Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging Summer Newsletter

Our tenants here at the CLSA have released their summer newsletter! Click below to read more on the CLSA, and the amazing work that they are doing here at McMaster Innovation Park.

Canada is experiencing a remarkable change in the make-up of its population, with people living longer than before. By 2036, nearly one in four Canadians will be age 65 or older. Thus the CLSA has come at an important time allowing us to explore how differently we age and providing information on how we can best cope with the changes that come along with aging.

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McMaster Research studies everyday lives of intellectually disabled

Ann Fudge’s innovative research project, “My Life in the City,” is using GPS and Geographic Information System technology, voice recordings and iPads to record  the experiences of the intellectually disabled and map their community connections.

Source: Toronto Star


Sean Rowley lives with his mother in a modest brick home near Toronto’s Eglinton West subway station.

But as McMaster University researcher Ann Fudge Schormans has discovered, the outgoing 29-year-old is very much engaged in his city.

A typical week includes delivering baked goods via public transit for his part-time job with Lemon & Allspice Cookery in Leaside; boarding the College streetcar to his Bollywood dance lessons at the National Ballet School’s Jarvis St. studios and zipping down the University subway to attend self-advocacy meetings at a midtown community centre.

He regularly eats out in restaurants in Little India on Gerrard St. E.; attends literacy classes at Frontier College near Yonge and St. Clair; and volunteers at St. John’s Mission near Broadview and Queen St. E.

But what are those experiences like for Rowley and others with intellectual disabilities?

Schormans is hoping to find out by following Rowley and 11 other Toronto residents this summer as they go about their daily lives.

Her innovative research project, “My Life in the City,” is using GPS and Geographic Information System technology, voice recordings and iPads to record their experiences and map their community connections. If successful, Schormans hopes to expand the pilot project to northern and rural communities across Ontario and Canada. It is funded through a grant from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Ontario began closing institutions for people with mental and intellectual disabilities in the 1980s. Although there is some research about how these individuals have fared in school and employment settings, Schormans could find little else about what they do in the community.

As Rowley’s busy schedule attests, many with intellectual disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, low-functioning autism and other developmental delays, are eager to participate in city life. But what happens when they do?

“It’s not just where they go, but why they go there, what they do, who they talk to,” she says. “Did they choose to go there on their own, or did a social worker or someone else send them? And is this somewhere they even want to go?”

Questions of safety and whether this group feels excluded, ostracized or discriminated against are largely undocumented, Schormans says.

“What places do they avoid and why? What is it about a place that makes them come back?”

Schormans, who worked with people with intellectual disabilities for 20 years before becoming an academic, is collaborating with a variety of researchers from McMaster and the University of Toronto’s geography, social work and social sciences departments as well as community-based artists.

Schormans is accompanying each participant on three walks to create personal narratives around their life in the city.

In the fall, participants will meet as a group to share their stories, talk about common issues and discuss what the public and service providers need to know about them. They will script dramas around these issues, act them out and produce videos for a public forum next year to present the project’s findings.

All of the material will be available on a website for teaching and community use, she says.

The 12 participants, who range in age from 29 to late 50s, come from a variety of backgrounds. Some, like Rowley, have lived in the community all their lives in the care of their families. Several grew up in institutions for the developmentally disabled and now live on their own or in group settings in the city.

Rowley, whose mother is a retired school teacher, is one of the youngest and most well-travelled, Schormans says.

“His map will be quite large,” she says as she accompanies him onto the College St. streetcar. “Some of the others, those who live on their own, don’t venture very far outside their immediate neighbourhood.”

“Others lead very impoverished lives and their map centres around food banks, missions and churches that offer free meals,” she says. “Their travel is a whole different experience than Sean’s.”

Where does Rowley go on public transit?

“Everywhere,” he says with a broad smile. “I like it.”

But he doesn’t like it when people stare or give him “funny looks.”

“It is scary when people stare,” he says. “They are not friendly stares.”

What does he do?

“I just ignore it.”

Do the drivers notice?


Does he talk to people when he takes transit?

“Only people I know,” he says. “I don’t talk to strangers.”

Bioactive paper will revolutionize point-of-care diagnostics

A pair of University researchers have received a $600,000 CIHR award to develop a bioactive paper that aims to provide an inexpensive, point-of-care diagnostic tool to measure bronchitis in patients with airway diseases, such as asthma, COPD and chronic cough.

Dr. Parameswaran Nair, associate professor, Medicine, holds the CIHR Canada Research Chair in Airway Inflammometry. Dr. John Brennan is a Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry, and director of McMaster’s new BioInterfaces Institute. The research is supported by AllerGen NCE, a national network for asthma and allergic diseases research, headquartered at McMaster.

