Postdoctoral fellow Aaron Johnstone

UBC Okanagan study raises the standard for measuring nerve cell death

Research improves screening of experimental therapies for neurodegenerative disease

Researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus have developed a new and improved method to judge the effectiveness of experimental therapies for neurodegeneration—the progressive loss of neurons.

“Neurons—or nerve cells—are hugely important to our daily lives,” said post-doctoral fellow Aaron Johnstone and study lead author. “These specialized cells collect and process the large amounts of information that enter our bodies via our senses, control our muscles and organs, and form our thoughts and memories. When these cells become unhealthy, it leads to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, ALS, glaucoma and chronic pain.”

Johnstone says his study uses the first automated test specifically designed for measuring degeneration of sensory neurons grown in a lab.

Related: Young Conservatives form club at Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan

“The variability in nerve cell lengths, densities and shapes have traditionally made it difficult to reliably analyze their health,” said Johnstone. “This, in turn, has generated confusion about the effectiveness of potential pharmacological or genetic treatments.”

Using the new approach, which is software-assisted, the research team were able to measure nerve cell densities more accurately.

To do this the team grew nerve cells in a lab environment, and after establishing healthy neurons researchers mimicked the conditions that cause neurodegeneration. Neuron loss was then captured using fluorescent microcopy—a process that makes the tiny cells easier to see—and analyzed using a computer algorithm.

Related: UBC study focuses on reducing the fear of being too happy

Johnstone suggests that objective measurement is essential to the process of developing new medicines.

“This procedure makes evaluating new treatment options, like drugs or gene therapies, far more accurate and trustworthy,” Johnstone said.

The study is a collaboration between UBC Okanagan Vice Principal of Research Phil Barker’s lab and Robin Hallett, research fellow at Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital.

The study, published in PLoS One was supported by funds from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Health Research Fund of Quebec.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UBCO Heat teams unable to secure any wins against Mount Royal Cougars

The mens and womens volleyball and basketball teams went 0-4, but all have rematches Saturday night

Kelowna’s definitive Christmas market list

We’ve prepared a list of every market in the Central Okanagan

Your guide to winter light ups around the Okanagan

From Vernon to Summerland, with a stop in Kelowna, we’ve found some activities for you to enjoy

Rockets held scoreless in loss against Red Deer

Rockets will look for some points in final game of road trip against Edmonton

New maintenance crew to look after Okanagan Connector

Acciona Infrastructure Maintenance Inc. will replace Argo Road Maintenance Inc. in 2019

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

Most Read