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News & Events

We really enjoyed our time at CSC

Great presentations Stellena and Ritchie at CSC last week. Also great poster Erick! Looking forward to the productive summer ahead continuing our research.

Great Poster Sabrina

We had a great time at the 2nd annual Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research Conference on Friday and Saturday. Sabrina presented a great poster on using Multisegment Injection-Capillary Electrophoresis-Mass Spectrometry, a method developed in the Britz Group, for detecting cannabis metabolites in urine.

Congratulations Sandi on your Program Excellence Award

Help us congratulate Sandi on her Program Excellence Award! The Britz Group couldn't be prouder to see your success and be apart of your research opportunities.

We are excited to be attending the 102nd CCCE Conference in June

Check our Ritchie's, Erick's and Stellena's posters at the event being held in Quebec City from June 3rd to June 7th 2019.

Welcome to our new undergraduate students

A warm welcome to Sean, Rochelle and Nicolas our new undergraduate students. We are looking forward to a productive summer and can't wait to see the progress you all make on your projects.

Very excited to present our JoVE publication

We are so excited to share our JoVE article and video. Thanks for all the hard work Meera, Zach, Sabrina and Clara! Take a minute and check it out for yourself (link below).

High-throughput and Comprehensive Drug Surveillance Using Multisegment Injection-capillary Electrophoresis Mass Spectrometry

 

Undergraduate Thesis Day

A big congratulations to all of our undergraduate thesis students, Rebecca, Richel, Holly, Tiffany and Lucas, on their presentations today. We wish you nothing but the best for the future and have enjoyed participating in your research this past semester. 

Congratulations Sabrina

Congrats Sabrina on your successful thesis presentation today. We can't wait to continue our cannabis assay research and development this summer. 

Attend the Canadian Metabolomics Conference in Canmore Alberta

The Second Annual Canadian Metabolomics Conference will be held from May 1st to 2nd in Canmore, Alberta. The conference will highlight work by leading researchers, including new technologies and approaches for metabolomics research, and applications in various fields. The conference will feature networking opportunities and a poster session designed for trainees to present their work. The Alberta Epigenetics Network will be offering trainee travel awards. Our goal is to highlight the exceptional metabolomics science that is being done in Canada and abroad, and foster Canada’s leadership role in the global research community.

https://www.canmetcon.ca/

Congrats Alicia on your journal cover page publication

We are always excited when we can make it on the cover! A big congratulations to Alicia for her work on metabolic signatures of Cystic Fibrosis for Newborn Screening that is featured as the cover article in the Journal of Proteome Research.

Metabolic Signatures of Cystic Fibrosis Identified in Dried Blood Spots For Newborn Screening Without Carrier Identification

Congratulations Ritchie on receiving the 2019 Impact Award

The Impact Award is given to students in Chemistry who have published a high impact article or communication. Check out the article below. Also shout-out to Sandi for her contributions as well.

Robust Method for High-Throughput Screening of Fatty Acids by Multisegment Injection-Nonaqueous Capillary Electrophoresis-Mass Spectrometry with Stringent Quality Control

Thanks McMaster for featuring our Cystic Fibrosis work

Take a look at the exciting research going on in the Britz-McKibbin lab.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUajUH3oQ8Y

Congrats to Mai for a successful PhD Defense

Congrats to Mai for a successful PhD defense yesterday morning!

 

Mai-phd-defense-3

Designing a New Drug Test - CJMLS

Read our recent cover story/interview, "Designing a New Drug Test" by Jane Langille in the Fall 2018 edition of the Canadian Journal for Medical Laboratory Sciences.

 

Read here: https://csmls.org/csmls/media/documents/publications/journals/CJMLS_Fall2018_Proof4.pdf

Researchers announce new drug screening method

Canadian researchers have developed a new drug screening technique that could enable the rapid and accurate identification of fentanyl, along with many other illicit drugs which have been difficult to detect by urinalysis. 

The method developed at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., would also expedite results by enabling technicians to run many more tests simultaneously, eliminating the two-stage process currently used in testing, with improved accuracy. 

The new method, reported in the current edition of the journal Analytical Chemistry, would address one of the primary causes of the opioid epidemic by better enabling public health and law enforcement agencies to monitor the constant flow of new, synthetic drugs entering the illegal market. 