The paper strip will measure the quantity of eosinophil peroxidase (EPX), a protein that can be detected in sputum.

“We are developing a point-of-care diagnostic test using a bioactive, paper-based detection of EPX,” says Nair. “This test has the potential of a global application in both resource-poor and resource-rich countries in doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics, and by patients themselves for self-management.”

Approximately 50 per cent of asthma exacerbations and about a third of COPD exacerbations are caused by eosinophilic bronchitis — a bronchitis that is typically associated with allergies. Current management strategies do not measure bronchitis, but focus on symptoms and airflow, which are often inaccurate.

Treatment strategies for asthma and COPD that are based on EPX cell counts provide significantly better outcomes than strategies guided by conventional clinical assessments. However, quantitative EPX cell counts are not widely available and the results are not accessible in real time.

As a first step in finding a solution to this problem, Nair — along with the late Professor Freddy Hargreave, and Ann Efthimiadis — developed a sputum filtration device (Accufilter) that is protected by an international patent. In collaboration with Dr. Jamie Lee at the Mayo Clinic, Nair developed and validated a tool to accurately measure EPX in sputum.

Now, Nair and his team hope to transform this technology into a simple, paper-based strip by using novel “bio-inks.” The bioactive paper would offer a low-cost diagnostic that may revolutionize the management of airway diseases globally.

“Our goal is to pave the way for a frugal treatment strategy whereby patients will be able to self-adjust the dose of their corticosteroids based on their sputum eosinophil levels as detected by the EPX assay,” says Nair. “We can see applications of this technology worldwide.”

NSERC and CIHR have provided $600,000 over a period of three years through the Collaborative Health Research Program to support development of the biosensor.

Daily News McMaster

Health Sciences Researcher to benefit from Movember Grant

A McMaster researcher testing a promising new biological marker for diagnosing prostate cancer has received a Movember Discovery Grant.

Khalid Al-Nedawia, a researcher in the Department of Medicine, is among 40 new grant recipients across the country funded by Prostate Cancer Canada. Each recipient of a Discovery Grant will receive up to $200,000 over a two-year term. The funds will be used to further innovation in prostate cancer research, and focus on a broad range of topics — from basic biological science to population health.

For his part, Al-Nedawi is assessing the potential of the so-called “biomarker” to tell prostate cancer patients from normal subjects, including its ability to predict the metastasis of prostate cancer and its ability to differentiate between prostate cancer and non-cancerous conditions.

For decades, the standard biomarker for prostate cancer diagnosis was prostate specific antigen (PSA), although many studies have confirmed it can’t differentiate between benign and life-threatening tumors. This leads to a large number of unnecessary biopsies and the overtreatment of low-risk patients, Al-Nedawi explains.

Al-Nedawia will receive $194,000 for his research project, “The role of microvesicular-PTEN in prostate cancer: a diagnostic potential.”

Source:  Daily News McMaster

PhD student “saw the light” on choosing McMaster for his research

McMaster Daily News 

Dinesh Basker applied to graduate schools around the world. He was accepted to three, but you might say he “saw the light” in choosing McMaster.

“I was interested in coupling chemistry with physics,” says Basker, who hails from the province of Tamil Nadu in India.

As he looked into options for graduate study, he learned about the work of associate professor Kalaichelvi Saravanamuttu in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Her research group combines physics and optics with chemistry to examine systems that simultaneously undergo chemical and optical changes.

“There are very few people working in this field who combine chemistry with optics,” says Basker, who was accepted as a master’s student and has since successfully transferred to the PhD track.

Basker received an engineering degree from the Madras Institute of Technology at Anna University, studying rubber and plastics technology. “I decided I have to be in this field,” he says.

He explains that the Saravanamuttu group studies opto-chemical phenomena, including the creation of light tubes, or waveguides, using various kinds of polymer materials. Photochemical reactions are triggered, which spontaneously divide one light beam into tens of thousands of discrete filaments.

Essentially, the process can be described in lay terms as “making about 40,000 light-guides with one low-cost white light bulb.”

A waveguide is any kind of physical structure that guides waves, such as electromagnetic waves or sound waves. An optical waveguide serves to guide light for many purposes from photonic devices to fiber optic cables.

Basker’s doctoral research expands on the Saravanamuttu lab’s work by using cylindrical light-guides made of epoxide, a material that has good mechanical and thermal stability. Epoxide “is like a gold of a polymer,” says Basker. “It’s used everywhere, when you want to fabricate something tough.”

