heart attack,” she says.

Both Kirshenbaum and Rabinovich-Nikitin believe moving Manitoba to permanent Standard Time would help prevent the negative effects of DST on physical and mental health, including increased risks for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, and some forms of cancer. 

“This is vitally important for many people, but particularly for shift workers, many of whom work in the healthcare field,” Rabinovitch-Nikitin emphasizes.

Approximately 1.6 billion people worldwide change their clocks twice a year to and from DST. Documented research in this area has shown DST can make it difficult for shift workers to adjust their internal clocks to their work schedule, leading to sleep deprivation, fatigue, and decreased cognitive function, which can negatively impact their physical wellbeing and health. Other public health statistics linked to DST include:

  • Studies have shown that the risk of heart attacks increases by 24% on the Monday following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: New England Journal of Medicine)
  • The incidence of stroke is also higher in the days following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: American Academy of Neurology)
  • There is a 6% increase in fatal car accidents in the week following the switch to DST in the spring. (source: University of Colorado)
  • Sleep deprivation due to the time change in the spring is associated with increased rates of workplace injuries, workplace accidents, and lower productivity. (source: Journal of Applied Psychology)
  • DST disrupts our natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to a higher risk of depression and anxiety. (source: Journal of Biological Rhythms)
  • Studies have shown that the switch to DST in the spring is associated with an increase in suicide rates. (source: International Journal of Legal Medicine)
  • For more information on the CSC, visit their website at

Winnipeg Free Press

CBC News Manitoba

CTV News


Dhalla Drops Puck for Jets’ South Asian Heritage Game night theme

On Feb. 11, the Winnipeg Jets  hosted the franchise’s first South Asian Heritage Night, presented by Canada Life. The team beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1, while celebrating South Asian heritage with specialty jerseys featuring a unique logo, an auction supporting Punjabi Community Health Services Manitoba, merchandise, and South Asian food and cultural performances at the Canada Life Centre. 

But the highlight for many was seeing Dr. Naranjan Dhalla lead the ceremonial puck-drop, flanked by Sukhvir Singh, Raj Brar and Monika Deol.

The 2023 International Trainee Symposium in Agri-Food, Nutrition and Health

The inaugural International Trainee Symposium in Agri-Food, Nutrition and Health was hosted by CCARM on January 19-20, 2023 at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre.

Building on the success of CCARM’s Rapid Fire Research Symposiums in 2017 and 2019, which was paused during the pandemic, the CCARM team under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Netticadan decided to relaunch the event this year on an even bigger scale at no cost incurred by the participants.

“It was our desire to invite trainees from around the world to join us, in order to expand our shared body of knowledge for Agri-health and provide them with a broader audience to hone their presentation skills,” said symposium chair, Dr. Thomas Netticadan, an objective achieved by partnering with the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology -IATA- in Spain.
“In addition, we also wanted to welcome all other researchers globally to join this event and learn of the latest advances in the field of Agri-health.”

With 49 trainees answering this invitation, the symposium featured presentations from young food sciences and nutrition/health investigators from Argentina, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom.

Featuring guest lectures by Dr. Samantha Pauls, Assistant Professor College of Pharmacy University of Manitoba, and Dr. Michael Eskin, and opening remarks from Dr. Joyce Boye, Director General of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Science and Technology Branch – Prairie Region, and Dr. Eric Liu, Director, Research, Development and Technology Transfer  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for Manitoba, the program was moderated by Dr. Nicola Gasparre, Jenny Bouchard, Bradley Feltham and Dr. Ruchira Nandasiri.

Using the rapid-fire presentation format, the delegates were challenged to explain their research problem, their findings and the implications for Agri-foods and health in only seven minutes. Those from overseas presented virtually over Zoom, a cost-effective way to allow students with limited travel budgets to participate and benefit from the symposium experience.   

The two-day event was a great success, held exclusively onsite at the Albrechtsen Research Centre, culminating in the awards presentation to each sessions’ winners and a banquet held in the Asper Clinical Research Institute mezzanine room overlooking the Red River and the Winnipeg skyline.

Closing remarks were graciously provided by Dr. Scott Duguid, Associate Director, Research, Development and Technology, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dr. Cristina Rosell, Professor and Head of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, and Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

“We are very pleased that the Symposium provided trainees with an international platform to disseminate their research findings, and an opportunity to network with colleagues, mentors and other researchers in the field. It was also greatly satisfying to note that the event was well attended by audiences from all over the world,” added Netticadan. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the members of the organizing committee for the huge amount of time and effort they invested in organizing this event, as well as the volunteers, communication and audiovisual support services, and housekeeping services for their valuable assistance.” CCARM’s next bit event is a three-day hybrid meeting titled “International Conference on the Advances in Health Benefits of Agri-Foods” in 2024, a more elaborate session for trainees to help with their career development.

  • Winners of the 2023 CCARM International Symposium
    Session I 1st Prize: Andrea Bresciani, University of Milan, Italy; 2nd Prize, Laura Andrea Cabrera-Villamizar, University of Valencia, Spain
    Session II 1st Prize: Paulo D.M. Brites, University of Aveiro, Portugal; 2nd Prize: Ana Rita Soares Mateus, Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária, Portugal
    Session III 1st Prize, Breanne Semenko, University of Manitoba, Canada; 2nd Prize: Shiqi Huang, University of Manitoba, Canada
    Session IV 1st Prize: Vibhuti Arya, University of Manitoba, Canada: 2nd Prize: Charith U.B. Wijerathne, University of Manitoba, Canada
    Session V 1st Prize: Mohamed El-Shetehy, University of Manitoba, Canada; 2nd Prize: Roshema Mihindukulasuriya, University of Manitoba, Canada
    Session VI 1st Prize: Mohammed Mira, University of Manitoba, Canada; 2nd Prize: Anashwar Valsalan, University of Manitoba, Canada

Congratulations to all, and we look forward to next year!

Winnipeg skyline photo credit: Salvador Maniquiz

#1 Research Hospital in Western Canada Eleven years running

For the 11th year in a row, the St. Boniface Hospital is among Canada’s leading research hospitals, taking the #1 spot in western Canada and ranking in the Top 5 nationally, according to data released today by Research Infosource Inc. Canada’s source of R&D intelligence.

“We have a phenomenal team of researchers, clinicians and students at St. Boniface Hospital Research, and it is wonderful to see their efforts recognized. The outstanding partnership we enjoy with the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, along with the support of donors through the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, is critical for generating new discoveries that broaden our understanding of disease and its treatment,” says Dr. Mike Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

St. Boniface Hospital has always recognized the power of the research discoveries and potential interventions the talented cardiac, brain, food sciences and clinical research teams are pursuing.

“Congratulations to our science leaders at the Albrechtsen Centre and Asper Clinical Research Institute,” says Nicole Aminot, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital, “We are tremendously proud to be home to some of the most internationally recognized experts in the fields of cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and food science research.”

In affiliation with the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, St. Boniface Hospital Research has four dedicated research programs: the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences; the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders; the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM); and Clinical Research.  It boasts 30 laboratories, 250 staff, served as training ground for more than 450 students and is also home to the RBC Youth BIOLab Jeunesse —a space for students and teachers to explore and experience real biomedical science in a world-class research center.

Hospital Research Spending Flatlines
Toronto ON, 31 January 2023. Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals, Hospital Networks and Health Authorities reported a combined $3.06 billion to research in Fiscal 2021, indicating flat 0.1% growth over Fiscal 2020, according to Research Infosource Inc., which today released its annual Top 40 Research Hospitals ranking. Over half (23) of the organizations lowered their research spending in Fiscal 2021, while 17 others increased research spending. The number of researchers nationwide increased by 3.9% to 9,889. For more on this, visit: RE$EARCH Infosource Inc. (

About Research Infosource Inc.
Research Infosource Inc., a division of The Impact Group, publishes Canada’s Innovation Leaders, which includes Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders List, Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities List, Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals List and Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges List.

Titanium Carbide MXene nanosheets Potential Next-Generation therapy for Organ Transplant Patients

Dhingra lab files another patent in their effort to develop nanotechnology-based approaches to prevent heart transplant rejection.

In a first using titanium Mxene, the team under Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Associate Professor Regenerative Medicine Program, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba, has shown it to be effective for the prevention of cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV), an aggressive form of coronary artery disease in patients with heart transplants, and a major cause of mortality.

A paper based on the study will be published next month in Nano Today, a prominent journal in the field with an impact factor of 20.7.

For Dhingra and his team of researchers here at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, their work is focused on studying immuno-engineering interventions using next-generation bio-compatible nanomaterials.

As Dhingra explained, “This work focuses on immuno-engineering interventions which could be helpful for people receiving organ transplants to avoid the need to rely on anti-rejection drugs, which they normally have to take for the rest of their lives.”

CAV affects around half of heart transplant recipients within 10 years. It contributes to the death of 11-13% of people one year from heart transplantation.

“No one has stopped CAV with MXene until now – the titanium carbide has the ability to prevent the activation of immune cells which triggers the beginnings of CAV. Our research shows prevention of that activation.”

In light of these promising results, Dhingra has filed a US patent on the application of titanium Carbide Mxene nano sheets for CAV to help prevent transplanted organ rejection.  “This is our fourth US patent application for nano-material based interventions,” Dhingra indicated, adding that next steps for the team will be larger animal studies. “Our goal is to come up with something to prevent heart transplant rejections, so that patients will no longer be reliant on anti-rejection drugs and the complications they produce in the body.”

SBRC alumnus part of top innovations for 2022

Congratulations to SBRC alumnus, Dr. Josette Northcott, Senior Manager, Assay R&D at Personalis.   

Personalis hit the #1 spot on The Scientist ranking for Top 10 innovations for 2022 for a new product that uses a patient’s own tumors to detect, quantify and monitor circulating tumor DNA in order to spot molecular residual disease (MRD) and track responses to therapy.

Northcott was a PhD student who trained under Dr. Jeff Wigle from 2004-2012 here at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre. “It was a great joy to be Josette’s mentor her at the SBRC.   She has built on her training from here and has gone on to excel both in academic research and in industry.  Her role in leading the development and implementation of a new clinical diagnostic assay is a very impressive accomplishment,” Dr. Wigle shared.

As a member of the team working on the NeXT Personal technology, Dr. Northcott shared that they are very excited by this product launch. 

Dr. Josette Northcott in her student days
Dr. Northcott (pictured here @2012) trained under Dr. Jeff Wigle, Principal Investigator
Vascular Development, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, Associate Professor Department of Biochemistry and Medical Genetics

New research suggests fish oil supplements may be first non-pharmaceutical approach to lower the risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2

University of Manitoba researchers working at the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre, have discovered that animals consuming fish oil have fewer anchor points required for entry of the SARS-CoV2 virus into the heart, aorta and kidneys.

“This discovery represents a potential new tool for our medicine chest, a therapeutic that will not lose potency as vaccines do,” said Peter Zahradka, Principal Investigator, Molecular Physiology, CCARM, and Professor, Physiology and Pathophysiology, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.

At the cellular level, scientists Shiqi Huang, Carla Taylor and Peter Zahradka have shown fish oil results in a 50 to 75 per cent reduction in a protein known as ACE2 that is present on the surface of certain cells. Since it acts as an anchor for SARS-CoV-2 to attach to cells, this reduction in ACE2 means these cells cannot be infected as easily by the virus responsible for COVID-19.

Why fish oil?  Previous research conducted at CCARM has shown the beneficial effects of DHA, a fish oil component, on blood vessels in relation to cardiovascular disease. It was on that basis the team began to explore how DHA treatment might affect the number of ACE2 anchor points SARS-CoV2 uses to infect tissues.

“Treating animal models with DHA showed a strong reduction in ACE2 levels present in a variety of animal tissues, so we then extended the work to the cells that form the lining of blood vessels,” Zahradka explained. “From there, it was established that yes, DHA treatment significantly lowered ACE2 levels on these cells.”

Once it was confirmed that the ACE2 anchor points declined by 50 to 75 per cent on human cells treated with DHA, a model system was developed to measure the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to infect the cells. This experiment showed that the DHA treatment reduced entry of the virus into cells by more than 50 per cent.  A paper describing these findings was published on Nov. 10, 2022, in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

While further studies in people are needed, the team at CCARM believes it possible that the lowering of ACE2 levels and reduced viral entry should make individuals more resistant to SARS-CoV2 infection.

 “Essentially, this treatment could enhance our body’s ability to defend against SARS-CoV-2 infection by making it more difficult to infect our cells. This means you would need to be exposed to higher amounts of virus for a longer period of time to actually get infected and experience symptoms. We also would like to explore the possible effects on long Covid, since DHA treatment may be able to reduce the severity of its symptoms,” he added.

To determine whether these potential therapeutic uses of fish oil are valid, the research team is in conversation with clinicians who deal with COVID-19 to determine which direction the research should take next.

Mario Pinto, UM vice-president (research and international), concurs that “it is important to verify whether these initial observations also apply to people. Consequently, the research team is now approaching clinician scientists who are studying the effects of COVID-19 in patients. Their goal is to examine the relationship between omega-3 levels, susceptibility to infection, and disease severity to determine whether fish oil has a potential therapeutic application in the management of COVID-19.”

A separate human study by Drs. Zahradka, Taylor and Harold Aukema, and graduate student Lisa Rodway and post-doctoral fellow Samantha Pauls, showed genes that strengthen immune function and provide resistance against infection are increased in persons taking fish oil supplements. Their results, to be published in the journal Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, indicate fish oil could work through other routes to help fight COVID-19 as well as help protect against other viruses.

Inaugural Berdie & Irvin Cohen (BERVIN) Scholarship granted to Chattopadhyaya

Congratulations to PhD student Sikta Chattopadhyaya Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, who is the first recipient of a new scholarship created specifically to support doctoral students in their first and second years of study here at the Albrechtsen Research Centre. Chattopadhyaya’s work is focused on ways to help find cardiac fibrosis treatments in Dr. Michael Czubryt’s Molecular Pathophysiology lab.

The Berdie & Irvin Cohen (BERVIN) Scholarship is made possible through the BERVIN Endowment Fund stewarded by St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, and will be issued annually on a go-forward basis to successful applicants. Donors who support the long-term educational goals of tomorrow’s science leaders are vitally important to the future of healthcare in Canada.

Naranjan S. Dhalla Awarded Honorary Doctorate from the University of Banja Luka

At a colourful ceremony on November 7, 2022, attended by more than 300 dignitaries including the Prime Minister of the Republic of Srpska and several Federal Ministers, the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia-Herzegovina bestowed Honorary Doctorate upon Naranjan S. Dhalla for his outstanding contribution and development of the University and the Faculty of Medicine. 

Dr. Dhalla is a senior scientist in the field of Experimental Cardiology at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.  He is the Honorary Life President of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences and Editor-in-Chief of the journal “Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry”.

Dr. Dhalla has received 212 Awards and Honors including 6 Honorary DSc/MD degrees, 2 Professor Honoris Causa and 4 Honorary Professorships from different institutions worldwide.  He has been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in London Ontario and Citizen Hall of Fame in Winnipeg.  He has edited 65 books and published 864 research papers and review articles; his work has been cited more than 32,850 times with an h-index of 84.

“We are tremendously proud of Dr. Dhalla’s many accomplishments and congratulate him on receiving this prestigious honour from the University of Banja Luka”, said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.  

CCARM Students Garner Endowment Grants

Congratulations to three outstanding young investigators with CCARM, who have each been recently recognized with student endowment awards through St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

PhD student Shiqi (Sunny) Huang is a member of Dr. Carla Taylor’s Metabolic Nutrition lab, and will receive $17,963 from the Mark G. & Patricia N. Smerchanski Endowed Studentship Fund which supports young investigators in research every year since 2010.

Chamali Kodikara is a MSc student in Dr. Champa Wijekoon, Plant Bioactives lab and will receive $7,764 from the Frank & Jeanne Plett Endowed Studentship Grant, which recognizes graduate students at St. Boniface Hospital Research annually since 2016.

Joanna Candas will receive $4,590 from the TD Bank Group Graduate Student Award, established in June 2015 to support research into aboriginal health issues at St. Boniface Research Centre. Joanna is an MsC student supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh, Nutrition & Neurological Diseases.

Best wishes for your continued success!

Advances in Cardiovascular Science and Medicine Through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion supported by Education, Research, and Technology Innovation

41st North American Section of
The International Society for
Heart Research

9th North American Section of
The International Academy of
Cardiovascular Sciences

This cardiovascular conference was the first joint meeting between the North American Section of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences (IACS) and the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR).

“After a three-year delay, largely due to pandemic travel restrictions and gathering limitations, we were able to bring together members of these two societies for the first time ever,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Conference Chair, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.

Overcoming many logistical challenges to bring together the top cardiovascular scientists, clinical cardiologists, research fellows and trainees from around the globe, the conference featured dedicated programs and workshops on women’s heart health and women in science programs, as well as programs to support the professional development of early career and mid-career investigators.

Organizers were pleased to host a veritable who’s-who of international cardiovascular expertise right here in Winnipeg, including Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz, Director, Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars Sinai, Los Angeles, California; Dr. Joseph Hill, Division Chief, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Division of Cardiology and Director of the Harry S. Moss Heart Center, Dallas, Texas; and Dr. Ramesh Goyal, Vice Chancellor, Delhi Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research University, New Delhi, India.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Bairey Merz, shared her mission to close the knowledge gap and approach to addressing cardiovascular disease in women, through research, clinical care, and educational programs to teach women and healthcare providers about the importance of early diagnosis and recognizing different forms of heart disease in women to provide better healthcare.

“It was inspiring to hear Dr. Bairey Merz share her experiences and vision to expand women’s heart healthcare to address many of the major deficiencies in treatment and diagnosis,” Kirshenbaum said. “To that end, we are pursuing the capital investment and development of a women’s heart health centre right here in Winnipeg, as part of the St. Boniface Hospital’s well-known reputation for cardiac care in the province of Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.”

The conference scientific program was comprised of 27 scientific symposia, 10 named lectureships, and 118 poster presentations with 350 attendees. The conference attracted world experts in cardiovascular medicine from 11 different countries including Canada, USA, Brazil, Israel, Argentina, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Chile, Turkey, France and India.

“One of the pillars of this conference was to provide an opportunity for early and mid-career trainees to meet with cardiovascular leaders in person and participate in symposia featuring superb scientific content and knowledge translation. The conference was a spectacular success, and the large number of international scientists that came to Winnipeg to attend reflects the high calibre of research taking place here at St. Boniface Hospital” commented Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

In addition, the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences in partnership with the University of Manitoba held its 24th Annual 2022 Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards Ceremony during the course of the three-day conference. The awards day celebrates excellence in cardiovascular medicine, research and education with a focus on students’ contributions, as well as individuals who have made outstanding contributions in support services. The awards are named after iconic leaders in Manitoba that include Dr. R.E. Beamish, Mr. Ken Bowman, Dr. John Foerster, Dr. Vincenzo Panagia, Mr. Jack Litvack, Dr. Arnold Naimark, Dr. Henry Friesen, Sr. Jacqueline St-Yves, Mr. Ken Dhalla, Dr. James S. McGoey, Dr. T. Edward Cuddy, and ICS Gold Medals which recognize the outstanding leadership in cardiovascular sciences were presented to Drs. Bohuslav Ostadal, Prague, Czech Republic, Ranko Škrbić, Banja Luka, Bosnia and C. Noel Bairey Merz, Los Angeles, California.

The award presentations were made by Drs. Kirshenbaum and Czubryt (see below).

Young Investigators Net Two Major AHA Awards

With stiff competition from prestigious international universities and research centres, two St. Boniface Hospital Research members each won a major award at the American Heart Association’s 2022 Scientific Sessions, held earlier this month in Chicago.

Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin is the winner of the Louis N. and Arnold M. Katz Basic Science Research Prize for Early Career Investigators competition by the American Heart Association’s Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS).  She is also the first Canadian to win this highly coveted award, historically recognizing research involving biochemical, cellular, molecular, and genetic sciences, and now includes whole animal studies, especially those related to the creation of new genetic lines. Rabinovich-Nikitin is a Principal Investigator, Women’s Heart Health and Cardiometabolic Function at the the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Assistant Professor Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Weiang Yan, a PhD student from Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra’s laboratory is the winner of the Vivien Thomas Early Career Investigator Award which acknowledges the accomplishments of early career investigator members of the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia (CVSA) with a focus on fundamental and applied surgical research.

