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1 December 2009
University of Manitoba
Contact: Janine Harasymchuk
UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA PART OF NEW
NATIONAL NETWORK TO STUDY CHILD
Focus on cerebral palsy, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome
University of Manitoba researchers will play a major role in a new national
network focused on researching the genetic and environmental causes of cerebral
palsy, autism spectrum disorders and fetal alcohol syndrome, training the next
generation of researchers in pediatric brain development, and will disseminate
new knowledge into improved diagnosis, treatments and interventions to inform
care delivery and policy decisions.
Headquartered at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for
Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT) at the Child & Family Research
Institute (CFRI) and led by Dr. Daniel Goldowitz, the network will receive
$19,572,000 in funding over five years from the Networks of Centres of
Excellence of Canada (NCE).
“The University of Manitoba is very pleased to provide strong support to
the NeuroDevNet NCE,” said Dr. Digvir S. Jayas, Vice-President (Research) at
the University of Manitoba. “The engagement of two of our leading researchers in
the areas of developmental neuropathology and genetic determinants of forebrain
development will help address these major medical and societal issues.”
At the University of Manitoba, Dr. David Eisenstat, associate professor in
the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and Child Health and
Scientist at the Manitoba Institute of Child Health, will be extensively involved in
the national network of researchers collaborating on this new NCE.
Dr. Marc Del Bigio, professor of pathology in the Faculty of Medicine,
Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neuropathology, and scientist at the
Manitoba Institute of Child Health, joins his colleague Dr. Eisenstat in working
with this new NCE. Del Bigio studies brain disease processes and consequences.
Among the disorders he studies are damages associated with premature birth,
especially bleeding in the brain, which can cause cerebral palsy and learning
disorders. In addition, he has begun to study the effects of fetal alcohol exposure
in the developing brain.
Eisenstat’s laboratories are based at the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology
and the Manitoba Institute of Child Health and study master regulatory genes that
control networks of other genes required for proper brain development, including
how newly generated neurons get to their final destination and what type of
neuron they will become.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Canadian neuroscience investigators
to make an impact on three prevalent and devastating childhood disorders: autism
spectrum disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome and cerebral palsy,” said Eisenstat.
“The scope of this NeuroDevNet team will cover everything from gene discovery
to translation of this knowledge to affected patients and their families. It is an
honour to be part of this ambitious initiative.”
NeuroDevNet is the first trans-Canadian effort devoted to brain
development from both basic and clinical perspectives. The research network will
bring together Canadian experts in clinical assessment and treatment, genetics and
epigenetics, imaging, model organisms, knowledge translation, informatics, and
neuroethics. The network’s goals for the first five years include discovering the
genes involved in brain dysfunction.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) share characteristics such as
impairments in socialization and communication, repetitive interests and
behaviours. ASD affects more than 52,000 Canadian children and youth under the
age of 20.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is estimated to occur as frequently as one in every
100 live births in North America. Alcohol exposure during pregnancy causes mild
to moderate brain dysfunctions in processes such as memory, executive function,
social communication, attention span, motor and sensory differences.
Cerebral palsy occurs in approximately 2.5 per 1000 live births in
The NCE program is managed jointly by the three federal granting
agencies – the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – in partnership with Industry Canada.
For further information contact Janine Harasymchuk, research
communications and marketing manager, at (204) 474 – 7300.