Innovation Notebook: Hamilton’s research highlights

New drugs to treat Huntington’s disease could come from a discovery by Hamilton researchers about how to reverse symptoms of the hereditary, neurodegenerative illness.

A mutation in the gene that makes a protein called huntingtin causes the disease. A team led by McMaster University has taken that one step further, finding defective signalling for huntingtin activity in DNA repair.

The researchers also discovered a molecule called N6-furfuryladenine corrects the defect. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Krembil Foundation and the Huntington Society of Canada.

The discovery, published July 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), is the first new hypothesis for Huntington’s in 25 years that does not rely on traditional thinking about the causes of the disease.

Breast cancer treatment

A way to identify up to 85 per cent of women with early breast cancer who could be spared unnecessary chemotherapy has potentially been found in a study involving a McMaster University researcher.

Dr. Tim Whelan worked with American researchers to determine if a 21-gene assay could be used to predict the benefit of chemotherapy particularly for those with a mid-range risk of recurrence.

The study published July 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine involved 10,273 women with a certain type of breast cancer.

Pregnancy screening guideline

Pregnant women will continue to be screened for high bacteria levels in the first trimester regardless of whether they have symptoms of a urinary tract infection based on the recommendations of a task force that included a Hamilton researcher.

The updated guideline published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on July 9 will result in women with elevated bacteria levels being treated with antibiotics.

However, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care based its advice on low-quality evidence showing a small decrease in kidney infections among screened pregnant women and a decline in the number of low-birth-weight babies.

It’s the first update to the guideline since 1994 and Canadian women ages 21 to 41 were consulted about the benefits and harms of screening.

Dr. Ainsley Moore, associate professor of family medicine at McMaster University, was the first author of the recommendations funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Health information app

St. Joseph’s Healthcare is starting to use a secure online portal where patients can view their health information.

Ten patients got access to MyDovetale starting June 28 in the Mood Disorders Outpatient Clinic and the Kidney Transplant Clinic.

The portal allows them to co-ordinate appointments, see test results, fill out questionnaires and message their health care providers. They can access it on an app that works with both Apple and Android devices.

St. Joseph’s developed MyDovetale in 2017 with Epic electronic health record system and it has already won awards for innovation and leadership in digital health.

Deadly bleeding condition

A McMaster University medical student has won an international hematology award that comes with $42,000 in funding for his research into the causes of a deadly condition that causes excess bleeding.

The career development award from the American Society of Hematology means Nicholas Jackson Chornenki will be able to continue his work at the Thrombosis and Atherosclerosis Research Institute.

The second-year student studies disseminated intravascular coagulation which is a condition where small blood clots block small blood vessels throughout the bloodstream. The increased clotting depletes the ability to control bleeding.

Jackson Chornenki is hoping to identify early indicators of the condition to identify intensive-care unit patients most at risk.

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich