Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, JAMA, McGill, Mental Health Research / 06.11.2023 Interview with: Niki Hosseini-Kamkar PhD Postdoc, McGill University What is the background for this study? Response: Our primary question was: Do adults with a history of childhood trauma have altered brain responses to psychological challenges? Previous evidence indicated that this can occur in laboratory animals, but it has been unclear whether it occurs in humans. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Genetic Research, McGill / 22.11.2020 Interview with: Richard C. Austin, PhD Professor and Career Investigator of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario Amgen Canada Research Chair in Nephrology McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Ontario, Canada What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A previous study published in 2011 by my collaborator, Dr. Michel Chretien at the IRCM, identified a rare mutation in the PCSK9, termed Q152H. Individuals harboring this mutation demonstrated dramatic reductions in their LDL cholesterol levels and had a significantly lower risk of CVD. Furthermore, individuals harboring the Q152H mutation showed increases in longevity with no evidence of other diseases such as liver disease, cancer and chronic kidney disease. This Q152H mutation was unique with only 4 families in Quebec shown to harbor this genetic variant. In terms of its effect on PCSK9 expression/activity, the mutation at Q152H was precisely at the cleavage site in PCSK9 necessary for its activation. As a result, the Q152H mutation fails to be cleaved and activated, thereby blocking its secretion into the circulation. This is why the Q152H mutation is considered a loss-of-function PCSK9 mutant. Given our lab's interest in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and ER storage diseases, we began to collaborate with Drs. Chretien and Seidah at the IRCM to investigate whether this Q152H mutant, when overexpressed in liver cells, would cause ER stress and liver cell injury. This was based on the findings that the Q152H mutant does not undergo autocatalytic cleavage and its subsequent secretion from liver cells. It is well known in the literature that the accumulation of misfolded or inactive proteins in the ER gives rise to ER stress and cell injury/dysfunction. As a result, we initially showed to our surprise that overexpression of the Q152H mutant in liver cells failed to cause ER stress BUT increased the protein levels of several important ER chaperones, GRP78 and GRP94, known to PROTECT against liver cell injury/dysfunction. As part of our JCI study, we furthered these studies to examine the effect of the Q152H mutant when overexpressed in the livers of mice. This is where we demonstrated that the Q152H mutation showed protection against ER stress-induced liver injury/dysfunction. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Dermatology, JAMA, McGill, Mental Health Research / 17.11.2020

Editor's note: This piece discusses suicide. If you have experienced suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide and want to seek help, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting "START" to 741-741 or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Interview with: David-Dan Nguyen, MPH Research Fellow | Center for Surgery and Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital Medical Student | McGill University What is the background for this study? Response: There is ongoing concern about the side-effects of finasteride, a drug used for the management of alopecia and benign prostatic hyperplasia. These concerns have led to the coining of the “post-finasteride syndrome” which remains controversial. Indeed, there is conflicting evidence on the post-finasteride syndrome/adverse events associated with finasteride. We wanted to contribute to this conflicting body of evidence by examining suicidality, depression, and anxiety reports linked to finasteride use using the WHO’s pharmacovigilance database, VigiBase. Such pharmacovigilance databases are useful for the study of rare adverse events that are suspected to be associated with medication use. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, McGill, Neurology, Technology / 28.01.2020 Interview with: Yasser Iturria-Medina PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery Associate member of the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health McConnell Brain Imaging Centre McGill University What is the background for this study? Response: As background, two main points:
  • Almost all molecular (gene expression) analyses performed in neurodegeneration are based on snapshots data, taking at one or a few time points covering the disease's large evolution. Because neurodegenerative diseases take decades to develop, until now we didn't have a dynamical characterization of these diseases. Our study tries to overcome such limitation, proposing a data-driven methodology to study long term dynamical changes associated to disease.