“It’s incredible to have two winners of these major AHA awards be awarded to SBRC members,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Professor Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba. “It speaks volumes to the high-level training and rich research environment in our laboratories here at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre.”

Chicago, IL – AHA 2022 – Scientific Sessions is the leading cardiovascular meeting for basic, translational, clinical and population science, in the United States, with cardiovascular experts from around the world attending the meeting. Photos by © AHA/Scott Morgan 2022

Rabinovich-Nikitin received the award following the presentation of her proposal, ‘Shift Work Disrupts Circadian Rhythm and Mitochondrial Quality Control in the Heart,’ saying, “I am earnestly grateful for the recognition I have received for this work, which was carried out during my CIHR funded postdoctoral fellowship under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum. I am proud to be the first Canadian to have ever received this award and hopeful that it will open new avenues of research in the field of Women’s Heart Health and Circadian Biology in Canada and worldwide.”

Yan received the award, named in honour of Dr. Vivien T. Thomas, for his project on the application of Next-generation MXene nanomaterials in preventing allograft vasculopathy after heart transplantation. After an organ transplant, patients have to take anti-rejection pills for the rest of their lives, which come with serious side effects. Anti-rejection drugs suppress immune responses to keep the body from rejecting the new organ.

“But with MXene nanomaterials that we have produced in our laboratory this could be a thing of the past,” said Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Associate Professor Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba.

Using immuno-engineering-based approaches, the Dhingra lab has created an intrinsically immunomodulatory material, titanium carbide MXene nanosheets which is able to stop body’s automatic immune response. Dhingra Lab’s application for a US patent was recently approved which confirms their claim of novel immunomodulatory properties of MXene and first application of this material in preventing rejection of transplanted donor organs by recipient immune system.

“This is very exciting and speaks about the quality of research being conducted at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre. I want to congratulate both Rabinovich-Nikitin and Yan for winning these prestigious awards,” Dhingra added.

Weiang Yan was equally thrilled, “I am extremely honoured to be receiving this prestigious award for the work that we have accomplished on the immunomodulatory effects of MXene nanomaterials. I am grateful to the supervision and mentorship of Drs. Sanjiv Dhingra and Rakesh C. Arora, and the funding and support provided by the University of Manitoba Clinician Investigator Program and the CIHR fellowship. I am hopeful that the training I received at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences will help be succeed in both ongoing and future translational and applied surgical research.”

Congratulations to both winners! 

SBRC researchers identify protein linked to heart failure in chemo patients, with potential to save millions of lives.

A team led by Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum has identified a protein called TRAF2 that stops functioning in cancer patients taking the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, which can result in heart failure. Their findings were published in the American Heart Association’s cardiac journal, Circulation, widely considered the top scientific journal for cardiac research with an impact factor of 39.92.

“The finding could lead to new drugs that save cancer patients,” said Kirshenbaum, principal investigator and director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and UM Canada Research Chair in molecular cardiology.

While doxorubicin is used to treat many types of cancer, particularly breast and ovarian cancer, some patients who receive the drug develop heart problems that lead to heart failure.

Using a variety of state-of-the-art approaches, the researchers discovered that doxorubicin impairs the activity of TRAF2 in the heart which leads to heart failure. The team also showed that interventions that restored the TRAF2 activity suppressed the unwanted side effects and heart failure induced by doxorubicin treatment. 

“This is a significant finding that we are very excited about,” said Kirshenbaum, who is a professor of physiology & pathophysiology and pharmacology & therapeutics, Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba. “We discovered that TRAF2 was consistently down-regulated in cancer patients with heart failure who had received doxorubicin treatment. Our pre-clinical study showed that by restoring TRAF2, we could prevent injury to the heart muscle and heart failure induced by doxorubicin.”

The results of the study, titled Proteasomal Degradation of TRAF2 Mediates Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Doxorubicin- Cardiomyopathy, were published in the American Heart Association’s cardiac journal Circulation, the top journal for cardiovascular medicine.

Kirshenbaum said the research has revealed a novel cellular pathway that connects the loss of TRAF2 to the undesirable cardiotoxic effects of doxorubicin that could lead to new ways to completely eliminate this unwanted side-effect in millions of cancer patients.

“Essentially, we’re talking about the difference of the heart tissue surviving unscathed versus experiencing premature and irreversible cell damage as a result of these powerful cancer-treating drugs,” said Dr. Richard Kitsis, professor of medicine and cell biology, director, Wilf Family Cardiovascular Research Institute, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “Enhancement of TRAF2 function in the heart may provide a novel therapeutic approach.”  

Kirshenbaum and his team are currently working on new therapies and drugs that could be used to prevent cardiac injury in cancer patients undergoing doxorubicin treatment.

Dr. Peter Nickerson, UM vice-provost (health sciences), and dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, said he’s excited about the study and prospects of new therapies that could improve patient care.

“This study builds upon Dr. Kirshenbaum’s leadership in cardiovascular sciences globally, and importantly, it reflects the high calibre of CIHR funded research at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and” Nickerson said.

The research was supported by a foundation grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

Better understanding the benefits of oats could boost its production in the country

This article reposted as an English translation from: CBC Originally published October 6, 2022

A study on the health benefits of oats taking place in Manitoba is looking at the effects of this cereal on lowering cholesterol and on blood sugar levels. Producers estimate that positive results could make it possible to increase the area devoted to the production of this cereal.

Dr. Thomas Netticadan, team leader at the Canadian Center for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine and professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Manitoba, confirms that animal tests carried out over the past few months are conclusive.

An oat protein was isolated and given as a drink to obese rats in experiments performed in a laboratory at St. Boniface Hospital.

Oat protein has not only been observed to lower risk factors like cholesterol and blood sugar in his animals, but it also protects the heart, its structure and cardiac function , explains Dr. Netticadan.

Over time, in these animals, heart structure and function become abnormal, and oat protein was able to prevent the development of heart complications. This is therefore another very interesting result of our study.

The research team is currently analyzing the results in greater depth to write a scientific paper for peer review, says Dr. Joseph Sijo, an Agriculture Canada researcher and professor in the Department of Food and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Manitoba. He hopes the article will be published by early 2023, followed by the next step which is to test on humans to further validate the findings.

Dr. Joseph Sijo, an Agriculture Canada researcher and professor in the Department of Food and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

If all goes according to plan, the researchers would like to get a certification from Health Canada that says oat protein is good for maintaining healthy blood pressure or even says oats are good for controlling your blood sugar response , launches with enthuses Joseph Sijo.

He recalls that Health Canada has already authorized the statement: Oat fiber helps reduce/lower cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease , found on the Government of Canada website.

Dr. Sijo also points out that with their sedentary lifestyle, Canadians are at increasing risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.

The Prairie Oat Growers Association recently secured $106,000 from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to fund this study. The chairman of the board of directors of the Manitoba branch of the association, Yves Lapointe, hopes that the scientists will arrive at results that will improve the health of Canadians.

He also hopes that the study’s findings will provide additional impetus for farmers who produce oats.

We want to find new markets and spread our oats for global products. If you find added value in oats, that will help our industry enormously. We will be able to sell more oats and increase our acres in Canada , says Mr. Lapointe. He explains that Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta produce 90% of Canada’s oats.

Mr. Lapointe says farmers grew oats in huge quantities in the 1950s and 1960s. Interest in the cereal subsequently declined because there were fewer products to be made from oats” he points out.

However, he says that for the past few years, the level of oat production has been on the rise due to healthy protein trends, which is explained in particular by oat milks for those who are vegan.

In September 2022, Statistics Canada predicted a harvest of over 4.6 million metric tonnes of oats nationwide for the current year. For comparison, in 2016, the oat harvest was 3.2 million metric tons.
In 2020, Canadian oat exports were valued at $465 million, according to a press release from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Government of Canada invests in food research to support disease prevention –

A new target for treating heart disease

October 06, 2022 – For Release 12:00pm UTC

A cardiac research lab in Winnipeg is the first to discover and demonstrate the critical role of a protein called scleraxis in regulating cardiac fibrosis, a condition that stiffens the walls of the heart.

The study, published today in the European Heart Journal, shows how scleraxis is an important new factor for therapeutic targeting in a condition that currently lacks any treatment.

Fibrosis is a major clinical problem for millions of cardiac patients worldwide, contributing to arrhythmias, heart failure and death. It can develop following high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and/or valve disorders, and can be monitored by MRI, but no viable therapeutics to halt or reverse the condition are currently available.

The scleraxis protein acts as a stress response pathway, playing an important role in structures rich in connective tissue like tendons and valves. Most of the existing research on how scleraxis helps and hinders our bodies, has been focused on tendons.

But the Czubryt lab has been looking at and building a case for more than a decade that scleraxis is vitally important to the heart as well and new findings show it holds the key to developing new therapeutic drugs for cardiac fibrosis.

“This work confirms that scleraxis is critical in the initiation and ongoing maintenance of cardiac fibrosis, and it should be targeted to treat this condition, improving patient quality of life and heart failure survival rates,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Principal Investigator, Molecular Pathophysiology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Professor of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba.

This research and the resulting paper were a major group effort involving 17 authors in total, including graduate students and fellow Principal Investigators at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre.

Another key finding according to Czubryt, is showing that ‘fixing’ cardiac fibrosis alone is enough to improve heart function – even without halting the abnormal growth (cardiac hypertrophy) that usually accompanies disease.

“Most prior work has shown that fixing the hypertrophy did lead to improvements in fibrosis – but separating the two has been difficult,” he said.

The work involved using cutting-edge approaches including a cell-specific deletion of the scleraxis gene in mice and confirming that scleraxis levels are elevated in the hearts of human patients with dilated cardiomyopathy and high levels of collagen, which is the main component of fibrosis in the heart.

“We’re very pleased to have our work presented in a journal that commands a broad readership of cardiovascular scientists and clinicians around the globe,” says Czubryt.

The European Heart Journal is an international peer-reviewed medical journal of cardiology and cardiovascular medicine, the second highest ranking journal in this field with an impact factor of 35.8 published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.

Reference: Nagalingam RS, Chattopadhyaya S, Al-Hattab DS, Cheung DYC, Schwartz LY, Jana S et al. Scleraxis and fibrosis in the pressure-overloaded heart. Eur Heart J 2022. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehac362.

Karen Hiebert, Manager, Communications & Media Services, St. Boniface Hospital Research
| | 431-997-6577

SBRC alumnus, Dr. Anju Bajaj receives Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented Dr. Anju Bajaj with a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence This award presented, Monday October 3 in Ottawa, honoured Dr. Bajaj for her commitment to preparing her students for a digital and innovations-based economy.

Dr. Bajaj imparts a love of learning and the ability to use the skills and knowledge gained to prosper in the 21 st century. She is a teaching vice-principal at Holy Cross School Archdiocese of Winnipeg.  She is recognized as: a leader, researcher, activist, organizer, author, STEM educator, consultant, public speaker, and visible minority role model.

She provides encouragement and opportunities for students, especially female students through her school clubs such as the New Horizon Club. The club in conjunction with St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre provides opportunities to interact with female and male researchers. Through her work with science fairs, especially the Bison Regional Science Fair, which she founded, females and males have been able to participate in the Canada Wide science Fair and win awards.

In her one-to-one meeting with Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, she was humbled to hear from the PM.

“Dr. Bajaj Congratulations to you! I would have loved to have science teachers like you. It would have likely changed the course of my studies. I almost went into sciences in university, but there was that little spark missing that I know I would have had for sure if I had teachers like you in high school. Proud of your accomplishments,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Dr. Anju Bajaj is a former Postdoctoral Trainee working under Dr. Pawan Singal, Principal Investigator Cell Pathophysiology, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences  

“Dr. Bajaj worked with us for two years in our lab, so it is delightful to see a former colleague recognized for her ongoing achievements.  She always stayed in touch with her faculty members in ICS, and with the Foundation, and regularly brings her students to participate in programming at our Youth BIOlab,” Dr. Singal noted. “We wish her our heartiest congratulations on this tremendous honour.”

(1) Prime Minister’s Awards 2022 National Ceremony | Facebook

Ramjiawan one of four new Fellows from UM joining the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

The University of Manitoba is proud to announce an impressive four new Fellows elected to The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) for 2022. The CAHS Fellowship recognizes excellence in health sciences and these 71 new Fellows across Canada reflect a rich and varied expertise.

The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences brings together Canada’s top-ranked health and biomedical scientists and scholars who make a positive impact on the urgent health concerns of Canadians. Election to Fellowship in the Academy is considered one of the highest honours for individuals in the Canadian health sciences community.

“The innovative research programs of these outstanding clinician-scientists have made indelible impacts on the lives of so many around the world,” says Dr. Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at UM. “We congratulate them on this most deserved recognition for their decades of research into Canada’s most complex health challenges.”

Dr. Peter Nickerson, vice-provost (health sciences) and dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, added, “We are honoured to congratulate our four faculty members on election to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Their extensive and impactful research into global public health, Indigenous health, clinical research and infectious diseases has not only improved health locally, nationally and globally, but rightfully earned them this prestigious distinction.”   

Dr. Bram Ramjiawan

Director of Clinical Research, Innovation and Regulatory Affairs and Director of Research, Asper Clinical Research Institute, St. Boniface Hospital and Research Centre

Dr. Bram Ramjiawan is responsible for the oversight of clinical research and to oversee and ensure that all clinical, regulatory and business issues are handled as required by national and international agencies. Dr. Ramjiawan is an International expert on clinical trials. He is resident internal reviewer for the European Union, various United States departments (FDA, NIH) and Canada.

Prior to joining the hospital, Dr. Ramjiawan worked with the Government of Canada (National Research Council) as an industrial technology advisor who specialized in life sciences and biomedical technologies. Dr. Ramjiawan is an adjunct professor of pharmacology and therapeutics, Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba.

He serves on many national and international organizations. At the national level Dr. Ramjiawan is on the steering committee of the Canadian Standards Association on Medical Technology and Health Care. At the international level, he is a reviewer for the United States National Institutes of Health and for the European Union Commission on Health Science and Ethics.

Dr. James Blanchard

Professor, Community Health Sciences, and Executive Director, Institute for Global Public Health, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Dr. James Blanchard is an epidemiologist and public health specialist focusing on global health. His research focuses on how the characteristics of individuals, communities and large populations contribute to the local and global distribution of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Over the past 25 years, he has also provided leadership globally to applying research to improve the design and implementation of large public health programs related to sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS and maternal, neonatal and child health focused in south Asia and Africa.

Dr. Blanchard has also contributed to the development of scientific knowledge about what creates epidemics of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and in the translation of that knowledge into effective programs and policies to improve health. Globally, he has advanced knowledge about the factors that generate HIV epidemics and translated that knowledge into high impact programs to control HIV in south Asia and Africa. In Canada, he has been a leader in developing methods to study the emerging epidemics of diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

He holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in epidemiology and global public health.

Dr. Josée G. Lavoie

Professor, Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, and Director of Ongomiizwin -Research, Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Dr. Josée G. Lavoie, a Fulbright scholar, is an internationally-renowned researcher who, for the past 30 years, has been working in partnership with Indigenous communities and organizations to improve Indigenous peoples’ access to responsive health services.

Dr. Lavoie’s program of research is uniquely positioned in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and other Indigenous groups across Canada, in Alaska, Norway, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand and circumpolar countries.

Her research focuses on improved access to primary health care for underserved and marginalized populations, in rural, remote and inner-city environments; and on shifting health policy.

Dr. Lavoie’s program of research demonstrates leadership in engaged scholarship. She is particularly interested in how western and Indigenous knowledge systems interface in the provision of health services in Indigenous communities. She maintains on-going partnerships with the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba and with the Manitoba Inuit Association. She is actively engaged in collaborations in Australia and New Zealand, and in circumpolar health research.

Dr. George Zhanel

Professor, Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Dr. George Zhanel is research director of the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Alliance (CARA) and the founding and chief editor of the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Alliance (CARA) website (

Dr. Zhanel has been involved in treatment guideline development for a variety of infectious diseases and studying antimicrobial usage/resistance in humans, animals and food and the impact of antimicrobial exposure on human and animal microbiomes. 

He has published over 1,000 papers, chapters and abstracts in the areas of treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics and discovery and development.

Dr. Zhanel has been involved in treatment guideline development for a variety of infectious diseases and is also interested in antimicrobial usage/resistance in humans, animals and food (one health) and the impact of antimicrobial exposure on human and animal microbiomes.

In 2020, he received the Canadian Association for Medical Education merit award, and in 2021, he was 1 of 190 Canadian scientists recognized as a “highly cited researcher”, an honour received by 1 out of 1000 of the world’s scientists.

Alzheimer’s Association awards Adlimoghaddam $175,000

Congratulations to Dr. Aida Adlimoghaddam from Dr. Ben Albensi’s lab for receiving the Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship (AARF) valued at $175,000 USD.

The AARF grant program supports exceptional researchers engaged in their post-graduate work and before they have their first independent faculty positions. These researchers work in diverse research areas, including basic, translational, clinical, functional and social-behavioural research.

Funding received from the Alzheimer’s Association will allow Dr. Adlimoghaddam to continue her novel neuropharmacological research. She aims to uncover an innovative therapy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease via repurposing two FDA-approved drugs.

Dr. Adlimoghaddam is the first recipient from St. Boniface Hospital Research of this highly prestigious and competitive international award. Other current and prior awardees come from notable institutions such as Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Oxford.

Dr. Albensi contributed to her success by providing the association with documentation on mentoring plans, past success with trainees, equipment, and the focus of his lab.

Yan and Nagalingam Recognized at Max Rady College Awards Day

Max Rady College of Medicine Awards Day were held June 20, 2022 and two St. Boniface Research members were among those receiving honours.

Congratulations to Weiang Yan in Dr. Dhingra’s lab, who received the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation Inc. Award for Cardiovascular Biology, and who was also awarded the E.L. Drewry Memorial Award, the college’s highest honour of the year.

And another round of congratulations to former student of Dr. Michael Czubryt, Raghu Nagalingam, who received the Manitoba Medical Service Foundation PhD Student Award. Nagalingam is now completing his post doc in British Columbia.

Well done gentlemen!

CCARM student nets two awards at Protein Symposium

Congratulations to MSc student Jenny Bouchard who recently won two awards for her presentation at the 2022 Manitoba Sustainable Protein Symposium:  The People’s Choice Award and the Scientific Merit Award in the Undergraduate/MSc category.

Bouchard is a MSc student in Food Science at the University of Manitoba doing her research at CCARM under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Netticadan (CCARM) and Dr. Sijo Joseph (Richardson Centre for Food Technology and Research), co-supervised by Dr. Maneka Malagoda. Bouchard is examining the potential of oat protein in improving cardiovascular health in an animal model of metabolic syndrome.

The 2nd annual Manitoba Sustainable Protein Research Symposium was hosted by the University of Manitoba, Manitoba Agriculture and the Manitoba Industry-Academia Partnership June 7-9, 2022.

Suh receives Duhamel Innovation Award

Dr. Suh (L) accepts her honorarium from St. Boniface Hospital Foundation President & CEO, Karen Fowler.

Congratulations to Dr. Miyoung Suh, Principal Investigator in the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders and Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine at the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre for being awarded the 2022 Ronald Duhamel Innovation Fund Award.  

Honouring the late St. Boniface Member of Parliament and Senator Ronald Duhamel, this annual award supports leadership in the advancement of health care at St. Boniface Hospital. It includes a cash honorarium, which for 2022 was $12,156.38.  

Dr. Suh is a world leader in the field of nutrition and dietetics. One of her areas of specialization is the role of maternal nutrition in reducing the impact of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This is vitally important because FASD is a preventable developmental disability, resulting from fetal exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, affecting 400,000 Canadians and 3,000 infants annually.

Dr. Suh’s research focuses on identifying early nutrition intervention strategies during pregnancy and lactation, which may be key in preventing or mitigating the severity of FASD.

Partnering with First Nations Communities in Manitoba, her research team found more than 85% of pregnant women with alcohol consumption were not meeting recommended omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) requirements, a vital structural component of the brain required for optimal fetal brain development and function.