“We were working with a particular type of material for all our previous experiments,” says Saravanamuttu. “Then Dinesh showed us that we could actually see the same process with a much tougher material, through a different type of chemistry. That was really an ‘aha’ moment for us. We saw that we could really tune the materials to our needs. That has been one of Dinesh’s key contributions to the group.”

Basker is quick to point out that their research is in the early exploratory stages. “Honestly speaking, we are still trying to understand this phenomenon. There’s a lot of interesting science involved in it.”

However, there are definite possibilities for practical applications down the road. “Dinesh’s work opens an inexpensive, single-step and room-temperature route to robust light guiding architectures that would be extremely challenging and expensive to fabricate through conventional means,” says Saravanamuttu.

A provisional patent has been filed for her lab’s work, which is funded through an NSERC Strategic Project Grant, jointly held by Saravanamuttu and Michael A. Brook, an organic chemist at McMaster. Current studies are examining the potential of these waveguide architectures as light-harnessing and light-guiding coatings that could improve the efficiency of optical devices including solar cells.

Along with his doctoral research, Basker also works as a teaching assistant, helping undergraduates with their research, marking exams and leading tutorials. And while he has only just begun work on his thesis, there is no question what his future plans are. “I want to do research for the rest of my life.”


The CLSA featured on CBC News: Living longer and better? Study suggests yes

Our tenants here at the CLSA were featured on CBC News yesterday. A Danish study suggests that we’re living longer and better, and the CLSA is helping us find out why. With the rising age of the Canadian Population the timing has never been better. See below for full article and video from CBC.

People in their 90s are in better shape today than people of a similar age were a decade ago, a study out of Denmark suggests.

Researchers at the Danish Aging Research Center at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense compared the mental and physical abilities at age 93 of Danes born in 1905 with those of a second group born in 1915 — at age 95.

Betty Convery says her secret to healthy aging is to stay active<br /><br />
physically, mentally and socially.

Betty Convery says her secret to healthy aging is to stay active physically, mentally and socially. (CBC)

Despite being two years older at assessment, the 1915 group scored better on both cognitive tests and the ability to carry out basic activities such as getting out of a chair.

There were 2,262 in the 1905 group and 1,584 in the 1915 group.

“This finding suggests that more people are living to older ages with better overall functioning,” editors of the medical journal The Lancet said. “If this development continues, the future functional problems and care needs of very elderly people might be less than are anticipated.”

The researchers suspect that better diets earlier in life, education and physical activity accounted for the better performance.

“Are we not only living longer, but are we living better?” the study’s lead author, Dr. Kaare Christensen, head of the Danish Aging Research Center at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, said in a YouTube presentation of the findings.

That’s an open question in Canada, said Parminder Raina, a professor in the department of clinical epidemiology & biostatistics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

Raina is the principal investigator for the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging — a study of 50,000 men and women across Canada between the ages of 45 and 85 who will be followed for the next 20 years using questionnaires, physical assessments and collection of blood and urine samples.

Canada’s 90+

218,495 Canadians were 90 or older in 2011.

In 2001, there were 134,120 in that age group.

Canada has more than 5,000 people who are older than 100.

Sources: Statistics Canada, Prof. Parminder Raina

Raina points out that one of the limitations of the Danish study is that Christensen’s team lacked data from a disease perspective.

“It’s one thing to have average score of cognition. But it would be nice to see were there differences in how people developed dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Raina.

“Eighty per cent of the current living older people are living independently in their own communities. But the 20 per cent who have very complex diseases, they require the health-care system to support them. So the question is how do continue to keep these people in good health and in their own homes?”

The Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging will look at how people’s cognitive status changes over time, including the consequences of differences diseases and disability in terms of living independently. Researchers are also interested n looking at how social inequalities determine how people age, Raina said.

In 2011, Canada had 218,495 residents 90 and older, according to Statistics Canada.

Betty Convery of Toronto celebrated her 90th birthday in June by walking around top of the CN Tower, 365 metres above the ground.

“I feel you have to keep active,” Convery advised. “Keep moving and keep an interest in what’s going on around you.”

Convery has observed a difference in earlier generations. Convery said she used to visit her grandmother in a nursing home when she was in her 80s. “I don’t think they had nearly the activities that I am able to do here.”

The Danish study was funded by the Danish National Research Foundation, the U.S. National Institute on Aging, Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation and Velux Foundation.

The Canadian study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Mac program targets top talent

Source: Hamilton Spectator 

Call it McMaster’s brain gain.

This summer, some of the world’s best and brightest young minds are converging on the university as part of a unique program aimed at fostering global partnerships and boosting the school’s profile as an international research destination.