Also, we still lacked robust minimally invasive and low-cost biomarkers of individual neuropathological progression. Our method is able to offer both in-vivo and post-mortem disease staging highly predictive of neuropathological and clinical alterations. (more…)
Author Interviews, McGill, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology / 09.05.2019 Interview with: Douglas Arnold, MD The Montreal Neurological Institute & Hospital McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada What is the background for this study? Response: Diroximel fumarate (DRF) is a novel oral fumarate, with a distinct chemical structure that is being developed for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). It is hypothesized that the distinct chemical structure of DRF may elicit less localized irritation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, potentially leading to improved GI tolerability. Diroximel fumarate is expected to have similar efficacy as dimethyl fumarate (marketed as TECFIDERA®), as both are converted to equivalent levels of monomethyl fumarate in the body. The EVOLVE-MS-1 study is primarily evaluating the safety of DRF and also exploring efficacy endpoints.   (more…)
Author Interviews, McGill, PNAS / 20.02.2019 Interview with: Ben Gold, a PhD candidate Lab of Robert Zatorre The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital) McGill University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: Music is just sound in air, but it carries considerable power. It captivates our brain’s reward system, we devote an enormous amount of time and money to it, and we're just beginning to tap its therapeutic potential. We wanted to explore how something so abstract could have such an impact, and since music is so well suited to establishing and manipulating patterns of sound as it unfolds, we focused on how it manipulates expectations. Previous research has shown that surprises are often the most emotional and pleasurable moments in music listening, but whether and how this engaged the brain's reward system was unclear. So we adapted an experimental protocol designed for studying learning and surprise about more concrete rewards like food or money, and applied it to a musical context during brain imaging. This protocol relies on participants making decisions from which we could infer their expectations, allowing us to estimate how surprised they were by each outcome whenever it occurred. In our case, we asked participants to make choices about colors and directions that were associated with different musical outcomes, but we didn't tell them what those associations were so that they they started with no expectations and learned as they went. We found that our participants could learn about music just like they would learn about how to find food or win money, and that the same neural process was involved. Specifically, we saw that the activity of the nucleus accumbens -- a central hub of the reward system -- reflected both how pleasant and how surprising each musical outcome was: a computation known as a reward prediction error. Across individuals, those who better represented these reward prediction errors in their nucleus accumbens also learned better about the music in the experiment, making more decisions over time to find the music they preferred.  (more…)
Author Interviews, CMAJ, Fertility, McGill, OBGYNE / 04.02.2019 Interview with: Natalie Dayan MD MSc FRCPC General Internal Medicine and Obstetric Medicine, Clinician-Scientist, Research Institute Centre for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE) McGill University Health Centre Montréal QC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Infertility treatment is rising in use and has been linked with maternal and perinatal complications in pregnancy, but the extent to which it is associated with severe maternal morbidity (SMM), a composite outcome of public health importance, has been less well studied. In addition, whether the effect is due to treatment or to maternal factors is unclear. We conducted a propensity matched cohort study in Ontario between 2006 and 2012. We included 11 546 women who had an infertility-treated pregnancy and a singleton live or stillborn delivery beyond 20 weeks. Each woman exposed to infertility treatment was then matched using a propensity score to approximately 5 untreated pregnancies (n=47 553) in order to address confounding by indication. Poisson regression revealed on overall 40% increase in the risk of a composite of SMM (one of 44 previously validated indicators using ICD-10CA codes and CCI procedure codes) (30.3 per 1000 births vs. 22.8 per 1000 births, adjusted relative risk 1.39, 95% CI 1.23-1.56). When stratified according to invasive (eg., IVF) and non-invasive treatments (eg. IUI or pharmacological ovulation induction), women who were treated with IVF had an elevated risk of having any severe maternal morbidity, and of having 3 or more SMM indicators (adjusted odds ratio 2.28, 95% CI 1.56 – 3.33), when compared with untreated women, whereas women who were treated with non-invasive treatments had no increase in these risks. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis, McGill, Pulmonary Disease / 30.07.2018 Interview with: Sara Abdallah, PhD Student, first author and Dennis Jensen, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education Associate Dean – Infrastructure, Faculty of Education Director, McGill Research Center for Physical Activity and Health Canada Research Chair in Clinical Exercise & Respiratory Physiology Associate Member, Translational Research in Respiratory Diseases Program Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: Many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) suffer from severe breathlessness at rest and on minimal exertion despite receiving optimal drug therapy for their underlying disease (e.g., bronchodilators). In these patients, breathlessness significantly diminishes exercise capacity and quality of life. Thus, research focused on identifying adjunct therapies for management of breathlessness in patients with advanced COPD is clinically relevant. A series of studies conducted in the 1970’s found that smoked cannabis caused bronchodilation (i.e., improved airway function) in healthy individuals and in patients with asthma. More recently, it has been demonstrated that delta-9 (∆9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the major cannabinoid constituent of cannabis) inhibits cholinergic contractions in isolated human bronchi and that a positive association exists between measure of lung function (e.g., forced expiratory volume in 1-sec) and cannabis use in patients with COPD. These studies lead us to hypothesize that inhalation of vaporized cannabis may alleviate exertional breathlessness and improve exercise tolerance in patients with advanced COPD by improving airway function at rest and during exercise. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Boehringer Ingelheim, McGill, Pharmacology / 19.07.2018 Interview with: Samy Suissa, PhD Director, Centre for Clinical Epidemiology, Lady Davis Institute Professor, Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and of Medicine McGill University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Sulfonylureas are widely used oral antidiabetic drugs that are recommended as second-line treatments after first-line metformin to treat patients with type 2 diabetes. While their safety has been studied extensively, studies in patients with poorly controlled diabetes in need of pharmacotherapy escalation have been sparse and limited. Our study evaluated whether adding or switching to sulfonylureas after initiating metformin treatment is associated with increased cardiovascular or hypoglycaemic risks, compared with remaining on metformin monotherapy. Using a large cohort of over 77,000 patients initiating treatment with metformin monotherapy, we found that adding or switching to sulfonylureas is associated with modest increases of 26% in the risk of myocardial infarction and 28% in the risk of death, as well as an over 7-fold major increase in the risk of severe hypoglycaemia leading to hospitalisation. In particular, we found that switching from metformin to sulfonylureas was associated with higher risks of myocardial infarction and death, compared with adding sulfonylureas to metformin.  (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, McGill, Nature / 29.06.2017 Interview with: Pr. Siegfried Hekimi PhD McGill University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We analyzed data about the longest living individuals over the period of time during which the record can be trusted. We found that there was no detectable plateauing of the maximum possible lifespan. This is consistent with not clearly observed plateau in the currently increasing average lifespan as well. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Diabetes, McGill, Nature / 24.05.2017 Interview with: Ilse Gantois, PhD Research Associate Dr. Nahum Sonenberg's laboratory Department of Biochemistry McGill University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by cognitive impairment and affects 1 in 4000 males and 1 in 6000 females. About 60% of persons with Fragile X also have autism spectrum disorder. FXS is caused by absence of Fragile X protein (FMRP), which results in hyperactivation of ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) and mTORC1 (mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1) signaling. We show that treatment with metformin, the most widely used FDA-approved antidiabetic drug, suppresses translation by inhibiting the ERK pathway, and alleviates a variety of behavioural deficits, including impaired social interaction and excessive grooming. In addition, metformin also reversed defects in dendritic spine morphogenesis and synaptic transmission. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cocaine, McGill / 24.05.2017 Interview with: Marco Leyton, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Psychiatry McGill University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Drug-related cues are potent triggers for eliciting conscious and unconscious desire for the drug. In people with severe substance use disorders, these cues also activate dopamine release in the dorsal striatum, a brain region thought to be involved in hard-to-break habits and compulsions. In the present study we found evidence that drug cues also activate this same dopamine response in non-dependent ‘recreational’ cocaine users. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, JAMA, McGill, Pharmacology, Stroke / 09.12.2016 Interview with: Christel Renoux, MD, PhD Assistant Professor, Dept. of Neurology & Neurosurgery McGill University Centre For Clinical Epidemiology Jewish General Hospital - Lady Davis Research Institute Montreal  Canada What is the background for this study? Response: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase the risk for abnormal bleeding, in particular, gastrointestinal tract bleeding. Previous studies also suggested an increased risk for intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) in patients treated with SSRIs compared to non users. However, even if this risk exists, the comparison with a non-treated group may exaggerate the strength of a potential association and the comparison with a group of patients treated with other antidepressants may help better delineate the risk. The potential bleeding effect of antidepressants is linked to the strength of serotonin inhibition reuptake, and antidepressants that are strong inhibitors of serotonin reuptake have been associated with the risk for gastrointestinal or abnormal bleeding compared with weak inhibitors but the risk of ICH is unclear. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, CT Scanning, McGill, MRI, Nature / 13.07.2016 Interview with: Dr. Yasser Iturria Medina PhD Post-doctoral fellow Montreal Neurological Institute What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We used over 200 peripheral molecular biomarkers, five different neuroimaging modalities and cognitive/clinical measurements to detect spatiotemporal abnormalities in subjects with dementia or with mild signs of cognitive deterioration. By means of a mathematical framework, we reordered all the biomarkers/descriptors considered, according to how much they change during the disease process. The results suggested that, contrary as suggested by more traditional clinical analyses, there are multiple early signs of neurodegeneration, at the molecular level and at the brain’s macroscopic and cognitive state. In particular, we observed notable early signs of generalized vascular dysregulation, which may be supporting the vascular hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease. However, we still need to perform deeper analyzes, in order to clarify the complex causal mechanisms that trigger the disease. (more…)
Author Interviews, C. difficile, Hospital Acquired, JAMA, McGill / 26.04.2016 Interview with: Yves Longtin, MD, FRCPC Chair, Infection Prevention and Control Unit Montreal Jewish General Hospital - SMBD Associate professor of Medicine, McGill University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Longtin: Clostridium difficile is a major cause of infection in hospitalized patients. Current infection control measures to prevent the spread of C. difficile in hospitals focuses almost entirely on patients who present symptoms. Patients with symptoms of diarrhea due to C difficile are placed under isolation in hospitals (for example, healthcare workers will wear a gown and gloves when caring for them). However, many studies have shown that some patients may be asymptomatic carriers of C. difficile. These patients carry the C difficile bacteria in their digestive tract without being sick. It was known that these asymptomatic carriers could spread the bacteria to other patients, but it was unclear whether putting them into isolation would help prevent the spread of the microbe in hospitals. Our study tested the hypothesis that placing asymptomatic carriers under isolation could lead to a decrease in the number of infections with C  difficile. (more…)
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Heart Disease, McGill / 14.03.2016 Interview with: Dr George Thanassoulis MD MSc FRCPC McGill University Health Center and Research Institute Montreal, Quebec, Canada What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Thanassoulis: Currently statins are recommended in most countries worldwide based on 10-yr risk of heart disease but because age is the best predictor of future heart disease this leads to many more older patients being eligible for statins at the expense of younger people.  This means that even young patients with higher levels of low-density cholesterol, a known cause of heart disease, are not eligible for statins until they are much older.  However, waiting for these individuals to become "old enough for treatment" permits their higher LDL  to continue to damage their arteries leading, in some cases, to advanced coronary disease at the time when statins are finally stated.  So we are missing an opportunity to effectively prevent heart disease. What our analysis shows is that we need to consider not just someone's risk of having a heart attack but also whether they would be expected to benefit from statins.  By integrating information from randomized trials we were able to show that there were over 9.5 million Americans who were at low risk (and not eligible for statin therapy) that would have the same absolute benefit as higher risk people who we currently treat.  These patients, as expected, were younger but had higher levels of LDL cholesterol.  