A study is underway to test the efficacy of DHA to ward off alchohol-induced effects during this vital growth stage. The outcomes of this study will ultimately inform care and enhance the health of mothers and infants at St. Boniface Hospital.

St. Boniface Hospital Foundation thanks everyone who submitted a nomination for the 2022 Ronald Duhamel Innovation Fund Award and is pleased to announce this year’s award recipient. 

Youth BIOlab Hosts National Educators Attending Reconciliation Summit,
and Attracts NSERC Boost to promote STEM

Since the first lockdown in early 2020, the Youth BIOlab team has made extraordinary efforts to expand its reach and connect with students from all walks of life, all across the province, in particular kids who live in our remote northern communities.  

From live-streaming course work and project sessions, to producing original science-based activity books as well as writing and producing two original video series on its website and YouTube, in both official languages, our YBL team has been working non-stop, and now that students are starting to return to our building for in-person learning, they will once again be busier than ever. 

On May 17, Director Steve Jones hosted a group of local and visiting school division CEO’s, superintendents and education leaders from across the country who were attending C21 Canada, a leadership summit to continue the national conversation on Reconciliation in Canadian Education in Treaty One, Homeland of the Red River Metis. Showcasing landmark ventures with first-hand site visits to future-ready partner innovations was a key aim of the summit, showing nuanced pathways to reconciliation.

“We have partnered with the Louis Riel School Division since 2005, and this work directly led to the development of the Youth BIOlab,” explained Jones. This partnership model and guiding principles still form the basis of all its work with students, teachers and other school divisions. “By working together, we can meet the unique needs of learners, communities and schools, whether here on Treaty One land or elsewhere in the province,” he added.

Joining Christian Michalik, Superintendent of the Louis Riel School Division and Summit Co-Host, and Karen Yamada, Learning and Innovation Lead for C21 Canada, guests sat down with Jones in the Youth BIOlab to learn more about its programming and outreach efforts to youth from all corners of Manitoba.

Then on May 19, more good news for YBL, when the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry announced over $10 million in funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) PromoScience and Science Communication Skills grants, as well as the NSERC Awards for Science Promotion.  YBL will receive $93,000 for 2022, which Steve will continue to invest in youth outreach programming with new and existing partners.   

Way to go team YBL! 

Srivastava from Dhingra lab earns prestigious CIHR Postdoc Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr. Abhay Srivastava with the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program, ICS, who was recently awarded the highly competitive CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship worth $135,000 over three years.

Srivastava’s application received an impressive 4.54/5.0 rating and will help support his project working under the supervision of Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, to develop a personalized pre-screening platform for patients with Leigh Syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder.

Working with Dr. Dhingra’s collaborator, Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg from Children’s Hospital of Manitoba, Srivastava works with blood samples from patients to create a patient-specific stem cells based personalized platform to determine cell function and metabolism, and screen potential new drugs to help understand which treatments may work.

“It’s like performing clinical trials in a cell culture dish, and hopefully in the near future we can create a library of treatment data from which new therapies can be developed,” he explained. 

Srivastava felt incredibly honoured to receive this highly competitive fellowship, “I think the credit goes to our entire team at the Dhingra lab who have contributed tremendously in building my research portfolio. Dr. Dhingra and I worked very hard in preparing the application and it’s very gratifying and humbling to see it come through,” he said.  Thanks were also expressed to Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg as his clinical collaborator and mentor, as well as Dr. Sarita Gupta, Ph.D. Supervisor.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), provides vital support to Canadian researchers, spanning the tightly linked pillars of health research, with the ultimate goal of improving health for all Canadians.

Arya Awarded Nancie J. Mauro Scholarship in Oncology Research

Congratulations to Vibhuti Arya, who has been recommended to receive the Nancie J. Mauro Graduate Scholarship in Oncology Research. 

Arya, who immigrated to Winnipeg in 2016, graduated with a BSc. (hons.) Cell, Molecular Biology, from University of Manitoba and then sought experience in Clinical Research. In May 2021, she started in the Cardiovascular Imaging (CVI) lab; and under the guidance of Dr. Davinder Jassal, was awarded CancerCare Manitoba’s Research in Hematology and Immunology (RIOH) summer studentship which helped her gain a strong understanding of ethics involved in clinical research. As a member of Dr. Jassal’s lab, Arya is contributing to the CANFLAX study to understand the benefits of flax milk products to help prevent heart failure in women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

“Dr. Jassal has been a very supportive supervisor and excellent mentor, helping me realize my passion for healthcare research,” she said. With heightened interest and appreciation for the role of clinical research in bringing the bench top science to patient’s bedside, Arya is now pursuing a MSc. in Physiology and Pathophysiology.

The CANFLAX project is the first clinical study of its kind to promote new standards of care that may help protect the hearts of women receiving chemotherapy in the breast cancer setting. Through partnerships with scientists and clinicians locally and abroad, the Cardio-Oncology program is focused on developing strategies, programs, and guidelines to prevent cardiovascular complications in the cancer population.

“For me, the Nancie J. Mauro graduate scholarship symbolizes the unity between my sense of service towards patients and my passion for scientific inquiry,” Arya added. She also wished to acknowledge the support of her co-supervisor Dr. Marshall Pitz and all the CVI lab members for their constant motivation and assistance with research study coordination and planning. 

Congratulations on this outstanding recognition.

Feltham garners prestigious doctoral program scholarship

Congratulations to Bradley Feltham who was awarded a Canada Graduate Student (CGS) doctoral program scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards to promote continued excellence in Canadian research by rewarding and retaining high-calibre doctoral students at Canadian institutions. By providing support for a high-quality research training experience to awardees, this program strives to foster impacts within and beyond the research environment.

Feltham will receive $105,000 over three years for his project studying whether omega-3 fats could be used to protect babies from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh, RD, PhD, Principal Investigator, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders (DND) & Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, she indicated a great sense of pride having Bradley as a member of the DND and CCARM teams.

Feltham shared more about his work with UM Today,

The CGS D program is a federal program of scholarships awarded through national competitions by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

CIBC partners with St. Boniface for earlier detection of lung cancer

$75K commitment to St. Boniface Hospital Foundation will fund new research with potential to
improve patient outcomes

An estimated one in four cancer-related deaths are caused by lung cancer. Research at St. Boniface Hospital, made possible by the support of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), aims to improve the odds for lung cancer patients.

CIBC’s $100,000 donation will go toward a project led by Dr. Michel Aliani, Principal Investigator, Nutritional Metabolomics Research at St. Boniface Hospital Research. His lab has identified a number of biomarkers – molecules found in blood and other body fluids and tissues that allow scientists to see how the body responds to a treatment for a disease – that change with the presence of lung cancer.

Dr. Aliani believes tracking changes in these biomarkers will aid in earlier diagnosis of lung cancer and show why some people respond to particular treatments and others do not. This ability will help doctors track their patients more closely, and quickly detect changes in a patient’s cancer, both during and after treatment.

“We’re proud to support Dr. Aliani and the incredible team at St. Boniface Hospital Research and their ambition to make a healthier society through excellence in research and health care a reality,” said Matt Sachkiw, Vice President & Region Head, CIBC Commercial Banking. “Through this donation, we’re taking another step towards helping achieve our longstanding and collective goal to ensure no one has to fear a cancer diagnosis.”

CIBC has generously supported medical research at St. Boniface Hospital for decades. With this latest commitment CIBC has now donated more than $260,000 to advance research and improve patient lives.

“CIBC’s generous support will provide hope for the thousands of people diagnosed with lung cancer,” said Karen Fowler, President & CEO of St. Boniface Hospital Foundation. “This gift demonstrates CIBC’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of Canadians, and we are proud and grateful to join them in their goal to create a future where no one has to fear a cancer diagnosis.”

In 2021 it was estimated 29,600 Canadians would be diagnosed with lung cancer and 21,000 Canadians would die from the disease, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. It is the leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada. One reason for the high death rate is that there is currently no non-invasive early detection protocol for lung cancer. Too many lung cancers are diagnosed too late – often at Stage 3 or 4 – for a hopeful survival prognosis.

Having mapped 250,000 metabolic pathways, Dr. Aliani can analyze metabolic biomarkers to see how the body’s metabolism reacts to different conditions, including cancer. By analyzing non-invasive samples from cancer patients, he can identify the biomarkers that change when a tumour is present and post-cancer.

Analysis of biomarkers in urine could open the door for a simple, non-invasive early detection system for lung cancer. Resulting early diagnosis protocols could dramatically improve the prognosis for those diagnosed with lung cancer in Canada and around the world.

“This important investment is a testament to the world-class research performed at St. Boniface Hospital Research, where leading scientific investigators are discovering new approaches to achieve better medical outcomes for Canadians,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Mishra claims first at 3MT

Congratulations to Pranav Mishra, a Graduate Student from Dr. Benedict Albensi’s laboratory and co-supervised by Dr. Paul Fernyhough, who claimed first place and a prize of $2500 at Three Minute Thesis (3MT) on April 7th.

The University of Manitoba 3MT is an annual competition for graduate students in a thesis-based program. 3MT is part of an overall strategy to highlight graduate students, promote U of M research and connect with the community.

You can learn more about 3MT by visiting

Netticadan appointed CCARM team lead

Congratulations to Dr. Thomas Netticadan who has been named Team Leader of the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), for a three-year term effective April 1, 2022.

Dr. Netticadan is Principal Investigator, Heart Failure Research Laboratory, CCARM; Acting Associate Director, Morden Research and Development Centre (MRDC) and Science Team Leader of the Agri-Food and Food Security Group, MRDC and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), and Adjunct Professor Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba.  

Best known for his research studying the heart-healthy benefits of resveratrol, a natural compound found in dark grape and berry skin, Dr. Netticadan joined CCARM in 2007 after working as a Principal Investigator in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, also at St. Boniface Research, and as Assistant Professor in Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University of Manitoba, for six years. 

Netticadan began his education in his home country of India, where he first graduated with a BSc in Chemistry, a Masters in Biochemistry, and his PhD in Physiology from the University of Bombay. He completed his postdoctoral training in Paris, France, at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Medicalé, and then moved to Canada to complete a second post-doc at the University of Western Ontario.

Working collaboratively with several other labs, Netticadan’s role as Team Leader will be to continue advancing CCARM’s research program which aims to translate positive results from basic laboratory science into new and safe dietary supplements and food products that will directly impact the health of the Canadian public.

“We have such an excellent team of researchers in diverse areas such as nutrition, food chemistry, health and plant sciences, I would like to take initiatives to strengthen the translational research capacity to support multiple clients along the agri-food value chain,” Netticadan explained. 

Ideally, this will include plant breeders, food processors and producers, regulatory bodies and consumers. “It’s really about utilizing the research outcomes from the existing farm-to-bench-to-fork-to-bedside path and translating it back to the farm by promoting crops with robust nutritional and health attributes, a win-win for the health of Canadians and growth value for Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector,” he added.

“Dr. Netticadan is well respected internationally for both his ground-breaking research, but also his skills as a mentor and leader. We are delighted that he has been appointed to lead CCARM for the next three years,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

CCARM represents an ongoing unique partnership between St. Boniface Hospital, the University of Manitoba, The University of Winnipeg and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and is located within the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and the I.H. Asper Clinical Research Institute.

From laboratory to human research, CCARM conducts clinical research studies of functional and health food products and nutraceuticals identified by its laboratories as having potential beneficial effects on diseases that are of clinical and financial significance to Canadians. Diseases targeted thus far include, immune disorders, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular and vascular diseases.

“AAFC has a longstanding partnership with CCARM and Dr. Netticadan has been instrumental in this collaborative partnership,” says Dr. Joyce Boye, Director General for AAFC’s Science and Technology Branch for the Prairie Region. “CCARM is paving the way for innovation in functional foods and nutraceuticals research and helping the agri-food industry continue to provide food products that directly impact the health of Canadians. We wish Dr. Netticadan all the best in this new leadership role,” on Thomas’ appointment .

Patient-oriented research boosted by leadership training award

Dr. Anna Chudyk, part of SBRC’s Health Services and Structural Determinants of Health Research group is a CIHR funded postdoctoral fellow (College of Nursing, UM) who was recently awarded one of 13 Martha Donovan Leadership awards through the Winnipeg Foundation. Dr. Chudyk’s fellowship is a newly emergent opportunity that aims to develop leaders in patient-oriented research and this award will support the completion of training through the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).

“My research focuses on the scholarship that underlies patient engagement in research, along with a number of clinical and health system studies that engage patients and caregivers as co-researchers,” she said.  Dr. Chudyk plans to apply the skills she develops to enhance her research program, which includes the co-development of a system/culture for patient-oriented research at St. Boniface Research Centre. The work’s ultimate aim is to produce insights and knowledge to restructure the research process and healthcare system to better meet patient and caregiver priorities and perspectives.

“Enrolling in this globally recognized course will enhance my leadership in patient-oriented research by expanding my toolbox of practical hands-on techniques for planning and conducting patient and public engagement projects and activities and great networking opportunities,” Chudyk elaborated.

“I can’t wait to share these learnings with my collaborators at SBRC and University of Manitoba, as well as to apply them to enhance how I currently engage patients and caregivers in research. Thank you so much to the Winnipeg Foundation and Award for supporting my continuing evolution as a leader in patient-oriented research.”

Supervised by Dr. Annette Schultz, Principal Investigator of the Health Services & Structural Determinants of Health Research at SBRC, Chudyk also collaborates with Drs. Rakesh Arora and Todd Duhamel and has emerging networks across Canada.

“Support for women in science is imperative to enhance spaces where women can excel and realize the careers they have envisioned for themselves,” Schultz said. “The Martha Donovan Women’s Leadership Development Award creates opportunities for young women in science to be nurtured and develop leadership skills to prepare them to become the next generation of thought leaders.”

The IAP2 is a global organization whose mission is to provide individuals that engage patients and the public in organizations’ or projects’ decision-making processes with the tools, skills, and networking opportunities to enhance the practice of engagement.

Schultz further explained, “The IAP2 will expose Dr. Chudyk to novel ideas, tools, and most importantly to international networks of leaders that regularly engage patients and the public in their work. St. Boniface Research Centre and the University of Manitoba, are very fortunate to have this emerging leader in the field of patient-orientated research at our institutions.”

Leadership Training Vital to Success

Sikta Chattopadhyaya, a PhD student with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, is one of 13 award recipients funding women’s leadership training through the Winnipeg Foundation’s Martha Donovan Leadership Fund.

The $250,000 fund was established in 2019 to provide leadership development opportunities for women in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Recipients are funded to take a leadership course of their choosing, allowing them to develop their skills and advance their careers. Up to $50,000 is awarded annually for five years.

Currently working on research to help find cardiac fibrosis treatments in Dr. Michael Czubryt’s Molecular Pathophysiology lab here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, Chattopadhyaya will be investing her award money to study a leadership course through Harvard Business School. Her long term goal as a researcher is not only to help identify therapeutic strategies to block or reverse fibrosis, but ultimately start her own independent laboratory.

“To lead a lab, I will need to further develop qualities such as good communication skills, adapting leadership styles to different students in crisis, managing a team to elicit their best performance, handling stressful situations, managing and dealing with different personalities, getting people to believe in you, and leading them towards success. This course will help me develop most of these skills and will help me achieve the goals in my chosen career path,” she shared.

Dr. Czubryt explained how leadership capabilities are so valuable for researchers to develop as they pursue their careers, “The Martha Donovan Women’s Leadership Development Award provides a great opportunity for students to build their skills in preparation to become the next generation of thought leaders,” he said. “The course through Harvard Business School will help Sikta identify ways to build on her strengths in order to handle demanding situations while fostering team achievement.”

Chattopadhyaya credited her supervisor for his unwavering support, “I would also really like to thank Dr. Czubryt for his continuous guidance. I am lucky to be his student.”

Congratulations to Sikta and much success in your new studies!

Tantalum Carbide MXene Quantum Dots Potential Game-changer for Heart Transplant Patients

For patients needing heart transplants in the future, a recent discovery by Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra and his team of researchers in the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, may mean they never have to take anti-rejection drugs, which come with significant side effects.

Dhingra’s work studying immuno-engineering interventions using next-generation bio-compatible nanomaterials is again attracting international attention with the recent publication in Advanced Functional Materials, a prominent journal in the field of nanotechnology with an impact factor of 18.8.

The paper, titled Fabrication of Smart Tantalum Carbide MXene Quantum Dots with Intrinsic Immunodulatory Properties for Treatment of Allograft Vasculopathy is featured in AFM’s Frontispiece cover, a nod to its significance as a first to report this application for in vivo treatment of transplant vasculopathy.

MXene nanomaterials have sparked significant interest among interdisciplinary researchers to tackle today’s medical challenges. As Dhingra explained, “This work focuses on immuno-engineering interventions which could be helpful for people receiving organ transplants to avoid the need to rely on anti-rejection drugs, which they normally have to take for the rest of their lives.”

The team’s approach uses rational design and synthesis strategies to develop intrinsically immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory tantalum carbide MXene quantum dots. These MQDs are able to alter surface receptor expression of immune cells and reduce their activation. “In other words,” Dhingra explained, “We believe that MQDs may halt the body’s automatic inflammatory response, which is the irreversible first stage of the body’s rejection attempts.”

This work also comes at a critical juncture in the field, as poor long-term safety of several other MXene compositions is being challenged as viable for eventual clinical translatability.

Dhingra said, “Our tantalum nanomaterial is non-toxic and highly bio-compatible based on our observations thus far. We are confident it can be integrated into the body without harm, but of course, human clinical trials will be needed to confirm that.”

The team’s application for a US patent was recently approved which confirms their claim of a novel, immuno-engineering method and first application of this material in preventing rejection of transplanted donor organs by recipient immune system.

“It’s an exciting development and we are looking forward to advancing our research to the next stage.” Dhingra shared.

2021 ICS Naranjan Dhalla Poster Day Winners

23rd Annual Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards Poster Day Award Recipients

The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences held its annual ICS Naranhan Dhalla Poster Day virtually on February 3, 2022.

Congratulations to the following winners:

Basic Research Oral Competition

First Place:
Dr. Weiang Yan
“Titanium Carbide (Ti3c2tx) Mxene Nanosheets for Immunomodulation
and Prevention of Allograft Vasculopathy”

Second Place:
Sikta Chattopadhyaya
“Regulation of Gls1 Expression by Scleraxis in Cardiac Fibroblasts”

Honourable Mention:
Akshi Malik
“ER Stress Mediation of Dox-Induced Cardiomyopathy and its
Mitigation by Il-10”

Clinical Research Oral Competition

First Place:
Dr. Sandeep Krishnan
“Prehospital Ticagrelor Administration for St Segment Myocardial
Infarction is Associated with Lower Incidence of Intracoronary
Thrombus than Clopidogrel”

Second Place:
Dr. Hilary Bews
“High Output Heart Failure, A Forgotten Phenotype: Evaluating the
Incidence, Plausible Etiologies and Outcomes”

Honourable Mention:
Dr. Anas Alzahrani
“Clinical Presentation and Outcomes of Patients Presenting with
Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy: iFast”

Dr. Triston Eastman
“Discordance between Parameters Defining Cardiogenic Shock Among
Patients with ST-elevation”

ICS Graduate Students Recognized for Excellence

Congratulations to two graduate students with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences who were recently recognized for exceptional accomplishments, by the University of Manitoba’s Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology.

Arun Surendran PhD student, supervised by Dr. Amir Ravandi, was awarded the 2021 Grant Pierce Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Physiology.

Keshav Narayan Alagarsamy supervised by Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, won the 2021 Edwin Kroeger Young Investigator Award in Cell Biology.

“These awards reflect the superb calibre of investigation and discipline undertaken each day here at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of ICS and Professor Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba. “We are thrilled for both Arun and Keshav and share our heartiest congratulations to them both, as well as their supervisors, Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra and Dr. Amir Ravandi for their excellent mentorship.”

#1 Research Hospital in Western Canada – 10 years running Top 5 in Canada since 2012

For the 10th year in a row, the St. Boniface Hospital is among Canada’s leading research hospitals, taking the #1 spot in western Canada and ranking in the Top 5 nationally, according to data released today by Research Infosource Inc. Canada’s source of R&D intelligence.