“Science is an international endeavour,” said Margaret Fahnestock, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences. “The more we can engage people around the world in our research, the better off Canada will be.”

Nine top undergraduate students from countries such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil have been matched up with Fahnestock and other professors as part of the 12-week research internship.

They’ll spend the summer meeting with local business leaders and contributing to research on everything from solar power to railway safety.

Fernando Eguiarte Solomon, a student at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City, is working with Fahnestock and her team to study the molecular underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease — a dream job for the biopharmaceutical chemistry major.

“We’re hoping to get Fernando interested enough in this project that he’ll want to stay,” said Fahnestock.

And it looks like there’s a good chance he will.

The 24-year-old said he’s considering returning to Canada for graduate school. In fact, there’s a program right up his alley at the University of Toronto.

“I’m not sure when it will happen, but I’d like to,” he said.

While attracting budding researchers is crucial to the Mitacs Globalink program, it’s not the only benefit, Fahnestock noted. It also sets the bar high for her students, and exposes them to alternative methods of research.

“No matter where you are trained, it is always helpful and educational to see how things are done in another part of the world or in another lab,” she said.

It’s the fourth year McMaster has hosted students in the Globalink program, which is quickly expanding across the country. Since it started in 2009, it’s grown from 17 students to 285, at 32 Canadian universities.

“It’s a national program,” said Arvind Gupta, CEO and scientific director for Mitacs — a not-for-profit research organization. “It’s really designed for us to find a mechanism to put Canada on the global map in terms of attracting the top talent.”

In Gupta’s view, Canada simply hasn’t paid enough attention to international recruitment in the past — or its economic benefits. And he’s not just talking about student fees.

“What we don’t think about is the long-term economic impact,” he said.

It appears the federal government is listening. In the last budget, it allocated $13 million over two years to the program, and is pushing for Globalink to grow.

“They’ve asked us to look for opportunities for Canadian students to do something similar abroad, to get international research experience,” Gupta said.

Each year, more than 200,000 international students study in Canada, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. In 2010, international students spent in excess of $7.7 billion, created more than 81,000 jobs and generated over $445 million in government revenue, the department estimates.

905-526-3368 | @TeriatTheSpec

Researchers crack causes behind Spanish Flu’s ‘waves’

Daily McMaster News 

Just as the First World War was coming to an end in 1918, three waves of the deadliest influenza pandemic in history, known as the Spanish flu, hit England and Wales.

But why does the flu arrive in multiple waves? McMaster researchers recently discovered three contributing factors: the closing and opening of schools, temperature changes and (most importantly) changes in human behaviour.

“We found all three factors were important in 1918, but that behavioural responses had the largest effect,” says David Earn, an investigator with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, and a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

The study appears in the July 10 online issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

The researchers did not measure behavioural change directly. Instead, their model shows that the three waves could only be explained if people reduced infectious contact rates when recent influenza mortality was high. Possible mechanisms include avoiding large gatherings, keeping distance from other people and hand-washing.

The study’s findings are significant as global health officials keep watch on an emerging virus — Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) — which is said to be more deadly than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and has already spread from Saudi Arabia to France, Germany, Italy and Britain. Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, has called MERS a “threat to the entire world.”

To investigate factors underlying the three-wave shape of the 1918 influenza epidemic, McMaster researchers developed what they describe as a simple epidemic model. It incorporates three factors in addition to natural disease spread: school terms, temperature changes during an outbreak and changes in human behavior.

To collect information, researchers scoured available historical documents and collected data about weekly influenza deaths.

The paper concludes that behavioral changes of people, temperature trends and school closure all contributed to the three-wave mortality patterns in the UK during the 1918 influenza pandemic, with behavioral changes having the greatest effect.

Earn conducted the study with colleague Dr. Jonathan Dushoff, associate professor, Department of Biology, and researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Queen’s University and the University of Victoria.

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

- See more at:

McMaster University Advancement earns most awards at national conference

McMaster Daily News 

McMaster’s University Advancement team brought home nine Prix D’Excellence awards from this year’s Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education conference – the most won by any University in the country.

The CCAE is a national organization that promotes excellence in educational advancement. Its annual awards recognize outstanding achievements in alumni affairs, public affairs, communications, development, student recruitment and overall institutional advancement.

McMaster’s University Advancement team was recognized for work in areas that range from fundraising and community outreach to government relations and the redesign and re-launch of the Daily News.

McMaster was also recognized for its innovative approach to using social media for fundraising and for building awareness around last year’s football playoffs.