We also showed that statin therapy in these individuals would avoid more than 250,000 cardiac events over 10 years.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Heart Disease, JACC, McGill / 13.02.2016 Interview with: Roxanne Pelletier, PhD Divisions of General Internal Medicine and of Clinical Epidemiology Department of Medicine The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre Montreal, Quebec, Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Pelletier: The increased risk of mortality in young females compared with males after acute coronary syndrome (ACS) remain difficult to understand. As gender-related characteristics has evolved considerably in the last decades (e.g. hours of paid work have increased significantly among women), we hypothesized that these sex differences in adverse outcomes following  acute coronary syndrome are partly explained by gender, rather than by biological sex itself. As explained in our paper, "Gender reflects social norms and expectations ascribed to women and men, in contrast to biological characteristics that are captured by sex. Gender can be referred to as the nonbiological aspects of being male or female (e.g., social roles, personality traits).Our team had previously shown that sex differences in access to care for ACS were partly explained by these gender-related characteristics, such that both men and women presenting with acute coronary syndrome and with personality traits and social roles traditionally ascribed to women (e.g. sensitive to the needs of others, shy, household  responsibility, child care) were waiting longer before diagnostic tests and were less likely to receive invasive treatment procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention, when compared to men and women with masculine gender-related characteristics. We then aimed to assess whether gender was also playing a role in sex differences in adverse outcomes following acute coronary syndrome. (more…)
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, McGill, Stroke / 14.11.2015 Interview with: Sophie Vincent, Medical Student McGill University and Kristian Filion, PhD FAHA Assistant Professor of Medicine Division of Clinical Epidemiology Jewish General Hospital/McGill University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Patients with carotid atherosclerosis causing vascular stenosis are at increased risk of stroke, which is the third leading cause of death in the United States and in Canada. Carotid artery stenting and carotid endarterectomy are the primary surgical options for the treatment of carotid stenosis. With the assumption that an endovascular approach would offer a more favorable safety profile than open surgical procedure, the use of stenting increased significantly following its entry into the market in the 1990s. However, despite this observed increase in use, the long-term safety and efficacy of stenting relative to endarterectomy remained unclear, which is why we decided to conduct this study. Although carotid artery stenting has more favorable periprocedural outcomes with respect to myocardial infarction, hematoma, and cranial nerve palsy, the observed increased risk of stroke throughout follow-up with stenting suggests that endarterectomy remains the treatment of choice for the management of carotid stenosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, JAMA, McGill, Pharmacology / 04.11.2015 Interview with: Tewodros Eguale, MD, PhD Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Research Fellow in Medicine Brigham and Women's Hospital Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. EgualeOff-label prescribing is common and has been identified as a potentially important contributor to preventable adverse drug events (ADE). Significant deleterious effects were reported with off-label use of some drugs. Moreover, studies in children, where drugs are often used without sufficient scientific investigation, have shown that off-label uses increase the risk of ADE.  In adults, there has been no systematic investigation of the effects of off-label use in real world situation. The lack of knowledge is related to the methodological challenges of measuring off-label use and its effects; specifically the lack of link between prescribed drugs and their indication for use. The Medical Office of the XXI Century (MOXXI) electronic health record (EHR), developed by team of researchers at McGill University, facilitates the documentation of treatment indications, reasons for discontinuation of drug orders and adverse drug event. These new features provided the first opportunity to systematically monitor and evaluate off-label use and the occurrence of adverse drug events.  This study took advantage of the use of this new generation of software in a network of primary care practices to systematicaly evaluate the effect of off-label use on ADEs. (more…)