“I’m proud of the more than 200 academics, researchers, clinicians, scientists and students who call the St. Boniface research campus home. The pursuit of scientific discovery through research is one of the most important activities humanity can undertake, showing us the way forward to build a better world for all. This is another nod to those endeavors,” says Mike Czubryt, Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

St. Boniface Hospital has always recognized the power of the research discoveries and potential interventions the talented cardiac, brain, food sciences and clinical research teams are pursuing.  “It’s great to see we have held onto our position nationally, showing our strength in research. Congratulations to everyone at the Albrechtsen Centre and Asper Clinical Research Institute,” says Nicole Aminot, Interim President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital.

In affiliation with the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, St. Boniface Hospital Research has four dedicated research programs: the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences; the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders; the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM); and Clinical Research.  It boasts 30 laboratories, 250 staff, served as training ground for more than 450 students and is also home to the RBC Youth BIOLab Jeunesse —a space for students and teachers to explore and experience real biomedical science in a world-class research center.

About Research Infosource Inc.
Research Infosource Inc., a division of The Impact Group, publishes Canada’s Innovation Leaders, which includes Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders List, Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities List, Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals List and Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges List.

AJP lists SBRC paper as one of 2021’s Top Cited articles.

The American Journal of Physiology recently listed a paper published by a group of researchers out of St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, as one of the top four papers cited in 2021. AJP publishes hundreds of papers annually and has an impact factor of five.

The paper, titled: “Oxidized phosphatidylcholines trigger ferroptosis in cardiomyocytes during ischemia-reperfusion injury was downloaded 605 times last year. Contributors include: Aleksandra Stamenkovic, Kimberley A. O’Hara, David C. Nelson, Thane G. Maddaford, Andrea L. Edel, Graham Maddaford, Elena Dibrov, MohamadReza Aghanoori, Lorrie A. Kirshenbaum, Paul Fernyhough, Michel Aliani, Grant N. Pierce, and Amir Ravandi.

“We have shown that bioactive lipids generated during a heart attack can kill heart muscle cells, a pathway that had not been shown before. We are currently working to use this pathway to come up with therapies that protect heart cells during a heart attack,” Dr. Amir Ravandi elaborated.

Congratulations to all!

23rd Annual ICS Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards

The 23rd Annual Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards Day & Scientific Symposium was held virtually on Thursday, December 2nd, 2021. Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Michael Czubryt, Secretariat was supported by Dr. Sabine Hombach-Klonisch and Dr. Ross Feldman as symposium Co-Chairs, and the event was kicked off with opening remarks by Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Congratulations to the following recipients of these major awards:

Dr. David J. Lefer, New Orleans, USA


Dr. Elizabeth Murphy, Bethesda, USA


Dr. Ali J. Marian, Houston, USA


Dr. Merry Lindsey, Omaha, USA


Dr. Hugh Scully, Toronto, Canada


Mr. Larry Vickar, Winnipeg, Canada


Dr. Abhay Srivastava, Winnipeg, Canada


Dr. Aleksandra Stamenkovic, Winnipeg, Canada


Dr. Natalie Landry, Winnipeg, Canada


Mr. Matthew Guberman, Winnipeg, Canada


Mr. Triston Eastman, Winnipeg, Canada


Ms. Paris Haasbeek, Winnipeg, Canada


CCARM Students Garner Endowment Grants

L-R: Ronak Fahmi, PhD student; Breanne Semenko, MSc student & Sawanee Wickramasekara, MSc student.

Congratulations to three outstanding young investigators with CCARM, who have each been recently recognized with student endowment awards through St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

PhD student Ronak Fahmi is a member of Dr. Michel Aliani’s Metabolomics lab, and will receive $11,050 from the Mark G. & Patricia N. Smerchanski Endowed Studentship Fund which supports young investigators in research every year since 2010.

Breanne Semenko will receive $4,400 from the TD Bank Group Graduate Student Award, as well as $6,650 from the Smerchanski Endowed Students Grant. Breanne is a MSc student supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh in the Nutrition & Neurological Diseases lab. The TD Bank Group Graduate Student Award Endowment Fund was established in June 2015 to support research into aboriginal health issues at St. Boniface Research Centre.

Sawanee Wickramasekara is a MSc student in Dr. Carla Taylor’s Metabolic Nutrition lab, and will receive $6,900 from the Frank & Jeanne Plett Endowed Studentship Grant, which recognizes graduate students at St. Boniface Hospital Research annually since 2016.

Best wishes for your continued success!

IACS Honours Local Science Leaders at Eastern Europe Convention

Attended by leading cardiovascular researchers from 16 countries, the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences (IACS) held its European and North American section meetings in Banja Luka in the Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on September 20-23, 2021.

With dozens of presentations, keynote speakers and a presidential address held over 25 sessions, participants were able to exchange their scientific ideas, renew the existing and forge new friendships. Several important awards were presented, including major recognition to three St. Boniface Hospital Researchers as follows:

The Naranjan Dhalla Honorary Lecture Award to Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research.


“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the IACS awards committee for bestowing upon me the prestigious Naranjan Dhalla Lectureship Award during the European Section meeting of the IACS in Banja Luka Serbia 2021. I am very honoured to have received this award and very humbled by receiving the award named after the patriarch of the Academy Dr. Naranjan Dhalla who is a true visionary, builder and academician,” Kirshenbaum shared as a virtual participant.

The Jan Slezak Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences to Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director Research, St. Boniface Hospital.

“I am very proud to be recognized by the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences with the Jan Slezak Award for Excellence in Cardiovascular Sciences. I have known and respected Dr. Slezak for many years, and it is particularly gratifying to receive this award named after him,” Czubryt who attended virtually, said.

The Roberto Bolli Young Investigator Award to Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

“I am very honored to receive the Roberto Bolli Young Investigator Award. This is a very proud moment for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to present our work on women’s heart health and circadian rhythm. This achievement would not be possible without the support, help and mentorship of Dr. Kirshenbaum, for which I sincerely express my heartiest thankfulness. I would also like to express my gratitude to CIHR for being the funding agency for my postdoctoral fellowship,” Rabinovich-Nikitin shared.

Additionally, Dr. Naranjan S Dhalla received the Medal of Merit of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Banja Luka, and visiting Professorship, along with Dr. Grant Pierce, who was also named a visiting professor.

Congratulations to all!  

For more details, be sure to download your copy of the September edition of CV Network.

2021 CIHR Grants to St. Boniface Hospital Researchers just over $1.7M

Congratulations to two St. Boniface Hospital Research Principal Investigators, Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra and Dr. Thomas Hack, who were recently granted Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funding for $960,076 and $745,875 respectively.

“This is yet another testament to the fact we have some of the best researchers in the country,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director of Research at St. Boniface Hospital. “It’s a very competitive landscape, with hundreds of applicants from institutions across the country vying for financial support that is critical for long-term success and sustainability, so this is a huge win for St. Boniface Hospital Research.” 

Dhingra’s work is looking at therapies using adult stem cells derived from young and healthy donors to help repair heart damage in older patients with a history of heart disease. Initial research showed promising benefits, but in recent animal studies and human clinical trials, transplanted stem cells were still being rejected by the host immune system. The nearly $1M in CIHR funding over five years for this phase of Dhingra’s work will be invested in developing better strategies to prevent rejection and improve the survival of transplanted stem cells to potentially provide a permanent cure for patients living with heart disease.

Hack, who works in partnership with nominated principal applicant for this funding, Dr. Shane Sinclair at the University of Calgary, is also joined by two U of M professors in efforts to advance the EnACT study; the development and evaluation of an Evidence-informed, Competency-based, Accredited Compassion Training Program for Healthcare Providers Caring for Older Adults.  This four year, multi-centred study is the culmination of previous research work that developed an empirical model of compassion that carefully delineated what compassion is and what it isn’t, which then led to the creation of a valid and reliable patient-reported compassion measure.

Kirshenbaum featured in PharmaVOICE

Recently, Tourism Winnipeg published an article in PharmaVOICE featuring Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

The article speaks of Winnipeg as an attractive destination to host life sciences sector-related businesses, events, meetings, conventions, networking opportunities and trade shows. A specific example has been Manitoba’s longstanding history of cardiovascular research, as described by Dr. Kirshenbaum.

You can read the article on pages 11 and 12 from the following online PDF:

The Research Dividend

From the desk of Dr. Michael Czubryt, Executive Director Research, St. Boniface Hospital

The Canadian government invests billions of dollars per year in research, particularly in the biomedical and health-related fields, however, on a per-person basis, this represents only about one-tenth of the investment that the United States makes in its own research portfolio. There is clearly room for Canada to do more. In the short term, Canada must double or triple its research investment and aim to close the funding gap over the next decade. While the initial costs would be significant, the long-term outcomes could dramatically build our country’s economic growth.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the incredible power of biomedical research. Never before have we learned so much, so quickly, about a global health threat. The fast-paced development and roll-out of vaccines – including the rapid deployment of mRNA-based vaccine technology – is unprecedented in our history. While Canada deployed additional research funding to bolster these efforts, this was a reactionary approach targeted at a single health challenge. Broader investment in biomedical research will boost our ability to respond to threats known and unknown.

Universities and hospitals are two of the main sites of federally-funded biomedical research activity in Canada. Research at St. Boniface Hospital represents a unique partnership between the Hospital, the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and spans neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular medicine from cells to patients, and the medicinal benefits of the crops we grow and foods we eat. The adaptable training and skills of researchers also make it possible to shift to new areas, such as COVID-19-related studies.

As the Hospital celebrates 150 years of providing outstanding care to Manitobans, the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation marks 50 years of supporting research through the contributions of thousands of Manitobans. Between the Albrechtsen Research Centre and the Asper Clinical Research Institute, more than 200 academics, researchers, clinicians, scientists and students call the St. Boniface research campus home. The discoveries made here have a global impact, as shown by a recent study from Stanford University noting that ten of our researchers rank within the top 2% of scientists worldwide, in any field. Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers are published annually, and several spin-off companies have arisen from the St. Boniface research cluster.

This local research community is an economic engine. Typically, a significant portion of research dollars supports research personnel and students. They, in turn, pay rent or mortgages, buy cars and groceries, order take-out, cover their utilities and pay taxes, contributing to the local economy. For the researchers at St. Boniface Hospital, each dollar provided by donors attracts an additional five dollars in outside funding.

Unlike resource extraction or processing, research can take place anywhere researchers live and are supported. Canada has centres of research in communities across the county, although a critical mass is required to ensure they thrive.

Biomedical research in particular yields both direct and indirect economic benefits. The generation of new patents – of significant value in their own right – and the products that arise from the commercialization of these discoveries are key examples. In biomedicine, these products include pharmaceuticals, surgical and medical devices, bio-diagnostic test kits and more.

To drive these commercial activities, new companies are created – generating not only additional, significant economic value in their own right, but arguably the most important indirect benefit: the creation of new, high-tech jobs. Investment in research supports the training of students in universities, colleges and technical vocational schools to work in this sector, and a portion of these students will make up the next generation of academics and research directors to continue the cycle. Building this cycle through careful research investment is critical – without it, Canada faces a brain drain as the people we invest in leave for other countries where research funding is more readily available.

The pursuit of scientific discovery through research is one of the most important activities humanity can undertake, showing us the way forward to build a better world for all. Canada is well-positioned to take a global leadership role in this area, and by investing now, we will reap a research dividend that can transform our economy in the future.

Dr. Mike Czubryt
Michael P. Czubryt, PhD, FCVS, FAHA, FIACS
Executive Director of Research, St. Boniface Hospital
Principal Investigator, Molecular Pathophysiology Laboratory
St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre
Professor, Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology
Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

ICS Grad Student Recognized for Outstanding Academic Achievement

Congratulations to Akshi Malik, supervised by Dr. Pawan Singal, Division of Cardiovascular Science at UM and Principal Investigator with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, for receiving the Dean of Graduate Studies Student Achievement Prize for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“This award recognizes Akshi’s outstanding performance as a graduate student in several ways: her overall academic excellence, leadership, teaching ability, volunteerism, and her service to others as a mentor to fellow students,” said Dr. Kelley Main, Acting Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies at University of Manitoba. 

“This award indeed is very competitive, only three are given in one year throughout the University.  For the selection, there is a multi-step process, starting with my nomination to the Department.  The Departmental Committee vets all the nominations and can forward only one candidate.  This time it was Akshi and she made it through.  Indeed a great honour for our lab, the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, as well as the Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology,” said Dr. Singal.

Congratulations again Akshi – we all wish you continued success.

Czubryt named Executive Director of Research

After an extensive search and selection process, St. Boniface Hospital President & CEO, Martine Bouchard, proudly announced Dr. Michael Czubryt as the successful candidate to assume the position of Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital, effective September 1, 2021.

Dr. Czubryt is Principal Investigator of the Molecular Pathophysiology Laboratory in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences in the Albrechtsen Research Centre, and Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba. He is a global expert on gene regulation in cardiac fibrosis and heart failure, with a focus on translating basic research discoveries to the clinic.

He brings significant educational and administrative experience to this position, including previous service as Associate Department Head and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba for the past two years. He has served on the advisory committees of over 40 graduate students, and has contributed to the training of an additional 50 developing scientists at various career stages.

Dr. Czubryt’s record of service includes many years as member or chair of numerous peer review committees at all levels: local, national and international. His extensive work for scholarly societies in physiology and cardiovascular medicine, as well as service to more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific journals, are widely recognized.

Duhamel appointed Associate Dean

Congratulations to Dr. Todd Duhamel, who was recently appointed as Associate Dean (Health Sciences), Faculty of Graduate Studies, effective September 1, 2021.

Dr. Todd Duhamel is a Principal Investigator within the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface General Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and a Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management.

He has successfully secured more than $2.4 million for research as a Principal Investigator and $7.4 million for collaborative research conducted as a Co-Investigator from agencies such as the CIHR, NSERC and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Dr. Duhamel has used those research funds to publish 1 smartphone application and more than 100 peer-reviewed contributions. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recognized Dr. Duhamel with its Young Investigator Award in 2017. Dr. Duhamel serves the Canadian research enterprise by participating in peer-review activities for a variety of national (e.g. CIHR, NSERC, Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canadian Diabetes Association) and provincial (e.g. New Brunswick Health Research Foundation; Michael Smith Health Research Foundation; Saskatchewan Health Research Council and Research Manitoba) organizations. Dr. Duhamel’s expert teaching has been recognized by institutional awards, including a 2012 University of Manitoba Merit Award for Combination of Teaching, Service, and/or Research; a prestigious University of Manitoba Graduate Student Association Teaching Award in 2013; and, a Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2014.

CBC Manitoba recognized Dr. Duhamel amongst its “Future 40” in 2015, which celebrated the province’s new generation of leaders, builders and change-makers. Dr. Duhamel has supported graduate education through administrative contributions to the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, where he served 3 years as Graduate Program Chair, 5 years as Associate Dean (Research & Graduate Studies) and 6 months as Acting Director of the Applied Health Sciences PhD program. At the national level, Dr. Duhamel continues to support graduate education as chair of the prestigious CIHR Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Duhamel to his new role as Associate Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Farewell to a legendary leader and mentor

It is with sad hearts and deep respect that we acknowledge the recent passing of Dr. John Foerster, former Executive Director of St. Boniface Hospital Research, and a veritable pillar in the academic, scientific research, medical and faith communities, both here at home, and internationally.

“The legacy of excellence and compassion Dr. Foerster left with St. B is a fitting example of his shining humanity and integrity.  We are all saddened to hear of his passing,” shared Martine Bouchard, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital. 

The first Executive Director of Research at St. Boniface Hospital (1986-2005), he was recruited specifically for the purpose of raising teaching and research to higher levels of excellence and productivity. Dr John Foerster was a Professor at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine and a specialist in hematology and oncology. He was named head of medicine at St. Boniface Hospital in 1975 at the age of 40.

“Dr. Foerster championed, in words and actions, the importance and impact of service to others. His kindness and humility brought people together to accomplish great things. He fostered medical research at St. Boniface Hospital from a dream to the vibrant reality that thrives today, and his legacy is writ large in the research campus that he was instrumental in building, and that continues to benefit the people of Manitoba, Canada and the world,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Interim Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Foerster recruited the first Research Centre program in 1987 (Cardiovascular Sciences), comprised of five faculty members, 40 students, and staff supported by a modest research budget. By his retirement, Foerster had guided its’ growth to more than 190 research and support personnel with a budget of over $7,000,000. The 14 research programs were directly linked to clinical departments – in infectious diseases, respiratory medicine, nephrology, cardiology, clinical nursing research and cancer research.

In 1990, he championed Manitoba’s first Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanner – used for research and clinical applications – now the Andrei Sakharov MRI Centre. With Foerster’s leadership, St. Boniface Hospital opened the Centre for Research on Diseases of the Aging in the Research Centre in 1998, which now bears his name. Further growth of the enterprise required the creation of additional space and resulted in the construction of the Asper Clinical Research Institute, which opened its doors in 2006.

Foerster received the 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Manitoba Alumni Association for his contribution to the University, the medical profession, and advancing medical research in the province.

“Words are not enough to express the loss that we all feel with John’s passing. Dr Foerster was a true visionary, his insight and forward thinking commitment to bettering the lives of the sick led to the creation of the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, which has flourished into a global research enterprise, known the world over for its leadership in innovative health research. He was a very special person to me. We are forever grateful to Dr John Foerster for his wisdom, vision and kind hearted personality; he will be sadly missed,” shared Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Dr. Foerster also received the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation’s International Award in 2006. These awards largely recognized his leadership abilities as Executive Director of Research for St Boniface Hospital, however, the commitment he demonstrated throughout his professional and volunteer activities encompassed an impressively broad scope of influence in all aspects of life – from national granting agencies and medical ethics to involvement in two seminaries and his church.

“John was a mentor, a role model, such a caring and gentle soul, the epitome of a scholar and a gentleman. He helped me throughout my career and was incredibly honourable when he stepped away to let me move into the Executive Director position. Above all, he was a quiet but strongly convicted man of God, someone who knew right from wrong, the ethical and moral way to conduct himself, something we are so sadly missing in so many today,” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Distinguished Professor, University of Manitoba, and Executive Director for St. Boniface Hospital Research from 2005 to 2020.

In 2016, Dr. Foerster was named a member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to health care administration and the creation of St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre. That same year, he was inducted into the St. Boniface Hospital Research Hall of Fame.

Fellow Order of Canada recipient, Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla, had this to say, “Dr. John Foerster was the prime moving force for the development of St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre and promoted collaborations between the Hospital and the University of Manitoba. He inspired others to achieve excellence in both biomedical and clinical research for finding solutions to diverse health problems.” 

On behalf of all the staff and students at St. Boniface Hospital Research, our sincere condolences are offered to Dr. Foerster’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Please feel free to leave your comments and condolences in the reply window below:

Yan selected as 2021 Paul Dudley White (PDW) International Scholar

Weiang Yan, PhD student, was recently recognized by the AHA as part of its upcoming Basic Cardiovascular Science (BCVS) Scientific Sessions 2021 Conference, whereby the primary author of the highest ranked accepted abstract from each country is designated as a PDW International Scholar.

“This is a highly competitive and prestigious award given by the BCVS council of the American Heart Association – we couldn’t be more proud and happy for Weiang,” said Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program here at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Yan is co-supervised by Dr. Dhingra and Dr. Rakesh Arora, Principal Investigator, Patient Centered Inclusive Research – Enhancing the Perioperative Experience (ALIVE to THRIVE),  Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Paul Dudley White was a founder of the AHA and a champion for global cardiovascular health strategies. Yan’s stellar, peer-reviewed work, reflects Dr. White’s vision for global excellence in cardiovascular science and medicine.

The AHA’s virtual conference is scheduled for August 23-25, 2021.

Albensi Accepts Chair Position at NSU in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Congratulations to Dr. Benedict Albensi, Ph.D., BCMAS, CRQM, Principal Investigator and the Everett Endowment Fund Chair for Alzheimer’s Research at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, who will be leaving Winnipeg for Fort Lauderdale as the newly appointed Department Chair for the Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy at Nova Southeast University in Florida, USA.  Additionally, he will also be Co-Director of NSU Florida’s recently launched B.R.A.I.N. Center, which will look at brain metabolism and the role of antioxidant and nutritional factors across the life span.