Current drug testing methods rely on immunoassays. An immunoassay is a biochemical test that measures the presence or concentration of a macromolecule or a small molecule in a solution through the use of an antibody or an antigen. Scientists say immunoassays are ineffective in testing many new, synthetic drugs, including synthetic opioids, tranquilizers, stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs. 

As a result, conventional testing methods produce a high number of false positives and false negatives, which requires additional tests to confirm findings. 

“Drug testing is always behind the times since screening relies on antibody reagents that target only known drugs and they are prone to error, which contributes to higher health care costs and delays to clinical decision making,” says Phillip Britz-McKibbin, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster and lead author of the study.

“Current technologies are not specific, accurate nor comprehensive enough, which impairs a physician’s ability to properly care for patients, such as monitoring for drug compliance, potential substitution or polydrug usage,” he says. Only accurate urine tests can show whether or not the patient is following a doctor’s prescription or taking other harmful substances that can hamper treatment efficacy and patient safety, Britz-McKibbin adds.

Researchers plan to further validate the new method by comparing it to conventional screening tests for a wide range of drugs of abuse on a group of hospital inpatients.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA granted 510(k) clearance to the Sefria fentanyl urine enzyme immunoassay – the first immunoassay of its kind to receive clearance. The FDA action makes it available for use by certified reference laboratories, hospitals, physician offices and other healthcare settings that perform testing. Previously, fentanyl immunoassay tests were only available for forensic testing.

The Sefria technology was developed and is being marketed by Pomona, Calif.-based Immunalysis Corp., a division of Alere Inc. (NYSE: ALR).

The availability of an FDA-cleared fentanyl immunoassay enables more reference and hospital laboratories to conduct precise qualitative screening, which is a key strategy in stemming the alarming increase in misuse and abuse of fentanyl,” says Kathy Miller, vice president of sales and marketing at Immunalysis Corp. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, death rates from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased by 72.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, partly due to their low cost and high potency, which can be up to 50 times greater than heroin and 100 times greater than morphine. 

Fentanyl-related drug overdoses are often caused by unintentional ingestion when it is combined with street market heroin or cocaine, according to scientists, making it much more dangerous.

 

Link: http://theinfluence.org/researchers-announce-new-drug-screening-method/

Toward a better sweat test for babies with cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an incurable genetic disease in which patients have chronic lung infections. The sooner CF is diagnosed, the better the symptoms can be managed. But current tests can give ambiguous results that do not reflect disease progression. Today, in ACS Central Science, researchers reveal a new type of sweat test that can overcome this challenge.

Patients with CF have a genetic mutation that promotes mucus buildup and enables biofilms to form in their lungs, leading to frequent lung infections and breathing difficulty. In addition, chloride ions accumulate in these patients, and they excrete this as a “salty” sweat. Physicians have used this interesting effect to develop a sweat test for CF diagnosis. However, the test does not provide any staging or prognostic information and often fails in borderline cases. Most people with the gene (more than 70 percent) are “carriers” who don’t develop the disease, so a genetic test alone is also not sufficient to diagnose CF. Philip Britz-McKibbin and colleagues hypothesized that there could be other molecules found in sweat that would provide the basis for a better test.

The researchers profiled the chemical composition of sweat from screen-positive infants including both unaffected carriers and confirmed CF cases. They identified several unknown chemicals in sweat that were consistently associated in babies who had CF, in addition to chloride. The researchers suggest that testing for these alternative molecules could be done for cases in which the chloride sweat test is too close to call. They also intend to track the progression of CF and monitor treatment responses to therapy in children using these and other sweat molecules.

The authors acknowledge funding from Cystic Fibrosis Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and McMaster University.

The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2017/august/toward-a-better-sweat-test-for-babies-with-cystic-fibrosis.html

McMaster study reveals secrets of cystic fibrosis in baby sweat

New secrets have been revealed about how cystic fibrosis can manifest in young patients and how to treat it — and the answer lies in baby sweat.
McMaster study reveals secrets of cystic fibrosis in baby sweat

Photo : iStock

Cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease which affects children and young adults, comes with lifelong health complications including digestive problems and persistent lung infections.

A new McMaster University study, which was published in the journal ACS Central Science on Monday, sheds new light on how CF works and, researchers say, could lead to an improved prognosis and better therapies.

 

Read the story here, and in French here.