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Heart Disease, Lifestyle & Health, McGill / 18.09.2015 Interview with: Sylvie S.L. Leung Yinko, MSc, RD Division of Clinical Epidemiology Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) Montreal (QC) and Louise Pilote, MD, MPH, PhD Professor of Medicine McGill University and Director of the Division of General Internal Medicine McGill University Health Centre Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Patients with premature acute coronary syndrome (ACS) are a vulnerable population of young or middle-aged adults at risk for future cardiovascular events. However, while health behaviors such as diet, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption and recreational drug use are important lifestyle factors that can influence cardiovascular risk, there is limited information about health behaviors in this population group. Additionally, there is indication in the literature regarding sex and age differences in health behaviors, but whether such differences exist in patients with premature acute coronary syndrome remained to be explored. Using data from GENESIS-PRAXY (GENdEr and Sex determInantS of Cardiovascular Disease from bench to beyond in PRemature Acute Coronary Syndrome), a large-scale prospective cohort study across Canada, US and Switzerland, we explored the health behavior profile of patients with premature ACS. As well, we examined whether there is a change in health behaviors 1 year post-ACS and assessed sex differences. Our results showed that the health behavior profile of men and women with premature Acute Coronary Syndrome are worse than that of the general population. We found a high prevalence of poor health behaviors in a young population with only modest changes after Acute Coronary Syndrome. Health behaviors remained suboptimal and worse than the general population, especially with regards to diet, smoking and recreational drug use. Sex differences existed in the prevalence of these behaviors at baseline and 1 year post-ACS but not in the magnitude of change after the ACS event. (more…)
Author Interviews, McGill, Mental Health Research / 01.09.2015

Fabrice Jollant, MD, PhD McGill University, Department of Psychiatry & Douglas Mental Health University Institute McGill Group for Suicide Studies Montréal (Québec), Interview with: Fabrice Jollant, MD, PhD McGill University, Department of Psychiatry & Douglas Mental Health University Institute McGill Group for Suicide Studies Montréal (Québec), Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Jollant: Suicide takes almost 1 million lives each year worldwide. Improving suicide prevention necessitates improving our understanding of the mechanisms leading to these complex acts. We know that while many people who died from suicide had experienced negative life events (divorce, job loss, grief), most people who experience these events will not commit suicide, not even think about suicide. Similarly, while more than 90% of suicide completers had suffered a major mental disorders (mainly depression and substance abuse) and treating these mental disorders can reduce suicide rates, 90% of patients will never die from suicide. Thus, research focuses now on the specific factors that make some individuals more vulnerable. We previously found that individuals who attempted suicide are more likely to make risky choices at a gambling task than patients who went through depression but never attempted suicide. They tend to choose the options that yield more gains immediately but are long-term disadvantageous. People who choose this way are also more likely to have problems in their interpersonal relationships, a classic trigger of suicidal crisis. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Jollant: This study continues our previous series of investigations. Here, we assessed decision-making in close biological relatives of suicide completers. We know that suicide is heritable and can run within some families. So, we were interested in knowing if risky decision-making could be one factor transmitted within families of suicide completers. We recruited healthy individuals who had lost a close biological relative from suicide, but never attempted suicide themselves. We found that these persons also tend to choose the riskiest options. However, we could not find some other cognitive deficits previously found in suicide attempters, e.g. deficient cognitive control. These normal cognitions may therefore counterbalance their deficits in decision-making and maybe protect them against suicide. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Heart Disease, McGill / 20.07.2015

Christopher Labos MD CM, MSc FRCPC Division of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health McGill University Montreal, Quebec Interview with: Christopher Labos MD CM, MSc FRCPC Division of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health McGill University Montreal, Quebec Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There have been great advances in the field of genetics in recent years. Especially in cardiology, a number of genetic variants have been identified that are associated with cardiovascular disease. But it is not clear how useful these variants are in terms of predicting future evens in patients that have already suffered a myocardial infarction. What we found in our study is that a genetic risk score composed of the 30 most common genetic variants associated with cardiovascular diseases was not useful in predicting recurrent events in the first year after a patient suffered a myocardial infarction. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, McGill, Parkinson's / 15.06.2015