Albensi, who is ranked as a world expert, joined the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, in 2005. He is best known for his work with factors involved in ageing, cognition, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), such as nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB), a mediator of inflammation and a required molecule for memory.

“Ben brought great things to St. Boniface Research and DND, and we will miss his energy and expertise,” said Dr. Paul Fernyhough, Director of DND and Principal Investigator, Cell Biology of Neurodegeneration Lab. “He has always pushed the boundaries, for instance, he is one of the few basic scientists who have ventured into clinical research with his flax beverage study looking at memory loss.”

Fernyhough recruited Albensi 16 years ago to join St. Boniface Hospital Research because he was looking for someone to lead the development and expansion of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) research here in Manitoba.

“He’s been very successful connecting with families, organizations and research teams to develop collaborative research approaches. This was an ambitious plan for our region and the connections he’s forged are important and impressive,” he explained.

For Dr. Mike Czubryt, Interim Executive Director at SBRC, Albensi’s departure is significant, “If you look at some of his metrics, and the recognition he’s received, he’s been a stellar addition to our team here, attracting significant funding, raising our profile as a world leader in basic and clinical research,” he said.

Albensi’s lab and team will remain operational as the majority portion of his current funding is active for another three years. “I’ll be back regularly to check in with my team on major milestones for ongoing projects,” he said.   

For Fernyhough, it’s been good to collaborate with Albensi, “I have always admired his rigorous approach and drive to achieve through lifelong learning. From all of us in DND, we wish him the very best success moving forward.”

Benedict Albensi earned his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Utah’s Medical School in 1995. He was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, working with Drs. Faden and Pekar, where he developed MRI methods for investigating head trauma and cognition. He then went on to work as a Postdoctoral Scholar with Dr. Mark Mattson, an internationally recognized leader in neurodegenerative research, at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging – University of Kentucky where he was the first to show NF-kB is required for synaptic plasticity in mammals. Other appointments have included the Cleveland Clinic, NPS Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Case Western Reserve University. Over the last few years, his work has been largely focused on mitochondrial dysfunction in AD, and recently showed how very early deficits and sex-based differences in mitochondrial function before the appearance of plaques and tangles, are the classic hallmarks of AD.

Araujo and Manson named 2021 Vanier Scholars

Congratulations to Daniel Schwade Araujo and Anne Manson, PhD students here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, who were both named 2021 Vanier Scholars.

Araujo, studying at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, will undertake a PhD in Applied Health Sciences and works under Dr. Todd Duhamel, Principal Investigator Physical Activity and Chronic Disease Prevention, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences

Manson, a PhD student in CCARM’s Nutrition and Lipid Mediators Lab under Dr. Harold Aukema studies Plant And Animal Biology – Animal Physiology And Metabolism, and her research proposal is Diet by Sex Interactions on Oxylipins and Phospholipase A2 Activity in Rat Hearts.

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS) program is designed to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. Vanier Scholars demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health. The Vanier scholarship provides up to $50K per year for three years during doctoral studies.

Science and Economic Development Canada, together with Canada’s federal granting agencies, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, announced the results of the 2020-2021 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS) and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships, on July 16, 2021.

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

St. Boniface Investigators attract over $300,000 in NSERC funding

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) recently awarded two significant grants to support the work of Dhingra and Moghadasian respectively.

Dr. Mohammed Moghadasian, Principal Investigator of the Pathology Research Laboratory, Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine at the Albrechtsen Research Centre, will be using $140K in funding to continue his work investigating the dietary effects of phytosterols and Saskatoon berries on cholesterol and glucose metabolism: the crosstalk between gut microbiota and functional foods.

“Genetics and diets are two main contributing factors to physiologic organ function. Some foods offer more benefits than just their nutritional values; these foods are called ‘functional foods’ a term coined in Japan in the 1980’s. Since then hundreds of functional foods have been produced and marketed worldwide,” Moghadasian said.

Since the mid-90’s, Moghadasian’s research team has contributed to the understanding of how phytosterols (plant sterols and stanols) impact cholesterol metabolism and cardiovascular function. Phytosterols are produced by all plants and reduce blood bad cholesterol levels in humans. More recently, his team came to understand the mechanisms of the effects of several other foods, including wild rice, Saskatoon berries, and wild watermelon seeds on normal vessel function as well as glucose and cholesterol metabolism in animal studies.

Moghadasian’s long-term goal is to develop new ways of synthesizing and/or formulating novel nutraceuticals and/or active pharmaceutical ingredients for preserving physiologic cholesterol and glucose metabolism, producing data that will help shed light on understanding how dietary agents preserve the integrity of biological systems. This in turn can help provide directions for the development of new nutraceuticals and/or active pharmaceutical ingredients, with long-term positive impacts on Canada’s agricultural, economic and health sectors.

Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, Albrechtsen Research Centre at St. Boniface Hospital will apply $165K in NSERC funding towards the design, synthesis and immunocharacterization of next generation bio-materials.

“A biomaterial is any material that interacts with a biological system such as our bodies,” Dhingra explained. “Many newer bio-materials have been designed to guide the cells in a body on a microscopic level. An example of this is MXene, a family of very small particles with a wide range of biological functions, including sensors, bone replacements and drug delivery systems.”

The NSERC funding will support Dhingra’s team to look at the design and synthesis of biomaterials as well as the language they use to ‘talk’ to immune cells, which is important because the immune system normally protects our body from harmful foreign substances and can act as a barrier between any implanted material and our body. So, for any biomaterial to perform its function, it needs to be compatible with immune cells to stay in the body and not be rejected.

“We recently found that MXenes can interact directly with immune cells due to their structure – essentially a carbon and metal core surrounded by many groups of atoms called ‘functional groups’. These surface functional groups are what MXene uses to interact with cells, and we think the message delivered by biomaterials to immune cells can be altered by changing their surface functional groups,” he explained.
Dhingra’s long-term goal for this research will be to help develop a new way for biomaterials to be made and ensure they are friendly to immune cells.

For more on Dhingra’s discoveries around MXene, please see our other story, available here:

Research Without Borders Partnership Yields Publishing First

In a first for one of the partnerships created through the Research Without Borders initiative, a joint-research endeavour between investigators here at St. Boniface Hospital Research and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel, Dr. Hope Anderson and Dr. Yoram Etzion recently published findings on the endocannabinoid system as a therapeutic target, specifically with respect to atrial fibrillation (AF).

“The most devastating complications of AF are events such stroke and heart failure. Treatment approaches such as drugs and surgery do exist, but these are limited in effectiveness. In fact, the need for improved therapeutic options is well-recognized,” said Dr. Anderson.

As reported in the paper, drugs which activate cannabinoid (CB) receptors blocked changes in the heart, as well as signalling abnormalities that are hallmarks of AF, indicating these drugs may be a new treatment strategy to treat AF, and therefore warrant further study.

“The focus of the project on the cardiac endocannabinoid system, which is the expertise of Anderson’s lab, as a possible therapeutic target in atrial fibrillation, which is the main focus of my laboratory, has created a fruitful synergistic collaboration for both groups,” elaborated Dr. Etzion, who is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Physiology and Cell Biology and Head, Cardiac Arrhythmia Research Laboratory at BGU. “We hope that the current highly encouraging findings will lead to a long-standing collaboration that may eventually lead to critical therapeutic implications for AF patients,” he added. When feasible, the next steps include Dr. Etzion visiting St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre to assist Anderson’s lab in establishing his pioneering technology within its research program.

Work undertaken by Danielle Lee, a Ph.D. student in Anderson’s lab was vital to this development.

“I visited Ben Gurion University for a term in 2019 and was taught how to use their novel ex vivo tachypacing Langendorff technique. Further experiments conducted since my return to Winnipeg have demonstrated that CB13, a synthetic cannabinoid, altered tachypacing-induced atrial remodelling. CB13 prevented atrial effective refractory period shortening and altered Cx43. Additionally, CB13 also activated cardioprotective mediators in regards to metabolic dysfunction (e.g. AMPK and PGC1alpha). These findings are important as they demonstrate that cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoid therapies may be able to prevent atrial remodelling in patients suffering from atrial fibrillation,” she shared.

Molecular Cardiology Program publishes exciting finding on why SKI acts as a ‘scaffold’ inhibiting fibroblast activation.

On behalf of the Molecular Cardiology Program under the direction of Dr. Ian Dixon, we are very pleased to announce the exciting publishing news of their paper, “SKI activates the Hippo pathway via LIMD1 to inhibit cardiac fibroblast activation”. The paper lists Dr. Natalie Landry as the first author and features no fewer than four summer students who have worked and produced data in Dixon’s lab, as well as senior PI’s Drs. Kardami and Duhamel.  The work is published this month in Basic Research in Cardiology, a top basic cardiovascular research journal with an impact factor of 11.98.

In other news from the Dixon lab this month, Dr. Natalie Landry also appeared as a first-author within a book chapter on preserving the quiescent fibroblast phenotype by reducing biomechanical stress (eg, Young’s Modulus, elasticity in tension of a solid material) input to primary mouse fibroblasts using silicone substrates to emulate “heart soft” conditions.  This is important because normal cell culture practice involves plating of these fibroblast cells on polystyrene or other plastics, or collagen-coated plastic – all, extremely stiff substrates – and leads to rapid activation of fibroblasts to myofibroblasts, and thus prohibits the study of the basal quiescent phenotype.  The new method will allow for accurate measurement of physiological responsiveness of the basal cell state, which has not been well documented to date.  The book is entitled Myofibroblasts – Methods and Protocols (Springer) and is edited by Boris Hinz, a world expert out of U of Toronto and David Lagares of Harvard Medical School, as a tribute to the discoverer of myofibroblasts, Dr. Giulio Gabbiani (University of Geneva, Switzerland). Dr Gabbiani also provides a great perspective chapter within the book.

Finally, Dr. Dixon’s group published their findings on a selected compendium of factors that activate and deactivate cardiac fibroblasts, including their finding that PDGF Receptor a is upregulated in activated in senescent cardiac myofibroblasts residing in the infarct scar in chronic post-myocardial infarction.  This work features the efforts of Dr. Rebeca Camargo and Besher Abual’anaz – graduate students in the lab, who provided the data and writing input respectively, and is published in Wound Repair and Regeneration

Congratulations to all!   

Youth BIOlab creates an activity book for kids

The Youth BIOlab at St. Boniface Hospital Research has created an activity book for kids!

Featuring creative artwork by Kyla Lamb, a Red River College graphic design student, the new 28-page activity book is a fun way for kids to explore science and research at the Albrechtsen Research Centre while awaiting the reopening of the Youth BIOlab.

Many principal investigators from St. Boniface Hospital Research offered their own content and feedback towards the project adding many sciences and research-based facts and information.

This print resource was conceived as something that would be provided to students during remote learning periods, especially in communities with internet connectivity issues. The team from the BIOlab, lead by Steve Jones, aims to have this activity book in the hands of students as soon as possible.

A PDF copy is available online. Requests for physical copies may be sent to

Dr. Thomas Hack – Named Distinguished Professor at University of Manitoba

Congratulations to Dr. Thomas Hack, Director, Psychosocial Oncology and Cancer Nursing Research, St. Boniface Research Centre, recently named Distinguished Professor by the University of Manitoba. The title is bestowed to academic staff demonstrating excellence and outstanding achievements in research and scholarship, or in creative professional activity, and a significant teaching record.

“Dr. Hack is so well regarded as an outstanding teacher, mentor and role model for his work in Psychosocial Oncology and Cancer Nursing Research here at St. Boniface Hospital Research and the Asper Clinical Institute,” said Martine Bouchard, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital. “Our sincere and hearty congratulations to him on this incredible honour.”

Dr. Hack has been a professor at the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, and a Principal Investigator with St. Boniface Hospital and the Asper Clinical Research Institute since 2000.

“For many years, Dr. Hack and his team have conducted important research into how patients cope with a cancer diagnosis, how they interact with the healthcare system, and how they can be better supported at such a vulnerable time. This recognition is a clear testament to the positive impact of Dr. Hack’s work on both the research community and on patients themselves,” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Interim Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

In the year 2000, Dr. Hack was named the first recipient of the Dorothy J. Lamont Research Scientist award from the National Cancer Institute of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2002, Dr. Hack received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contributions to those affected by cancer. In 2006 and 2014, he received the University of Manitoba Merit Award for research accomplishment. In 2012, he was awarded a Chair in Psychosocial and Supportive Care Oncology Research from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Prairies/NWT region. In 2019 he was inducted as a fellow in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Hack joins Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla and Dr. Grant Pierce, who were also named Distinguished Professors in previous years, making St. Boniface Hospital Research the active ‘home’ to three such individuals. In addition, two former members of Psychosocial Oncology and Cancer Nursing Research here at St. Boniface Hospital Research have received the title of Distinguished Professor, including Distinguished Professor Emeritus Lesley Degner, and Distinguished Professor Roberta Woodgate, both from the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

St. B Researcher Helps Develop Compassion Measurement Tool For Improved Patient Experiences in Health Care

At a time when virtually all hospital patients and care-residents were and continue to be isolated from loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic due to visitor restrictions, the expression of compassionate care becomes even more important for Canada’s future and the wellbeing of its population.

How patients experience compassion in the healthcare system is something that can now be more accurately measured with the use of the Sinclair Compassion Questionnaire (SCQ), a first-of-its-kind tool developed jointly by Dr. Thomas Hack, of St. Boniface Hospital Research and UM College of Nursing, and his co-principal investigator Dr. Shane Sinclair from the University of Calgary.

“I am so pleased this tool is available to empower healthcare facilities and their teams to be better at alleviating the suffering of our fellow humans,” said Hack.

The product of a comprehensive country-wide study examining patient experiences in the healthcare system, SCQ was based on data gathered from more than 600 individuals in acute care, long-term care and hospice settings, and will be of particular benefit to teams working in these facilities.

“We talk about compassion a lot as health care professionals, but it’s really how the patient perceives and receives compassion that matters the most. That’s why we undertook the study and developed the questionnaire – to create a robust tool that truly captures with consistency, validity, accuracy and sensitivity, that can help inform better programming in our facilities and how our staff are trained to deliver compassionate care,” Hack elaborated.

Chief Nursing Officer Kathleen Klassen of Deer Lodge Centre, helped support patient input from her facility used to inform Hack and Sinclair’s research, which ultimately led to the development of the questionnaire.

“The Compassionate Care Questionnaire provides a reliable and valid measure of compassionate care as experienced by patients and residents. By being able to measure compassionate care, we can target quality improvement actions at the individual, unit, facility level to improve the quality of life and service experience for those living at Deer Lodge Centre,” she shared.

Klassen explained how the questionnaire would be incorporated as part of annual client experience and quality of life surveys facilities such as Deer Lodge Centre regularly undertake. “The results will then be analyzed at the unit, program and facility level to help identify themes and opportunities to improve our quality of life and quality of care delivery models,” she added.

Hack said he and Sinclair hope the SCQ can ultimately become part of inpatient medical records and then aggregated to produce institutional compassion scores.

“This would allow health care teams to improve compassion and patients and families to determine things such as which long-term care home to place their loved ones in, based on the compassion scores of those facilities,” Sinclair emphasized.

British Medical Journal Open
UM News Compassion Measure
U Calgary News Patient-Reported Compassion Measure

Dhingra Lab Publishes Work on Next Generation Biomaterial in High Impact Nanotechnology Journal

Data indicates potential game-changer, extending implantable medical device battery-life up to 20 years.

Researchers in the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program at St. Boniface Hospital Research have synthesized a next-generation bio-compatible electrode named TTO MXene which has the potential to support battery life that can be measured in decades, to safely power medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants, among others.

“When I first saw the data from our research, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, Albrechtsen Research Centre at St. Boniface Hospital.

Dhingra explained that the batteries used to power medical devices like cardiac pacemakers have limited lifespans – as short as three to seven years – after which patients must undergo surgical procedures to replace the unit.

“When we compared our electrode to other capacitors currently in use, the batteries made from our new MXene material showed it would last much, much longer than that, up to 20 years,” he said.

To make sure they were truly onto something big, Dhingra sent his material and lab’s data to a colleague in Texas who tested it using a different method and the results were indeed the same.

“It was an exciting moment, for sure,” he shared.

The paper capturing this game-changing development for implantable medical devices was recently accepted for publication in ‘Advanced Functional Materials’, one of the world’s most prestigious journals in the field of medical nanotechnology with an Impact Factor of 16.83, an incredible scope of reach for scientists to share their work.

The paper, titled: “Development of Fluorine-Free Tantalum Carbide MXene Hybrid Structure as a Biocompatible Material for Supercapacitor Electrodes” will be featured this month as a ‘HOT TOPIC’ including a cover image developed by Dhingra’s team.

The article shares details on how the synthesis of the new MXene-based bioelectrode for energy storage applications shows not only an incredible capacity for long-life power storage but excellent stability and bio-compatibility with different human tissues as well.

The work of Dhingra’s team further confirmed TTO MXene’s performance was superior to almost all other bioelectrode materials, including lithium-ion film batteries, electric double-layer capacitors, and aluminum electrolytic capacitors.

A patent for TTO MXene has been filed by Dhingra’s lab, positioning this as a significant achievement with many exciting future applications to help benefit patients across the world.

“We are so pleased to be recognized and published by this journal and look forward to our continued study and development of this important new material,” Dhingra stated.

Media Contact: Karen Hiebert, Director, Communications & Media Services

BioMark Receives $825K Grant to Develop Its Liquid Biopsy Assay for Lung Cancer Screening

Congratulations to Dr. Bram Ramjiawan and Dr. Pram Tappia from Clinical Research as co-investigators who played a crucial role in the initial stages of this project which has now evolved to include IUCPQ, The Metabolomics Innovation Centre, involving researchers from across Canada.

Albensi paper suggests how Covid-related neurological symptoms such as headaches, coma and brain-fog could be treated with therapeutics targeting pathways prone to inflammation.

The paper titled: The Effect of COVID-19 on NF-κB and Neurological Manifestations of Disease was published today in a special issue on COVID-19, in Molecular Neurobiology, and shows how therapeutics that reduce the NF-κB pathway should be considered in the treatment of COVID-19 and its effects on neurological function.

The work was led jointly by Dr. Aida Adlimoghaddam and Dr. Don A. Davies, post-doctoral fellows at the Synaptic Plasticity & Memory Dysfunction Lab, led by Dr. Benedict Albensi Principal Investigator, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which resulted in the pandemic, and initially, COVID-19 was thought to only affect respiration.

“While we are all familiar with the acute respiratory syndrome associated with COVID-19 infections as a result of living through this pandemic, accumulating evidence shows a wide range of neurological symptoms are also associated with the disease, such as anosmia/ageusia, headaches, seizures, demyelination, mental confusion, delirium, and coma,” said Albensi. “Neuro-COVID-19 is increasingly becoming an accepted term among scientists and clinicians, with teams being created to implement strategies for treating the wide range of neurological symptoms observed in COVID-19 patients,” he added. This includes examining symptoms arising due to cytokine storm reaction and heightened states of inflammation in the brain. 

The paper focuses on the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) as a central pathway involved with inflammation and showing it to be elevated in a dose-dependent matter in response to coronaviruses. This suggests that NF-κB has a role in cytokine storm syndrome, which is associated with greater severity in COVID-19 related symptoms.

To access the paper, link here

Aliani’s team shares findings on non-invasive early-stage lung cancer detection approach using the power of metabolomics.

Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women combined (Canadian Cancer Society, 2021). Detection of cancer-specific metabolites in the early stages of lung cancer is made difficult due to the small size of tumours and the absence of cellular specificity of almost all metabolites. However, the power of metabolomics may allow for the non-invasive detection of early stages of lung cancer. 

Michel Aliani’s team recently published a paper in PLoS ONE, entitled “Comparative metabolomics studies of blood collected in streck and heparin tubes from lung cancer patients“. The pilot study was undertaken to determine the effect of blood collection tube (BCT) (Streck vs. Heparin), blood location (venous vs. arterial), and sex, on the metabolic profile of cancer patients suffering from various types of lung tumours.