“Our unique, integrated advancement team is one of the most effective in the country,” said Mary Williams, vice-president university advancement. “These awards are well-deserved and recognize the many talented people who have accomplished so much this year on behalf of McMaster.”

“University Advancement provides a wide range of important services for McMaster,” said President Patrick Deane. “The team operates at an exceptionally high level and these awards reiterate that. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

The full list of awards is below:


Best Annual Fund Initiative – McMaster 125 Bursary Challenge

Best Community Outreach Initiative – Open Streets Hamilton: McMaster Edition

Best News Release – The Infographic News Release: An Innovation in Storytelling

Best New Idea: Creativity on a Shoestring – White Coat Letter Writing Campaign


Best website – The new Daily News

Best Donor Relations Initiative – Giving Report 2012

Best Brochure, Newsletter or Flyer – McMaster Highlights: Hamilton Edition


Best Use of Social Media – Vanier Cup 2012 (on,,

Best New Idea: Creativity on a Shoestring – Flickr Event Donor Slideshows: An Immediate Post-event Donor Touch


Two Ontario Centres of Excellence Projects are the First Approved Under Ontario-Quebec Life Sciences Research Initiative

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – July 4, 2013) - Two Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE)-backed projects are the first to be approved under an Ontario-Quebec life sciences research partnership.

“OCE is pleased that our projects have been recognized as important to this partnership,” said Dr. Tom Corr, President and CEO of OCE. “Through our academic and industry networks as well as our expertise in mentoring, we have been able to support candidates that will further develop their ideas to enable growth and innovation across the Ontario-Québec Life Sciences Corridor.”

Last June, a partnership was launched between key players from Ontario, including OCE, and the Québec Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM) to fund collaborative life sciences research projects between the two provinces. It was the first initiative out of the Ontario-Québec Life Sciences Corridor announced at the 2011 BIO International Convention. It builds upon two previous pilot projects and existing strengths within the two provinces to increase innovation, productivity, investment and job creation.

The two OCE projects were among eight under consideration. They are:

  • A partnership between McMaster University, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Spectral Applied Research in Richmond Hill and the National Optics Institute in Quebec City that is developing an instrument add-on device to improve efficiency in drug screening processes.
  • A partnership between Toronto’s InDanio Biosciences and McGill University in Montreal to advance development of a new drug discovery platform for cancer and metabolic disease therapies.

“These two projects highlight the tremendous potential of the Ontario-Québec Life Sciences Corridor and will enhance the reputation of the life sciences industry in Canada’s two largest provinces,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation. “Important collaborations such as these bring new opportunities for innovation, investment and job creation that will benefit all Canadians.”

The Québec/Ontario CQDM Funding Program is supporting collaborative research projects that seek to develop new tools for biopharmaceutical research. Other partners include MaRS Innovation and Ontario Brain Institute.

“Seeking innovation is a difficult challenge. One of the goals of this Quebec-Ontario program is to answer this challenge by promoting collaboration between academic disciplines. The CQDM-OCE partnership is proudly enhancing innovation across Quebec-Ontario boundaries,” said Diane Gosselin, President and CEO at CQDM.

The program was open to all researchers in Québec and Ontario from academic institutions or small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Selected projects are eligible for up to $750K in funding for three years. CQDM will fund the Québec arm of the project.

About Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc. (

Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc. drives the commercialization of cutting-edge research across key market sectors to build the economy of tomorrow and secure Ontario’s global competitiveness. In doing this, OCE fosters the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and is a key partner with Ontario’s industry, universities, colleges, research hospitals, investors and governments. A champion of leading-edge technologies, best practices and research, Ontario Centres of Excellence invests in sectors such as advanced health, digital media and information communications, advanced manufacturing and materials, and cleantech including energy, environment and water. OCE is a key partner in delivering Ontario’s Innovation Agenda as a member of the province’s Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). Funded by the Government of Ontario, the ONE is made up of regional and sector-focused organizations and helps Ontario-based entrepreneurs rapidly grow their company and create jobs. For more information visit

About CQDM

CQDM is a meeting ground for all stakeholders in biopharmaceutical research. Its principal mission is to fund research projects carried out in partnership between the academic and private sectors. An innovative Canadian initiative, CQDM has two major goals: to accelerate the drug discovery process and to develop safer and more effective drugs. CQDM is funded through contributions from Pfizer Canada, AstraZeneca, Merck, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., GlaxoSmithKline Inc., Eli Lilly Canada Inc., Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence (BL-NCE) and the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie du Québec. For more information:

Media contact: Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc.
Stuart Green
Manager, Media Relations
416-861-1092 x 1022