Ron Postuma, MD, MSc Associate Professor Department of Neurology Montreal General Hospital Montreal, Interview with: Ron Postuma, MD, MSc Associate Professor Department of Neurology Montreal General Hospital Montreal, Quebec Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Postuma: The background is that we often think about Parkinson’s Disease as a single disease.  However, every clinician knows that there is a great deal of variability from patient to patient.  If we can understand the main aspects that separate patients into groups, we can target therapy better. The analysis used a semi-automated means to divide Parkinson’s patients into groups, using extensive information about motor and non-motor aspects of disease.  We found that the non-motor symptoms, especially cognition, sleep disorders, and blood pressure changes were the most powerful predictors of which group a patient would be in.  Based on these non-motor (and some motor aspects), the most accurate way to divide patients was into three groups - diffuse (many non-motor symptoms), pure motor, and intermediate (halfway between the other).  We then followed patients over time.  The diffuse group had, by far, the worse prognosis.  This was not only for the non-motor aspects, but the motor as well. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Lancet, McGill / 13.06.2015 Interview with: Dr Ahmad Haidar Ph.D. Division of Experimental Medicine Department of Medicine, McGill University Montreal, QC, CanadaDr. Ahmad Haidar Ph.D Division of Experimental Medicine, Department of Medicine McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Haidar: This is the first head-to-head-to-head comparison in outpatient setting of dual-hormone artificial pancreas, single-hormone artificial pancreas, and conventional pump therapy in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes. The main finding is that the dual-hormone artificial pancreas seems to outperform the other two systems in reducing nocturnal hypoglycemia in camp settings when the patients are very physically active during the day. Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Haidar: Glucagon has the potential to reduce nocturnal hypoglycemia if added to the artificial pancreas. However, this needs to be confirmed in larger and longer studies as the single-hormone artificial pancreas might be sufficient in home settings (this study was conducted at a camp, which is an environment different that home). (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, McGill, Nature / 12.03.2015

Prof. Moshe Szyf Ph.D. James McGill Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics McGill Interview with: Prof. Moshe Szyf Ph.D. James McGill Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics McGill University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Szyf: Humans exhibit a marked variation in traits both physical and behavioral and different susceptibilities  for developing disease. What causes this inter-individual variation? The prevailing dogma has been that changes in the sequences of genes or heritable genetic differences are responsible for these  differences. We tested here an alternative hypothesis that perhaps some of the reason for this natural variation in traits is not caused by differences in inherited genes but by “epigenetic” changes that alter the way genes work without changing the genes.  The main difference between genetic and epigenetic changes is that epigenetic changes could be introduced by experience and exposure to environment. The experiences that can cause epigenetic changes include physical as well as social environments. Although we had known that epigenetic differences occur in humans and animals we didn’t have evidence that these changes are behind the natural variation in traits that is observed in humans and animals. Ants are an exciting biological paradigm that exhibits quantitative variations in size and therefore provided a unique opportunity to test this hypothesis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, McGill, Salt-Sodium / 22.01.2015

Charles Bourque PhD James McGill Professor Centre for Research in Neuroscience Montreal General Hospital Montreal QC, Interview with: Charles Bourque PhD James McGill Professor Centre for Research in Neuroscience Montreal General Hospital Montreal QC, Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bourque: Previous work has established that there is a link between a high level of dietary salt intake and the development of hypertension. In particular, so-called “salt-sensitive” individuals display increases in blood pressure that correlate with significantly increased levels of serum sodium concentration. Increased sodium levels are known to cause an excitation of vasopressin (VP)-releasing neurons of the hypothalamus. We therefore tested the hypothesis that this increase can contribute to the increase in blood pressure associated with high sodium intake in rats. (more…)
Author Interviews, CMAJ, HPV, McGill, Vaccine Studies / 14.12.2014