“We are excited to share this work, particularly through PLoS One’s ‘open to all’, fully transparent portal. All raw materials have been uploaded to their public repository, which in my opinion is incredibly vital in order for the whole world to have access to this data,” Aliani explained.

This work provides further insight into the preferred blood collection tube that should be used for improved lung cancer detection and a better understanding of the metabolic variations of different tumour types. 

Goldberg E, Levari-Shariati S, Kidane B, Kim J, Banerji S, Qing G, et al. (2021) Comparative metabolomics studies of blood collected in streck and heparin tubes from lung cancer patients. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0249648. 

Intrinsic Analytics, in partnership with St. Boniface Hospital Research, awarded COVID-19 Innovation Proof of Concept Grant

Among four innovative Manitoba-based companies, Intrinsic Analytics is committed to creating opportunities for development and combining industrial research with modern technology to further the provincial COVID-19 response and assist in the return to normalcy. Partnered with St. Boniface Research Centre, Intrinsic Analytics seeks to combine industry and research to strengthen the pandemic response.

The funding provided by Research Manitoba is dedicated to the evaluation of a novel saliva-based test used in the detection of SARS-CoV-2 to support population-level surveillance for COVID-19 infection. Intrinsic Analytics has also committed to providing funds for this project in addition to Research Manitoba’s support. This robust saliva-based test is more efficient in terms of sample collections – as a nasopharyngeal swab does not need to be administered, and also requires fewer chemical mixtures to be used in the lab. Notably, this method still uses the gold standard for COVID-19 testing: Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), but reduces the need for additional specialized equipment for RNA extraction.

Intrinsic Analytics Inc. logo

“Due to the severe shortage of reagents and consumables caused by the pandemic, Intrinsic Analytics felt called to examine other, more streamlined methods for detecting COVID-19,” says Dr. Jon-Jon Santiago, Chief Scientific Officer of Intrinsic Analytics. “We wanted to find a method to reduce the need for difficult and invasive sample collection that would be as reliable, accurate and rapid as what’s already being done, but also make the whole process more convenient and widely accessible.”

“The support from RM towards this multi-stakeholder initiative is valued and timely given the importance and need for easy to use, accurate, and reliable detection systems.” Says Dr. Bram Ramjiawan, Director of Research Innovation and Regulatory Affairs, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

For more information, click here.

PhD Candidate receives three awards in a row!

Congratulations to Pranav Mishra, PhD candidate working for the Synaptic Plasticity and Cellular Memory Dysfunction Lab, who has been awarded two major grants and also took first place in the Manitoba Neuroscience Network photo contest. Mishra is co-supervised by Dr. Benedict Albensi and Dr. Paul Fernyhough, Principal Investigator, Cell Biology of Neurodegeneration Lab, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders.

  • Mishra has been named this year’s recipient of the McCrorie-West Family Fellowship for Alzheimer Research, a fellowship award to support promising students who plan on making a career in research for the treatment or cure of Alzheimer disease.
  • He also earned the Dr. Mark Nickerson Grad Entrance Scholarship in Pharmacology and Therapeutics. award which recognizes the most academically deserving student entering the graduate studies program in a given calendar year.

“Pranav Mishra is a relatively new PhD candidate in my lab who has only been here here for a little over one year. Since he came on board during a pandemic he has still managed to win three awards — so, well done Pranav!” said Dr. Benedict Albensi, Principal Investigator, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at St. Boniface Hospital Research.

Mishra, who is working remotely from India due to the pandemic, shared that he felt extremely happy to receive these awards and is motivated to be even better.

Congratulations from everyone here at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre and the Division of Neurodegenerative Diseases.

ICS Students Earn Two of the Top Awards at 2021 3MT Competition

Congratulations to Danah Alhattab and Sonu Varghese who respectively earned second place and People’s Choice honours at the 3MT finals for Manitoba, hosted by U of M on April 21, 2021, in a virtual format.

Alhattab, who finished in 2nd place, said the opportunity to practice and explain the complicated part of her work in the lab in simple terms to a lay audience helped her look at the big picture aspect of research.

“It was an amazing experience to prepare for this presentation and see how basic science research can impact future therapies,” she said. “It has been really a great opportunity to be part of this competition and see the other great research projects that were presented.” Alhattab expressed gratitude to her supervisors Dr. Michael Czubryt and Dr. Jeff Wigle, “And also thank all my family, friends and colleagues for cheering me and voting for me!”

For the People’s Choice winner, Sonu Varghese said one of his favourite aspects of this year’s 3MT competition was that his family and friends from all over Canada were able to watch his presentation in real-time.

“It was incredible to participate in this event and compete alongside such incredible graduate students doing some great work at our university! ” he said. Varghese also thanked his supervisor Dr. Davinder Jassal, co-supervisor Dr. Marshall Pitz, and the members of the Cardiovascular Imaging Laboratory for their support.

“And also the members of the SBRC community who rooted us on, and all my amazing friends and family who have supported me every step of the way!”

Varghese and Alhattab, along with Cameron Eekhoudt, represented ICS and St. Boniface Hospital Research in the field of 12 provincial finalists. Congratulations to all for this great showing of competitive strength!

The Science Behind That Swab

The Youth BIOlab team partnered recently with onsite experts from Intrinsic Analytics to demonstrate what’s happening behind the science of COVID-19 nasopharyngeal swab tests, in particular, the gold standard Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test it provides for clients needing the earliest and quickest possible detection of the virus, even before symptoms emerge.

“With the Intrinsic Analytics lab being located right here in our building and having this built-in relationship with their team, we decided it would be a great opportunity to develop some online content for students to understand the RT-PCR techniques used and perhaps inspire them towards further interest in the field of science and bioinformation services,” says Steve Jones, YBL’s Director and lead instructor.

Building on its desire as a made-in-Manitoba success story and the province’s premier bioinformation services company, Intrinsic Analytics’ Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Jon-Jon Santiago explains how they gave the YBL team access to its testing facilities, from patient intake to laboratory analysis of patient samples. 

“Throughout the pandemic, we have been a leader in supporting the provincial response to COVID-19, conducting thousands of tests for local businesses and organizations in order protect their staff and help keep essential services and companies operating safely,” he says.  Intrinsic Analytics uses the internationally recognized Health Canada approved RT-PCR technique which provides the most accurate results for lab-based testing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Although the students don’t have access to a sophisticated RT-PCR machine, Santiago and his team worked with Steve’s Youth BIOlab crew to create a kit for students to do hands-on gel electrophoresis analysis of mock patient samples in class and compare their results to real anonymized RT-PCR data from Intrinsic. 

“The students were really into it,” says Jones “we were able to combine a virtual field trip from our end with some hands-on science at the school. Being able to tie it in to the pandemic experience, especially with students who might have had a COVID test themselves, was a real opportunity to connect to cutting edge science. Two classes from Green Valley School in Grunthal participated, and we’re looking forward to rolling this out to more schools this year and adding it to our regular rotation.”

“Myself and my partners at Intrinsic Analytics are all science graduates ourselves and we incubated our business idea as grad students working in the labs here at St. Boniface Hospital Research.  We have long held a vision that our business services and efforts can also help educate young minds about science, so it was a perfect fit with the Youth BIOlab to talk about COVID-19 testing as a way to promote health and infectious disease understanding in our community,” Santiago further offers.

Since school field trips were no longer possible during the pandemic, the Youth BIOlab team completely re-engineered its youth education programming during the summer of 2020 in order to pivot exclusively to online learning options. 

“We built a new website and then created a whole new series of videos available free to anyone via our YouTube channel, as well as offering interactive live-stream classes to our partner schools.  We also host weekly Meet a Scientist interviews, talking to the scientists, technicians and post-grad science students who work here at the Research Centre,” Jones shares.

To learn more, visit Intrinsic Analytics and Youth BIOlab.

St. Boniface based research students dominate 3MT® competition taking three spots in the finals

At the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for U of M graduate students in a thesis-based program, ICS-based trainees here at St. Boniface Hospital Research nabbed three finalist spots in a heated competition comprised of multiple rounds and one wild card spot.

Congratulations to Cameron Eekhoudt, Danah AlHattab and Sonu Varghese who advanced through that stiff competition from an original pool of 77 students who auditioned for 42 spots. From there, each presenter had to compete in 3 heats (14 students per heat) to get one of 12 spots in the finals.

“For St. Boniface Research to get 25% of those spots?  That’s an amazing accomplishment, and we are very proud of our students, ” said Dr. Michael Czubryt, Interim Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research.  “We certainly wish them the very best in the finals and hopefully see one or more of them compete in the Western Regionals in May, and be featured in the national showcase event this November.

All three students are in the department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, training here at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.  Here are summaries of their winning 3MT projects:

CAMERON EEKHOUDT –  Cardiovascular Imaging lab.  Supervisor – Dr. Davinder Jassal,
Co-Supervisor – Dr. Pawan Singal
Title: Is flaxseed equivalent and/or synergistic with ACE inhibition in the prevention of chemotherapy induced cardiotoxicity.
Description: My project hopes to compare whether flaxseed, grown and harvested here in Manitoba can work comparably to ACE Inhibition in the prevention of chemotherapy induced cardiotoxicity.

DANAH ALHATTAB – Cardiovascular Molecular lab.  Supervisor – Dr. Michael Czubryt
Title: The Role Of Scleraxis in Perivascular Fibrosis
Description: Perivascular fibrosis includes increasing stiffness and reducing the diameter of the vessel as a result of proteins build up in the vessel wall. Our lab has shown that an important protein called Scleraxis triggers the protein build up within the heart which makes it more stiff causing a medical condition called Cardiac Fibrosis. My project is to investigate the role of scleraxis in blood vessels stiffening in hypertensive mice models and whether reducing it genetically will improve the function and flexibility of stiff blood vessels.

SONU VARGHESE – Cardiovascular Imaging lab.  Supervisor – Dr. Davinder Jassal
Title: Exercise to prevent Anthracycline-based Cardio-Toxicity (EXACT 2.0) in women with breast cancer.
Description: This study represents a key first step in developing new standards of care that may include prescription of a 24-week home-based aerobic exercise to protect the heart during the concurrent administration of anthracycline-based chemotherapy in women with breast cancer.

Testing new therapies for rare metabolic disorders

Terms like Leigh, Kearns-Sayre, and MELAS (Mitochondrial Encephalopathy, Lactic Acidosis, and Stroke-like episodes) seldom make the news.

Yet children born with these rare metabolic disorders often do not survive into adulthood and there are no effective treatments.

St. Boniface Hospital researchers are testing new targeted drug therapies that might help.

In Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra’s laboratory, his team reprograms affected patients’ blood cells to behave like stem cells. The team is creating patient-specific models to test the efficacy and safety of new drugs for potential life-saving treatment options for such rare conditions as Leigh Syndrome.

“The approach is both important and exciting,” said Dr. Dhingra. “By creating a ‘disease in a (culture) dish’, we can safely test new drugs for effectiveness and toxicity on human cells, without the necessity of administering them to patients.”

Because so few people are affected by these conditions and their mutations, there doesn’t exist a large enough pool of volunteers to often conduct clinical drug trials.

“Our work accelerates the process so drug developers can more accurately target the most suitable patients for participation on the basis of what has already proven helpful in the lab,” Dhingra explained.

Working with Shared Health’s Metabolic Program at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg and in collaboration with Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg, Dr. Dhingra hopes to find more-effective, patient-specific treatment options for these rare metabolic disorders.

One in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life. February 28th is Rare Disease Day around the world. From its inception in 2008, Rare Disease Day has taken place on the last day of February, a month well-known for having a “rare” number of days. 

For more on Dr. Dhingra’s research at the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, click here:

Donate today to help scientists like Dr. Dhingra unlock the mysteries of rare diseases.

Pierce featured speaker on CIHS Webinar, Feb. 24, 2021

The Canada India Healthcare Summit (CIHS) will hold a webinar on Biotechnology and its Contributions to Overcome COVID-19, featuring Dr. Grant Pierce of St. Boniface Hospital Research and the University of Manitoba, at 8:00 pm CST on Wednesday February 24, 2021.

The current global healthcare crisis, caused by the spread of COVID-19, has resulted in great loss of human life as well as unprecedented disruption of economic activity and social welfare around the world. This has heightened the urgency for democratic countries to work together to develop new approaches to healthcare in the post-COVID world, utilizing new developments in Biotechnology and Artificial Intelligence (“AI”). This will be the third Canada India Healthcare Summit that CIF will be organizing, coming after its earlier initiatives in 2015 in Toronto and in New Delhi in 2017.

Speaking about The Direct and Inverse Impact of COVID-19 and Nutrition, Dr. Pierce is among a roster of expert speakers sharing insights into healthcare innovations in a post COVID-19 world.

“Past Summits brought together healthcare experts, governments and business leaders to explore opportunities for Canada and India to work together on the important theme of healthcare”, said Dr. V.I. Lakshmanan, who co-chaired both summits as well as several similar thematic forums held by CIF earlier.

“Key partners and participants included the Government of Ontario, Ministry of Ayush (Government of India), Apollo Hospitals, Apotex and many others. The Forums facilitated many new collaborative ventures.” he added.  Among the main deliverables of CIHS 2021 are:

  • Enabling private sector, government, universities and research institutions in Canada and India to collaborate in exploring Biotechnology & AI driven healthcare solutions
  • Understanding lessons learnt from managing the COVID-19 healthcare crisis
  • Leveraging R&D in Healthcare, Biotechnology & AI to create economic opportunities and ensure better universal healthcare
  • Helping to shape public policy in Canada and India to provide optimum healthcare to its residents through Public-Private Partnership (PPP)
  •  Coordinating the CIF Competition and recognizing the winners of the competition

Canada India Foundation is a public policy organization, formed to promote stronger relations between Canada and India by emphasizing common public policy perspectives. University Health Network is Canada’s most prominent healthcare network, with the largest research-based hospital program in Canada and including the Toronto Rehab Institute, global leaders in research on physical rehabilitation. FICCI is India’s leading organization representing the private sector companies involved in commerce and industries. 

Full details available here: 

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021

February 11 marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This is a day to recognize women making the world a better place through science and technology. You’ll find many posts on social media trending today using tags such as #InternationalDayOfWomenAndGirlsInScience, #WomenInScienceDay, or #WomeninSTEM.

Here at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Albrechtsen Research Centre, Megan, Brooke and Asmaet are proud members of the science-based team at Intrinsic Analytics.

“We have safely collected samples for PCR COVID-19 testing since May 2020, providing a much-needed service to businesses and workplaces here in Manitoba.”

Sanwal, Olusola and Rabia have worked diligently including late evenings and early mornings to complete
lab tests for clients needing to work or travel safely. The team is also working on new strategies to
develop saliva-based COVID-19 testing.

“We feel we are helping many people during COVID-19, to work safely; to provide for their families, to keep their businesses running…”

Together, these women working in science at Intrinsic Analytics here at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre have helped keep hundreds of Manitoba workplaces COVID-free and prevented thousands of additional COVID-19 cases from spreading, likely saving lives and jobs in the process.

Rabinovich-Nikitin received Martha Donavan leadership development award

Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, whose research is based here at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, is one of 10 award recipients funding women’s leadership training through the Winnipeg Foundation’s Martha Donovan Fund. The award will fund her to take the online Laboratory Leadership Course offered by the European Molecular Biology Organization.

“It’s a career-development program to help advance a postdoctoral fellow’s next career step in becoming an independent investigator with their own laboratory,” said Rabinovich-Nikitin, whose long-term goal is to lead cardiovascular research on women’s heart health.

“I anticipate learning techniques and tools for leading teams, tailored specifically to the lab and research setting.”

The $250,000 Winnipeg Foundation Martha Donovan Fund was established in 2019 to provide leadership development opportunities for women in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Up to $50,000 will be awarded annually for five years.

“In this second year of the awards, we received 16 exceptional applications from women at all stages of their academic careers,” said Dr. Sara Israels, vice-dean, academic affairs of the Rady Faculty.

“I was struck by the diversity of academic interests of our awardees, extending from biomedical science to health professions education. We look to these women as future leaders across the full scope of activity in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.”

Justin Trudeau Delights Youth BIOlab team at St. Boniface Hospital Research with a Virtual Visit

Today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met virtually with the RBC Youth BIOlab Jeunesse team here at St. Boniface Hospital Research to learn more about the program’s health literacy outreach efforts to Manitoba students in Grs. 5 – 12.

Steve Jones, Youth BIOlab’s Director, led our Prime Minister through a virtual tour of the facility, which normally sees 4,500+ kids visit each school year to supplement their science education, at one of North America’s most unique biomedical teaching facilities with access to real working scientists.

“It was fantastic to have the Prime Minister express interest in our efforts and show him our facility and how we have been engaging kids’ with the mechanics of science and how it relates to our health,” Jones explained.

Steve Jones, Youth BIOlab’s Director, discusses the Youth BIOlab with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

In welcoming the Prime Minister to St. Boniface, President & CEO Martine Bouchard expressed the hospital and research centre’s gratitude for his visit today. “We’re undoubtedly proud of the Youth BIOlab and its impact on Manitoba students, especially its connection to the Metis and Indigenous communities as an essential partner to inspire young people towards careers in science and medicine.”

Trudeau learned that since late summer, the YBL team has been working virtually in response to pandemic restrictions, after building a new website and developing a series of videos for its YouTube channel called “Healthy Curiosity”.  It also  hosts online weekly “Meet a Scientist” sessions with resident researchers at St. Boniface who study conditions affecting the heart, brain and digestive systems.

“The PM was super interested in what the kids actually do when they are here in the lab, and how we’ve pivoted to deliver meaningful content virtually through our website and You Tube channel,” Jones said. “His obvious love for teaching and interest in a science-based approach to health literacy really came through, especially because COVID has really shown us that there’s a need for people to understand the science behind disease.” 

Dan Vandal, MP for St. Boniface – St. Vital has been a long-standing supporter of St. Boniface Hospital Research and the Youth BIOlab in particular, and was pivotal in making this visit from our Prime Minister a reality! 

For more info, please contact:

Karen Hiebert
Manager Communications & Media Services   
(431) 997-6577

Czubryt Appointed Interim Executive Director

We are greatly pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Michael Czubryt as Interim Executive Director at St. Boniface Hospital Research, effective January 4, 2021.  

Czubryt has been a Principal Investigator, Molecular Pathophysiology, for the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the Research Centre for the past 17 years, as well as a full Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. He also serves as Associate Dean in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

“It is my pleasure to accept this interim role as Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital and I am excited by the opportunity to serve our strong and vibrant research community,” said Czubryt.  “Our outgoing Executive Director, Dr. Grant Piece has been a tremendous role model to me and many others over the years. I have always been inspired by his high standards of service, research advocacy and passionate commitment to the success of St. Boniface Hospital research enterprise.”

Czubryt has published over 70 research articles and chapters, and his work has been supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. His work has been recognized throughout his scientific career, including the McDonald Scholarship of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Young Investigator Award of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, the Ronald Duhamel Innovation Fund Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, and fellowship in three scholarly societies including the American Heart Association.

He has been a reviewer, scientific officer and chair of numerous peer review committees locally, nationally and internationally, and has served in leadership roles for professional organizations such as the American Physiological Society and the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences. He  maintains an active training program that encompasses high school, undergraduate and graduate students, with more than 50 trainees mentored to date and service on the advisory committees of more than 40 graduate students.

From all of us at St. Boniface Hospital Research, welcome & congratulations! 

Dr. Czubryt’s Executive Office is located at R1003, 351 Tache Avenue, and he can be reached at 204-237-2339 or by email at

In Memory of Susan Zettler

It is with a profound sense of loss that we share the news of Susan Zettler’s untimely passing on Friday, January 1, 2021. 

Sue was a valued member of our team here at St. Boniface Hospital Research and a highly regarded member of Winnipeg’s research community.  Her passing is a sad shock that resonates beyond our walls.

Sue worked diligently and with great professionalism in a variety of administrative support roles for almost 28 years, starting with ICS in 1993 and then transitioning to CCARM where she served as Administrative Assistant since 2007. 

Sue was known for her capable, thorough work habits and her friendly approach to her fellow co-workers. She was a valuable asset to the CCARM team, where she never failed to assist the PIs, lab staff and trainees, even when she was busy with other priorities. 

Personally, Sue always took the time to reach out to others and her positive outlook made her a friend to many. She will be greatly missed by all her St. B, University and Ag Canada colleagues.  It was Sue’s wish that any charitable donations to her memory be directed to CCARM Research through To view the obituary, click here:

To leave condolences and memories of Sue, please use the comment box at the bottom of this page.

2020 ICS Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Award Recipients

Congratulations to the winners of the 22nd Annual Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Naranjan Dhalla Cardiovascular Awards.

Held virtually on December 17th, this year’s awards ceremony was opened with remarks from Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and included greetings from Dr. Digvir S. Jayas Vice – President (Research and International) University of Manitoba and Dr. Jude E. Uzonna Associate Dean (Research) University of Manitoba

Winners were then announced by Dr. Michael Czubryt Secretariat, ICS Awards, as follows:

Jack Litvack Exemplary Service Award: Dr. Bram Ramjiawan
Henry Friesen Young Scientist Award: Mr. Kevin Boreskie
Sr. Jacqueline St-Yves Publication Award: Dr. Alireza Rafieerad
Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences Award for Masters Students: Dr. Rebeca Camargo
Kalwant Dhalla Research Technician Award: Ms. Victoria Margulets
T. Edward Cuddy Student Award: Ms. Rachel Cogan

Congratulations to all the winners for 2020!

SBRC Researchers Among World’s Top 2% Scientists – Stanford University Releases List

December 18, 2020.  A comprehensive list recently released by Stanford University identified the top 2 percent of the world’s nearly 7 million working scientists. St. Boniface Hospital Research boasts ten of these top scientists in the world.

“This is an impressively high representation for one research facility”, said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital, “Considering more than 200 fields of scientific study were included in this roster, this external assessment reinforces the high quality of research being conducted right here in Winnipeg by some of the top minds in the world.”

Included among the 6,880,389 listed experts, are the following St. Boniface Hospital Research affiliated individuals and their category of expertise:

  • Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla — Cardiovascular System & Hematology
  • Dr. Ross D. Feldman — Cardiovascular System & Hematology
  • Dr. Paul Fernyhough — Neurology & Neurosurgery
  • Dr. Hilary P Grocott — Anesthesiology
  • Dr. Lorrie A. Kirshenbaum — Cardiovascular System & Hematology
  • Dr. William Leslie — Endocrinology & Metabolism
  • Dr. Mohammed H Moghadasian — Nutrition & Dietetics
  • Dr. Grant N. Pierce — Cardiovascular System & Hematology
  • Dr. Jitender Sareen — Psychiatry
  • Dr. Pawan K. Singal — Cardiovascular System & Hematology

Congratulations to each of these individuals, all who are University of Manitoba Faculty members. They, along with all our staff here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, are truly world-class.

More about the study: Based on citations, h-index, co-authorship-adjusted hm-index, citations to papers in different authorship positions, and a composite indicator, the list was generated based on published work from August 2019 from the Department of Medicine, Health Research and Policy, at Stanford’s Biomedical Data Science, and Statistics and Meta-Research Innovation Center. The study sought to provide a comprehensive database of a sufficiently large number of the most-cited scientists.

As articulated in the publication, co-authored by Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine, Stanford Prevention Research, the effort was focused on offering a solution to overcome many of the technical problems and provide a comprehensive database of a sufficiently large number of the most-cited scientists. The result creates an availability of standardized, field-annotated data to help achieve a more nuanced use of ranking metrics that is more accurate and balanced.

#1 Research Hospital in Western Canada – 9 years running

December 11, 2020.  St. Boniface Hospital continues to gain national recognition from Research Infosource’s annual Top 40 Research Hospitals for the year 2020.   The list, which ranks Canadian hospitals on their success in attracting support for health research, placed St. Boniface Hospital as the No. 1 research-intensive hospital in western Canada and Top 5 nationally for the 9th year in a row.

“The scientific investigators here at St. Boniface Hospital Research have proven once again that Winnipeg boasts Western Canada’s finest in attracting major funding commitments that places us on top,” says Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director of Research for St. Boniface Hospital. “Their efforts in the fields of cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and nutritional studies, all of which are ultimately focused on improving the health of Canadians, are something for which all Manitobans should be proud!”

“Our ability to attract top researchers from around the world is a testament to St. Boniface Hospital’s reputation as a global leader in medical science,” says Martine Bouchard, President & CEO, St. Boniface Hospital, “Supporting our 250 person research team is a priority area within our 3-year strategic plan and is a strong commitment to sustain and integrate transformative research and teaching.”  

St. Boniface Hospital Research, in affiliation with the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, has four dedicated research programs: The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences; the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders; the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM); and the Asper Clinical Research Institute.  

With thirty laboratories, 250 staff, St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre serves as training ground for approximately 100 students each year and is home to the RBC Youth BIOLab Jeunesse —a space for students and teachers to explore and experience real biomedical science in a world-class research center.

About Research Infosource Inc.
About Research Infosource Inc. Research Infosource Inc. is Canada’s source of R&D intelligence. Drawing from proprietary databases, Research Infosource publishes Canada’s Innovation Leaders, which includes Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders, Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities, Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals and Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges.

2020 CCS Research Achievement Award goes to Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum

Congratulations to Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, who was elected as this year’s Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) Research Achievement Award recipient. The award acknowledges an individual’s excellence as an established investigator’s outstanding contributions to Canadian cardiovascular health and care.

“I am deeply honoured that our research has been recognized by the CCS, for the research achievement award, having been recognized among other leaders who have received this award in the past is very humbling,  it  speaks to the high caliber of research at St. Boniface Hospital and our team of researchers, ” said Dr. Kirshenbaum, Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre, Head, Division of Cardiovascular Science and Disease,and a University of Manitoba Rady Faculty of Health Sciences professor.

The award was presented to Kirshenbaum on Oct. 21 during a Canadian Cardiovascular Congress virtual event.

Kirshenbaum’s Albrechtsen Research Centre-based lab has been a world leader in the field of cell death for the last 25 years. His expertise is in developing molecular and biochemical techniques that study cell death signaling in the heart. His team has made several important and seminal contributions, including demonstrating for the first time that Bcl-2 related protein Bnip3 plays a major role in regulating mitochondrial quality control and cell death pathways in the pathogenesis of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cancer.

His lab has also developed several techniques for monitoring mitochondrial dynamics, mitophagy, respiration by live cell imaging to study cell death signaling pathways during normal and diseased conditions. The team has published several landmark papers in this research area.

Hosted by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and Heart and Stroke , the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (CCC) is the largest gathering of cardiovascular and allied health professionals in Canada. Cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, researchers, nurses and other cardiovascular specialists from across Canada and around the globe come to CCC to connect with other members of the cardiovascular team, to discover how to incorporate the latest science into their practice and to attend cutting-edge, accredited education sessions.

Albensi garners two significant appointments

Congratulations to Dr. Benedict Albensi, recently appointed as Vice Chair to the Nutrition, Metabolism, and Dementia professional interest area (PIA) for the International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment (ISTAART)/Alzheimer’s Assoc. – USA.

While there is an abundance of evidence suggesting nutrition and metabolism play a role in cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s dementia, the field of study is particularly complex, and inconsistencies in the literature make the development of sound public health recommendations a major challenge. The PIA Albensi has joined will create a hub at the Alzheimer’s Association to unite scientists and clinicians from both academia and industry who are interested in advancing the field.

The PIA’s goals include:

  1. Develop and advance clinical and research applications of nutrition in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
  2. Develop and submit dedicated research sessions on nutrition and metabolism for consideration at the AAIC annual meetings.
  3. Foster the development of consensus criteria for nutrition and metabolism research and interpretation of findings on AD and related disorders.
  4. Foster the creation of multi-study collaborations around nutrition and metabolism in AD and related disorders.

Albensi was also recently appointed to the Manitoba Brain Injury Association Board (MBIA) which works to educate all Manitobans towards the prevention of acquired brain injury, and offer help and hope to individuals and families living with the effects of brain injury.

Albensi is the Principal Investigator Synaptic Plasticity and Cellular Memory Dysfunction Lab, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre; Professor Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, College of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences; Manitoba Dementia Research Chair and Everett Endowment Fund Chair.

17th Annual Richard Hoeschen Memorial Award

Manitoba Medical Service Foundation and St. Boniface Hospital Research Present the 17th Annual Richard Hoeschen Memorial Award

Dr. Jiuyong Xie has been named this year’s recipient of the Richard Hoeschen Memorial Award, receiving a $4,000 contribution to help offset the operating expenses for the supervision of a B.Sc. (Med) student at the University of Manitoba. The Manitoba Medical Service Foundation and St. Boniface Hospital Research have each contributed $2,000 toward this award. Dr. Xie is supervising B.Sc. (Med) student Julian Polimeni for his project, “Identifying Plasma Methylated DNA Markers of Early Stage Cancer Patients by Deep Sequencing.” Dr. Xie holds appointments as professor within the departments of Physiology & Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba.

Thank you to the B.Sc. Awards Selection Committee for adjudication of the candidates and to the University of Manitoba for their administrative support throughout the process. For further details on Manitoba Medical Service Foundation awards, please refer to the Award Recipients pages of our website at

Ideally Suited to Become a Leading Indigenous Scholar

Those were words used to describe the work of PhD student Bradley Feltham who recently won the Doctoral Award For Indigenous Students, U of M, and also won the Prairie Indigenous Knowledge Exchange Network (PIKE-Net)  PhD Graduate Fellowship, U of M.

It was noted by the voting committee that Feltham’s work was exceptionally strong and demonstrated his status as an exemplary student. Another committee member noted that Feltham is ideally positioned to become a leading Indigenous scholar and would be an excellent mentor for others in the PIKE-Net program and beyond.

According to his supervisor, Dr. Miyoung Suh, Principal Investigator with the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders and the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food in Research & Medicine, “I would say, he is simply an outstanding student who balances duality between academic responsibility and leadership roles, especially for the indigenous students on campus and communities.”

Congratulations Brad and best wishes on this stellar achievement!

St. Boniface PhD Student Earns Two Major Canadian Student Health Research Awards

Congratulations to Mihir Parikh, who took home two of the most prestigious prizes at the recent Canadian Student Health Research Forum — The E. L. Drewry Memorial Award, the highest honour conferred upon a senior doctoral student of Max Rady College of Medicine, as well as The St. Boniface Hospital Foundation Inc. Award.

“It’s a real honour and I am very humbled by these two awards,” said Parikh, a PhD student in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.

“I owe this to the great mentorship of my supervisors Drs. Grant Pierce and Thomas Netticadan and to the collective efforts of my Pierce and Netticadan lab members. Thank you very much, folks!”

Parikh joins the ranks of several St. Boniface Research graduate students who have earned The E. L. Drewry Memorial Award since the early 90’s, strengthening once again St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences as one of the preeminent basic cardiovascular research programs in the world offering a superior training program for graduate students.

Interested in furthering his studies in the area of molecular cardiology, Parikh recently left Winnipeg for New York, where he will be investigating mechanisms related to ischemic heart disease at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine.

Congratulations again Mihir!

St. Boniface Research, Senior Advisor, Dr. Krishnamurti, invested into the Order of Manitoba

Dr. Krishnamurti “Dak” Dakshinamurti, emeritus professor in the University of Manitoba faculty of medicine, a senior advisor to the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre and an innovator in the epigenetics of vitamins, metabolic syndrome disorders and the pharmacology of vitamins was invested into the Order of Manitoba on September 10, 2020. His biography was included in the Cambridge University Press’s Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Century.

The Order of Manitoba was established in 1999 to honour Manitobans who have demonstrated excellence and achievement, thereby enriching the social, cultural or economic well-being of the province and its residents.

“This year, as Manitobans have been tested and have responded with courage, creativity and hope, we are even more aware of the importance of commitment to community,” said Lt.-Gov. Janice C. Filmon, chancellor of the order, who will preside over the ceremony. “The community leaders to be invested into the Order of Manitoba in this, the 150th anniversary of the province, will continue to inspire their fellow Manitobans through their personal achievements and their dedication to our province, our country and our world.” 

Congratulations to Dr. Dakshinamurti on this important recognition.

Dhingra elected Fellow of American Heart Association

Congratulations to Sanjiv Dhingra, elected as Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) conferred by the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS). Fellowship recognizes and awards premium professional members for excellence, innovative and sustained contributions in the areas of scholarship, practice and/or education, and volunteer service within the AHA/ASA.

The American Heart Association is a nonprofit organization in the United States that funds cardiovascular medical research, educates consumers on healthy living and fosters appropriate cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke

Sanjiv Dhingra, PhD, FCVS is Associate Professor, Director, Canada Italy Tissue Engineering Laboratory (CITEL), Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research, Regenerative Medicine Program, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, College of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences University of Manitoba.

St. Boniface researcher awarded prestigious AHA Paul Dudley White International Scholar distinction.

Congratulations to Dr. Inna Rabinovich-Nikitin, post-doctoral fellow with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences here at the St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre, who was selected as the 2020 Paul Dudley White International Scholar for an abstract submitted to the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2020 Scientific Sessions.

“We are tremendously excited and proud of Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin for winning this prestigious award. Dr. Rabinovich-Nikitin is a brilliant scientist and recognition by the American Heart Association of her stellar work reflects the high caliber and international level of our training program at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre and University of Manitoba,” said Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital Research, and Professor, Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba.

As one of the founders of the American Heart Association, Paul Dudley White was a champion for global cardiovascular health strategies. The award recognizes peer-reviewed work which reflects Dr. White’s vision for global excellence in cardiovascular science and medicine. The AHA’s 2020 international conference on hypertension will be a virtual event this year, scheduled for September 10-13, 2020.

“I am very honored to receive this distinguished award. I am very grateful for the opportunities and training I have had as a post doctoral fellow with Dr. Kirshenbaum as my mentor and the support of Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) postdoctoral fellowship and St. Boniface Hospital Albrechsten Research,” said Rabinovich-Nikitin.

SBRC Researchers publish study showing N95 masks can be safely re-sterilized, but only once.

A recent study by the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre suggests the only safe number of times an N95 mask can be re-used after autoclave sterilization, is once.  Initiated early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the team of St. Boniface researchers set out to examine how N95 masks worn by lab workers for up to eight hours, and then re-sterilized, would affect performance and efficacy.  

“The results showed that yes, we can safely re-sterilize the kind of single-use N95 masks typically worn by healthcare workers in order to gain a second use, but not more than that,” said Dr. Mike Czubryt, Principal Investigator at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, Professor of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba and lead author of the paper recently accepted for publication by The Journal of Hospital Infection and available here:

As a research team, Czubryt explained how they wanted to look at what happens when they re-sterilized masks worn by living, breathing human beings in real-life conditions. Will the wearing of a mask and subsequent sterilization attempts, affect the material, the fit and the filtration?  The answers were yes. 

“After a second sterilization cycle, the masks started to fail the fit testing, deeming them unsafe for use in a healthcare setting,” Czubryt said.  While these results are discouraging in light of previous studies that seemed to suggest autoclave and other forms of chemical re-sterilization is possible up to 10 times, the St. Boniface researchers are sharing these results to serve as a caution against multiple re-sterilization attempts. The difference between this work and previous studies is the consideration of real-world use, which significantly degrades masks and limits their reuse.

“Since masks can be re-sterilized once, that will still theoretically double the current stockpile of N95s around the world,” Czubryt said, “So this information should be helpful for healthcare decision-makers who are looking at exactly how far they can stretch their stockpile and how much to order from suppliers for future needs.”

The study’s publication in one of the most accessed medical journals on infection prevention and control means that many other health care teams will benefit from the detailed guidance on how the sterilization process can be rolled out in a large urban hospital setting.  “Our paper describes a workflow for other health care facilities to safely recycle hundreds of masks per day while keeping workers safe,” he shared. Autoclaves are common equipment in many healthcare settings, making the study widely applicable.

“This is one of the greatest takeaways from this study and for St. Boniface Hospital in particular, as we are already stockpiling extra masks,” said Executive Director of Research, Dr. Grant Pierce, also a Principal Investigator and co-author of this study.  Dr. Pierce works closely with St. Boniface Hospital leadership, who were eager for their onsite researchers to explore this idea and how it could help the hospital plan for its own needs during the pandemic.

As Czubryt pointed out, “The team believes that if adopted broadly, our mask re-sterilization protocol could dramatically improve global availability, particularly in areas hardest hit by COVID-19 where supplies are low and new shipments delayed.”

Media inquiries: call 204-258-1325.

St. B spin-off, Monteris, receives FDA clearance for neuroblate fusion-s software

Monteris Medical announced that it has received FDA clearance of its NeuroBlate Fusion-S Software and released the product commercially. This latest innovation for the NeuroBlate System has now been used in over 200 cases. Fusion-S Software provides unprecedented visualization for neurosurgeons to ablate brain tissue, including tumors and epileptic foci. With this advancement, Monteris extends its long-standing leadership in laser ablation in the brain.

Innovations to the Fusion-S software display provide a highly intuitive and detailed visual representation of critical anatomical detail, allowing neurosurgeons to more easily view brain structures throughout the procedure. Three dimensional views available with Fusion-S offer an advanced graphical interface to optimally define lesion anatomy. Fusion-S software also builds upon the established safety features of the NeuroBlate System, including an unlimited number of temperature pick points, which can be set at any location in the three-dimensional ablation zone to closely monitor ablation progression and avoid eloquent structures of the brain. Procedure time can also be reduced with the new software through fewer workflow steps. 

“Monteris continues to innovate in ways that are meaningful for neurosurgeons and our patients,” said Dr. Brian Williams, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky. “The launch of Fusion-S software represents a significant leap forward for the broader field of laser ablation for the brain. The views I have with this software offer a level of precision that is so critical for every procedure.”

Martin J. Emerson, president and chief executive officer of Monteris commented, “We are thrilled with the positive feedback we’ve received from our neurosurgeon users on Fusion-S software. With this launch, our team continues to deliver the highest caliber technology to strengthen our leadership position in image-guided laser ablation for the brain.”

The NeuroBlate System utilizes robotically controlled laser thermotherapy that directs an MRI-guided laser to ablate unwanted tissue in the brain where the lesion, or abnormal tissue, originates. Unlike traditional brain surgery, a procedure with the NeuroBlate System does not require a large opening in the skull. Instead, surgeons create a small hole in the skull, about the diameter of a pencil. While the patient is in the MRI machine, the doctor guides a small laser device (probe) through the hole and into the lesion. The precise nature of the procedure helps to lessen the likelihood of harm to nearby healthy brain tissue. When compared to other current treatments for brain lesions, laser ablation has been shown to be a safe, cost-appropriate procedure in which patients experience short hospital stays, minimal pain, low readmission rates, low rates of complications, short recovery and improved quality of life.  

To date, over 3,000 procedures have been performed with the NeuroBlate System at more than 80 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

About Monteris® and the NeuroBlate® System
Monteris Medical is a privately held company that develops and markets innovative MRI-guided, laser-based systems to perform minimally invasive brain surgery, commonly referred to as “LITT” (Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy) or “SLA” (Stereotactic Laser Ablation). Current investors include Versant Ventures, SightLine Partners, Birchview Capital and BDC Capital. The Monteris NeuroBlate System is the only minimally invasive system that enables a robotic interface for the precise and safe delivery of laser energy. The NeuroBlate System is a tool and is not intended to treat any specific disease. Physicians should use their clinical judgment and experience when deciding whether to use NeuroBlate.

SOURCE Monteris Medical.

Blewett & Tappia Co-Edit ‘Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health’, featuring 15 new articles

Scientific investigation into establishing dietary approaches that can be undertaken for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases is being driven by increased public interest. With that in mind, the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS) recently released Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health, a book showcasing 15 articles on the subject, co-edited by St. Boniface Hospital Researchers, Dr. Heather Blewett and Dr. Pram Tappia.

“This book is new and different because it provides an insight into the influential role of nutrition and dietary habits on cardiovascular health and disease and discusses their mechanisms of therapeutic and preventive action all under one forum,” said Tappia.  “It is unique as it also has a mix of reviewed and original articles that provide both clinical and basic science perspectives on nutrition and cardiovascular health.”

More than 100 people were invited to submit articles on the subject, with 15 ultimately approved for inclusion by editors Blewett and Tappia. 