Leah M. Smith PhD Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health (Smith, Kaufman, Strumpf) McGill University, Montréal, Interview with: Leah M. Smith PhD Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health  (Smith, Kaufman, Strumpf) McGill University, Montréal, Quebec   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Smith: The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and anogenital warts. The vaccine first became available in 2006. Since then, it has faced a great deal of controversy surrounding, in part, some of the unanswered questions about the real-world effects of the vaccine, especially on the young girls targeted for immunization. One issue that has received a great deal of public attention has been the concern that HPV vaccination might give girls a false sense of protection against all sexually transmitted infections that might lead them to be more sexually active than they would otherwise. As a result, some parents have been reluctant to have their daughters vaccinated. It is also reason why some religious groups have spoken out against the vaccine. This question is further important from a public health perspective because increases in risky sexual behaviour would inevitably also lead to increases in teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (excluding anogenital warts), which would of course undermine the potential health benefits of the vaccine.  In this study, we directly addressed the question of whether HPV vaccination has led to increases in pregnancy and non-HPV-related sexually transmitted infections (both of which are proxies for risky sexual behaviour) among adolescent girls. In our study of over 260,000 girls, we did not find any evidence that the HPV vaccine had a negative impact on these outcomes. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, McGill / 18.11.2014 Interview with: Todd Lee MD MPH FRCPC Consultant in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases Assistant Professor of Medicine, McGill University Director, General Internal Medicine Consultation Service, Chief of Service, 6 Medical Clinical Teaching Unit, McGill University Health Centre Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Lee: Antibiotics are often misused and overused in hospitalized patients leading to harms in terms of side effects, infections due to Clostridium dificile, the development of antibiotic resistance, and increased health care costs.  Antimicrobial stewardship is a set of processes which are employed to improve antibiotic use.  Through various techniques, stewardship seeks to ensure the patient receives the right drug, at the right dose, by the right route, for the right duration of therapy.  Sometimes this means that no antibiotics should be given. In implementing antimicrobial stewardship programs, some of the major challenges larger health care centers face include limitations in the availability of trained human resources to perform stewardship interventions and the costs of purchasing or developing information technology solutions. Faced with these same challenges, we hypothesized that for one major area of our hospital, our medical clinical teaching units, we could use our existing resources, namely resident and attending physicians, to perform "antimicrobial self-stewardship".  This concept tied the CDCs concept of antibiotic "time outs" (periodic reassessments of antibiotics) to a twice weekly audit using a locally developed checklist.  These audits were performed by our senior resident physicians in the context of providing their routine clinical care.  We also provided local antibiotic guidelines and regular educational sessions once a rotation. We demonstrated a significant reduction in antibiotic costs as well as improvement in two of the four major classes of antibiotics we targeted as high priority.  We estimated we saved between $140 and $640 in antibiotic expenses per hour of clinician time invested. Anecdotally, trainees felt the process to be highly valuable and believed they better understood the antibiotic use for their patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, McGill, Mental Health Research / 03.11.2014

Frank J. Elgar, PhD Associate Professor of Psychiatry Canada Research Chair in Social Inequalities in Child Health Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University Montreal, Quebec, Interview with: Frank J. Elgar, PhD Associate Professor of Psychiatry Canada Research Chair in Social Inequalities in Child Health Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University Montreal, Quebec, Canada Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Elgar: Our study addressed two questions. The first was whether cyberbullying has unique links to adolescent mental health, or is an extension of traditional (face-to-face) bullying. We measured various forms of bullying and found that cyberbullying does indeed have a unique impact on mental health. Our second question about protective factors in the home environment.  We examined the frequency of family dinners as potential a moderating factor - understanding, of course, that dinners are a proxy of various family characteristics that benefit adolescents, such as communication, support, and parental monitoring. We found that teens who were targeted by cyberbullying but had ate dinner with their families more often had significantly better mental health outcomes as a result. (more…)