“We believe the compilation is of significant interest to basic science researchers, clinicians and graduate students who are engaged in studying nutrition and cardiovascular health and disease,” said Blewett.

Hardcopies are available for purchase and all articles are free online via IJMS open access portal.

Feldman & Hack amongst Best in Canada, as featured in Research Life

Dr. Ross Feldman and Dr. Thomas Hack were recently featured in the current edition of Research Life, published by the University of Manitoba. Feldman and Hack were among eight researchers recognized for their excellence, expertise, service and leadership in the fields of engineering, health and medicine, arts, and the humanities. The two Principal Investigators working out of St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre were elected to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in the fall of 2019.

Potential health claim could boost buckwheat

As featured in June 11, 2020 edition of the Western Producer, credit: Robert Arnason.

Researchers in Winnipeg have found after more than 10 years of study that eating the crop can control blood sugar levels

After years of minimal acres and a lack of enthusiasm, there are positive signs for Manitoba’s buckwheat industry.

There are new customers for buckwheat seed, including farmers who grow cover crops, and researchers in Winnipeg are trying to prove that it controls blood sugar in humans.

If it works out as planned, buckwheat will soon be promoted with a health claim — saying it reduces glucose levels and can be used to manage diabetes.

“That’s the game that we’re going for,” said Peter Zahradka, deputy team leader of the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

“If you can get some sort of health claim for it … then more people will want to eat it.”

Zahradka and his colleague, Carla Taylor, have been studying buckwheat for more than a decade, looking at beneficial compounds in the seed.

It hasn’t been an easy task. Canada’s buckwheat sector is tiny, with only 35,000 acres across the country, so research funds are scarce. It’s also been challenging to identify the chemicals that control blood sugar.

“One of the biggest difficulties is there are 4,000 to 6,000 different compounds in a seed,” Zahradka said.

Taylor has been at this for a while.

She did studies on buckwheat in the early 2000s and concluded it could be a safe and inexpensive way to lower blood glucose.

“Buckwheat won’t cure diabetes, but we’d like to evaluate its inclusion in food products as a management aid,” she said to in 2003.

Anecdotal evidence about buckwheat goes back much further.

“Many cultural groups have been using buckwheat to help with glucose lowering, or diabetes,” Zahradka said.

One of the big questions for Taylor and Zahradka is about dose.

How much buckwheat is needed to lower blood sugar?

“The amount of the compound (might be) too low to use it in a food. But you can increase the amount and you can enrich it by getting the right fraction, to use as an ingredient,” Zahradka said. “Or possibly to go into a supplement. To help people control their blood glucose.”

The scientists have collaborated with Springfield Mills, a Manitoba company that produces, processes and sells buckwheat seed, to amplify the beneficial compounds in buckwheat seeds.

Together, they have developed varieties with higher levels of “bioactives.”

“We’ve been testing different breeding lines for them,” said Taylor, a professor in Food and Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba. “To use our results, to help inform the (plant breeding).”

Achieving a health claim is critical for growers and the buckwheat sector, said Lorne Kyle of Springfield Mills.

For years, Canadian growers relied upon exports to Japan, where buckwheat is used to make soba noodles. But sales have dried up, partly due to logistical problems.

Several years ago, Springfield Mills sold a shipment of Manitoba buckwheat to a Japanese customer. It was shipped by rail to Vancouver and then put into containers.

It took seven weeks for the railways and shipping firms to get the buckwheat to Japan.

“They (the Japanese) took it. In correspondence they said we like your product, we don’t like your service,” said Kyle, who’s in his early 80s and has been part of the buckwheat trade since the 1970s. “And we’ve never been able to do business with them again.”

With Japan on the backburner, the industry needs to focus on North American consumers, Kyle said.

“Buckwheat is something that’s unknown for what it could be used for…. We have to (increase) the usage.”

A health claim for controlling blood sugar and diabetes could make a huge difference. But Taylor and Zahradka aren’t there, yet.

The scientists have done laboratory tests at the cellular level. They’ve studied the chemical compounds in buckwheat and how they affect the processing of glucose.

The next step is animal trials to see if buckwheat controls blood sugar in mice.

That should provide some guidance about dose.

“That would give the information we need, to tell anybody who wants to manufacture a functional food using buckwheat… how much has to be in that food,” Zahradka said.

“How much needs to be added to it (per) serving.”

If the animal testing is successful, the next step is human trials. Then, asking Health Canada to approve a health claim.

If all goes well, it could take three to five years to get there.

In the meantime, cover crops are creating new demand for buckwheat seed. More farmers are using cover crops to improve soil health, including potato growers.

“We got contacted last year (by people) in Prince Edward Island. They wanted four containers of (buckwheat) seed,” Kyle said, explaining the producers were using buckwheat at plow down.

“The seed potato growers down there have problems with nematodes and wireworm. Buckwheat helps control them.”

Buckwheat is also gluten-free, which is boosting sales of buckwheat flour.

The increased demand has pulled prices slightly higher in Manitoba. Last year buckwheat production contracts were around $14 per bushel. This spring they’re at $15.

Manitoba produces most of the buckwheat in Western Canada, with typically 5,000 to 10,000 acres annually. A large portion of the crop is grown in Ontario and Quebec.

In solidarity with the BLM movement and #shutdownSTEM day

St. Boniface Hospital Albrechsten Research Centre stands in solidarity with Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC). We support our colleagues around the world participating in #ShutDownSTEM on June 10, 2020, and like-minded actions across academia.  It’s our understanding that many academic, educational and research facilities around the world are acknowledging this event today.

As an internationally diverse workplace for many years, we all know that there is more that we can do to help improve equity and inclusion in our community. The work to implement meaningful change is our responsibility, and as institutions and STEM facilities around the world pause today in an act of solidarity, we encourage everyone to consider this opportunity and participate in ways that work for you.

Some suggestions on how you can be part of change and progress:

§  Learn and listen to what anti-racist writers have to say

§  Hold a departmental meeting and build an action plan for the future

§  Discuss racism with your team, lab or research group

Additional information and ideas, can be resourced here:

Let’s join together as a community and renew our determination to create a just, equitable and inclusive world.

Pierce to retire as Executive Director end of 2020

After completing his third, five-year term as Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital Research, Dr. Grant Pierce will be stepping down from his administrative duties effective December 31, 2020. The formal announcement was made by St. Boniface Hospital President & CEO, Martine Bouchard, on May 21, 2020.

“Dr. Pierce’s work has brought great scientific acclaim to Manitoba and it is with a sense of pride and deep respect that I formally announce he will be stepping down from the role, ending fifteen years of stellar and committed leadership to our Research facility,” said Bouchard in a memo to all staff.

Since joining St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre as a Principal Investigator in the late 80’s, Dr. Pierce played a pivotal role in developing the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and he also helped found the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM).

Under his leadership as Executive Director, St. Boniface Hospital has been consistently ranked Western Canada’s #1 Research-intensive hospital for eight years running by Research Infosource in Toronto. With his support and vision, the RBC Youth BIOlab and its highly successful health literacy outreach programming to students throughout Manitoba, is yet another facet of his impressive legacy of dynamic leadership.

His many awards include The Order of Manitoba, elected to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), the country’s most esteemed association of scholars and scientists; the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Government of Canada; and Distinguished Professor with the University of Manitoba, and many others.

Dr. Pierce will continue to work as a Principal Investigator at his lab in the Albrechtsen Research Centre, and as a Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba. An executive recruitment process will begin soon to find his replacement.

Wishing him the very best for the next stage of his career, his staff and colleagues will remain grateful for his tremendous support and inspiration during his time as Executive Director from 2005 – 2020.

Youth Science Magazine for COVID-19 Info features SBRC experts!

Congratulations to our own Stephen Jones, Meghan Kynoch, Elena Dibrov and Karmin O, for their contributions to No Mercy For the Coronas, a made-in-Manitoba youth science magazine published by La Liberté newspaper and delivered free to Winnipeg Free Press subscribers today! 

Bringing together a world class team of medical researchers, university professors, health literacy educators, and communications and graphic arts professionals, No Mercy for the Coronas is a fun, creative tool to help kids and their families understand the scientific realities of the COVID19 virus and the pandemic.

“I was so pleased that St. Boniface Hospital Research was able to contribute to this first-of-its kind youth science magazine, using the local expertise of our educators from the Youth BIOlab,” said Martine Bouchard, President and CEO of St. Boniface Hospital. “The collaborative efforts involved in this project really speak to the sense of community solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 and providing our children with the most accurate information in a format that is easy to understand and share with their families.”

Virtual Thesis Defence During COVID-19 Lockdown, and Highly Coveted CIHR Fellowship – two wins for Dhingra Lab.

Congratulations goes to Dr. Weiang Yan, who has been awarded a CIHR fellowship ($50,000 /year for 2 years) in the category of Health Professionals. Dr. Yan’s research work includes the investigation of a immunosuppressive biomaterials based approach as a possible treatment to prevent tissue rejection in patients with heart and vascular transplants.

Dr. Yan is supervised by Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra, Principal Investigator, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research. Dhingra’s Regenerative Medicine Program includes a focus on cardiac tissue engineering which recently reported the synthesis and characterization of novel carbon based nanosheets which they believe are able to suppress immune cells.

The fellowship awarded to Dr. Yan will help him take this study to next level and may help bridge the translational gap in biomaterials-based therapies for cardiovascular diseases.

“I would like to congratulate Dr. Yan on receiving this highly competitive fellowship from CIHR. I believe this fellowship will further help him to achieve his career goals as a clinician scientist,” said Dr. Dhingra.

Dr. Yan also works under the co-supervision of Dr. Rakesh Arora, Principal Investigator Heart Failure Therapy, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research.

In other news, Dr. Dhingra’s team also set a digital ‘first’ recently during the COVID-19 lockdown. PhD student from Dhingra lab, Ejlal Abu-El Rub, successfully defended her PhD thesis on April 15, conducted entirely online using BlueJeans virtual conferencing software. The defence exam was chaired by Dr. Saeid Ghavami from the Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science and attended by examination committee members Drs. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Pawan Singal and Jeff Wigle.

“I think this was the first PhD defence exam conducted online and we are pleased Dr. Abu-El Rub was able to successfully complete her doctorate, despite the challenging environment created by the pandemic,” said Dr. Dhingra.

Congratulations Dr. Abu-El Rub! 

AJP-Heart – Best Paper Award Review Article 2020, goes to Parikh, Netticadan and Pierce

The prestigious journal AJP-Heart and Circulatory Physiology awarded “Flaxseed, its bioactive components and their cardiovascular benefits” as its BEST PAPER AWARD REVIEW ARTICLE for 2020. Congratulations to these world-renowned flax researchers for this well-deserved recognition.

Drs. Mihir Parikh, Thomas Netticadan and Grant N. Pierce, of Winnipeg Manitoba, and affiliated with the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba; Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre.

“It’s not only rewarding to be recognized for our work by one of the esteemed cardiovascular physiology journals, but the fact that it was downloaded more than 2500 times shows the favorable interest flaxseed is generating among scientists” said Parikh.

“Being a researcher in the area of cardioprotection using nutritional strategies, I am very pleased and honored to be part of this award winning review paper highlighting the cardiovascular benefits of flaxseed and its components. I ‘d like to thank Dr. Grant Pierce for giving me the opportunity to able to contribute to this paper, and to Mihir Parikh for leading it,” said Netticadan.

The paper won based upon:
Best Paper Score: 655
Total Citations 2018 – 2019: 11
Online article downloads: 2,640 (as of 3/31/20)

Abstract: Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. The inclusion of functional foods and natural health products in the diet are gaining increasing recognition as integral components of lifestyle changes in the fight against cardiovascular disease. Several preclinical and clinical studies have shown the beneficial cardiovascular effects of dietary supplementation with flaxseed. The cardiovascular effects of dietary flaxseed have included an antihypertensive action, antiatherogenic effects, a lowering of cholesterol, an anti-inflammatory action, and an inhibition of arrhythmias. Its enrichment in the ω-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid and the antioxidant lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside as well as its high fiber content have been implicated primarily in these beneficial cardiovascular actions. Although not as well recognized, flaxseed is also composed of other potential bioactive compounds such as proteins, cyclolinopeptides, and cyanogenic glycosides, which may also produce biological actions. These compounds could also be responsible for the cardiovascular effects of flaxseed. This article will not only summarize the cardiovascular effects of dietary supplementation with flaxseed but also review its bioactive compounds in terms of their properties, biological effects, and proposed mechanisms of action. It will also discuss promising research directions for the future to identify additional health-related benefits of dietary flaxseed.

For more information on this impressive award, please visit:

YSC Online STEM Fair

Canada-Wide Science Fair 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta and most of the 103 regional science fairs across the country may have been cancelled, but the passion for discovery and innovation amongst Canadian youth will not be denied. Youth Science Canada (YSC), organizers of the national event since its inception in 1962, announce today the launch of YSC Online STEM Fair, a showcase for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects that reflect the curiosity and creativity of Canadian youth. The online event will be live for the public to explore starting Tuesday, May 19.

“The physical events may have been cancelled, but the work of this country’s curious and talented youth continues,” says Reni Barlow, executive director of Youth Science Canada. “Members of the STEM community have shown the depth of their commitment to engaging and supporting Canadian youth as they continue to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. We could not be prouder of everyone’s efforts and invite them to unite, next month, on this new and exciting online platform.”

Developed by, the site will feature STEM projects submitted by students in grades 7-12, along with opportunities for STEM-related companies, organizations, agencies and institutions to engage visiting students, teachers, parents and the public through the virtual STEM Expo. A bilingual YSC Online STEM Fair student visitor activity guide will be made available as of May 1, to help navigate the event and enhance at-home learning programs.

“Youth Science Canada’s network of regional science fairs plays a critical role in inspiring the STEM leaders and inventors of tomorrow.” said Frank Baldesarra CEO of “Although these unprecedented times have created many new challenges, our entire team is very proud to be working with Reni and his team as we all adjust to new ways of working together. This partnership will help students across Canada to continue to learn, socially engage online and very importantly stay positive about their STEM passions and futures.”

With the support of Youth Science Canada’s National Science Fair Network, as well as partners like NSERC PromoScience, Intact Financial Corporation and Cenovus Energy, YSC Online STEM Fair will provide participants with feedback, opportunities for mentorship, as well as virtual recognition for outstanding projects.

YSC Online STEM Fair is open to any student in Canada from grades 7 to 12 (secondary 1 to Cégep in Quebec), looking to showcase their ideas and discoveries in a time when innovation is more needed and perhaps more valued than ever.

The new online experience is expected to launch for project entries and STEM Expo exhibitors in Early May.

About Youth Science Canada
Established in 1962, Youth Science Canada fuels the curiosity of Canadian youth through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects. The registered charity works to ensure that Canadian youth have the capacity and skills to generate and answer questions and identify and solve problems. YSC also engages leading public and private sector organizations in the development of a national STEM network of Canadian youth. For more information, please visit

About is a global online publisher and discussion forum for problem solving, tech news, innovations and resources, with a simple mission to inspire engineering minds to be and do better. The company’s ProjectBoard platform, now powering, provides Makers and STEM communities a fun and engaging way to share ideas, develop projects and learn in groups online.

For more information:
Melissa Arauz
Torchia Communications
514-299-8290 ext. 205

Research shows new drug can protect hearts in breast cancer patients

In a recent paper published March 2020 in Nature Cancer, research co-authored by Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, shows how heart damage that often results from a widely employed cancer chemotherapy called doxorubicin can be prevented by a new experimental drug referred to as BAI1.

“It’s been well known for years that doxorubicin, a very effective component of regimens used to treat multiple cancers and leukemias in adults and children, has a serious downside of causing cardiac damage in some patients that can lead to eventual heart failure,” said Kirshenbaum. “Finding a way to prevent that damage while retaining doxorubicin’s anti-cancer benefits, is what drove this investigation.”

The work was five years in the making and was conducted in close collaboration with investigators Drs. Richard Kitsis and Evridipis Gavathiotis, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York (Download PDF): A small-molecule allosteric inhibitor of BAX protects against doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy. The work was also recently applauded by NIH’s National Cancer Institute website.

“Collaborations such as these can lead to major advancements and breakthroughs, and this is no exception” said Dr. Grant Pierce, Executive Director St. Boniface Hospital Research. “Our sincere congratulations to Dr. Kirshenbaum, Professor Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba, and his associates on this work, which has the potential to save and extend many lives affected by breast cancer.”

The new study builds on insights from the investigators’ earlier research on cardiac damage by doxorubicin and the basic biology of a protein called BAX. Working through BAX, doxorubicin causes two different forms of cell death in the heart. BAI1 targets BAX to block both of these forms of cell death. Studies in animal models showed that BAI1 prevents heart failure from doxorubicin without interfering with the ability of doxorubicin to treat cancer. This work is important because it identified BAX as a single druggable target to prevent heart failure from doxorubicin. Further down the road, it may allow oncologists to prescribe higher doses of doxorubicin in combination with other cardiotoxic drugs, without causing heart damage.

With proof of concept now established, clinical trials will be initiated soon in the United States to test doxorubicin effects when administered in conjunction with BAI1.

To researchers seeking treatments and a vaccine for COVID 19 – we stand with you.

To all the researchers around the globe who are working tirelessly to develop treatments and a vaccine for COVID 19 – we stand with you.

We know that science is the only thing that will beat this. 

The vaccines for cholera, typhoid, diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis, tetanus, yellow fever, typhus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, meningitis, and hepatitis A & B were all cures developed by medical scientists working tirelessly in laboratories to test and refine their theories before successfully administering treatments to people.    

Millions and millions of lives have been saved in the last 150 years because of the discoveries supported by robust, peer-reviewed medical research. 

Conquering COVID-19 will be no different, but it will take time.  So we need to buy time for our medical professionals by flattening the curve, but we also need to do it in order to support the researchers who are racing against time.

Please follow the advice of our public health officials.  Be part of the solution! 

  • Wash your hands. 
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Stay home if you feel sick.  
  • Encourage employees to work from home.  
  • Hold meetings remotely. 
  • Cancel large gatherings. 
  • Stop all non-essential travel. 

St. Boniface Flax Research featured on popular & YouTube channel

Dr. Michael Greger gave a tremendous shout-out to researchers here at St. Boniface Hospital Research and Dr. Grant Pierce‘s Cell Biology Lab, for their work, which Dr. Greger cites multiple times in a new video called “The Benefits of Flax Seeds for Inflammation“.

Dr. Greger has more than half a million subscribers on multiple social media channels, who follow his recommendations and advice which he shares based on his own analysis of thousands of peer-reviewed papers on science and nutrition.

Kudos to Dr. Grant Pierce and his co-authors on this recognition of their amazing work and key findings!

St. B Spin-off Success – Monteris Medical Founders to Receive Pioneer in Technology Award

Monteris Medical, one of first and most successful spin-off companies originating from St. Boniface Hospital Research, and now the leader in image-guided laser ablation systems for the brain, announced today that its founders, Dr. Mark G. Torchia and Richard Tyc, are the 2020 recipients of the Pioneer in Technology Award by The Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics (SBMT).

Torchia first started thinking about the challenge — using a laser to eliminate brain tumours that were too difficult or risky for traditional surgery — in the early ’90s when he was a principal investigator and Director of Clinical Research at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre.

Known as a creative problem-solver and innovator, Torchia was inducted into the St. Boniface Hospital Research Hall of Fame in 2016, and more recently, he was named the University of Manitoba’s first Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) in 2018.

Congratulations Dr. Torchia on another outstanding recognition for your pioneering work!

Albensi named Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Neurobiology

Congratulations to Dr. Benedict Albensi, Principal Investigator, St. Boniface Hospital Research, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders (DND); Professor & Manitoba Dementia Research Chair, Max Rady College of Medicine, Dept. of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, for his recent appointment as Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Neurobiology.

This bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal covers all aspects of molecular neuroscience and contemporary molecular brain research with an Impact Factor of 5.076 (2017). Established in 1987, Molecular Neurobiology is published by Springer Science+Business Media out of New York City.

Dr. Benedict Albensi is also a Core Member in Biomedical Engineering with the Faculties of Health Sciences, Engineering & Science, Research Affiliate Centre on Aging, and serves as Chair of the Everett Endowment Fund for Alzheimer’s Research.