New technique may better detect cystic fibrosis in newborns

New technique may better detect cystic fibrosis in newborns

Dr. Phil Britz-McKibbin

Researchers have identified new biological markers of cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease which affects children and young adults, leaving them with lifelong health complications including digestive problems and persistent lung infections.

The findings, published in the journal ACS Central Science, shed new light on the underlying mechanisms of CF and could lead to improved prognosis and better therapies for a disease which is quite variable, affecting different children in different ways, say researchers.

“There are chemical signatures in sweat that tell us an infant has CF even when they do not exhibit any symptoms,” says Philip Britz-McKibbin, lead author of the study and a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster University. “We set out to discover whether there were chemical indicators detected in sweat that could complement the gold standard for CF diagnosis: the sweat chloride test.”

Read the full story here.

Scientists Discover Biological Markers Which Could Lead to Better Treatments for Cystic Fibrosis Patients

Newswise — Researchers have identified two new biological markers of cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease which affects children and young adults, leaving them with lifelong health complications including digestive problems and persistent lung infections.

The findings, published in the journal ACS Central Science, shed new light on the underlying mechanisms of CF and could lead to improved prognosis and better therapies for a disease which is quite variable, affecting different children in different ways, say researchers.

“There are chemical signatures in sweat that tell us an infant has CF even when they do not exhibit any symptoms,” says Philip Britz-McKibbin, lead author of the study and a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster University. “We set out to discover whether there were chemical indicators detected in sweat that could complement the gold standard for CF diagnosis: the sweat chloride test.”

The test is commonly used in universal newborn disease-screening programs and measures the concentrations of salt.  Elevated sweat chloride confirms that an infant actually has CF.  

But there are some obstacles that complicate clinical decision-making, explains Britz-McKibbin, because sweat chloride can result in ambiguous diagnoses in some borderline cases and does not reveal how the disease might progress for individual patients. 

“Sweat contains lots of information related to human health that researchers have not fully analyzed and we found some unexpected chemicals associated with CF,” he says.

Using a specialized technique developed at McMaster, scientists collected and analyzed sweat samples from infants in CF clinics at the McMaster Children’s Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

They identified several unknown chemicals beyond chloride that were consistently associated with babies who had CF, including two different drug and environmental compounds the infants secreted in sweat at much lower concentration levels.  

Testing for these biomarkers could be done in cases in which the chloride sweat test result is unclear, say researchers. The biomarkers also point to other underlying mechanisms that contribute to the progression of CF and could lead to better therapeutic interventions earlier in life.

“The easier it is to detect CF, the earlier it can be diagnosed, and the better people’s chances are at living a longer, healthier life”, says Joanna Valsamis, Chief Healthcare, Research and Advocacy Officer at Cystic Fibrosis Canada. “CF Canada invests heavily in research that aims to improve the lives of people living with CF, and findings such as those from Dr. Britz-McKibbin are crucial to our understanding of the disease.”

In Canada, one in every 3,600 children are diagnosed with CF.  But life expectancy rates have risen dramatically in recent decades with the median age of survival now over 50 years, due to better treatments to improve lung function, better nutrition and lung transplants.  Further benefits are expected with the advent of newborn screening programs that have resulted in early detection.

The research was funded in part by Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Since 1960, CF Canada has invested more than $244 million in leading CF research and care.  

http://www.newswise.com/articles/scientists-discover-biological-markers-which-could-lead-to-better-treatments-for-cystic-fibrosis-patients

Science grad: “I like knowing that I’m doing something that may have an impact on people’s lives”

Adriana Nori de Macedo first came to McMaster from Brazil in 2012 as a PhD student seeking to study abroad.

In the five years she spent at McMaster, she left an indelible mark, making important research contributions to help improve screening for preventable and genetic diseases – improvements that could one day transform the lives of people around the world.

“I like knowing that I’m doing something that may have an impact on people’s lives,” says Macedo, who graduates this week with a PhD from the Chemical Biology graduate program. “It’s a big motivation for me to do the best research that I can.”

Macedo came to McMaster from São Paulo, Brazil, where she went to university, completing her Master’s degree in analytical chemistry. When the time came to start working on her PhD, she set her sights on studying abroad.

“I decided that I wanted to have an international experience, to learn about university education in another country and improve my English,” she says. “I thought I would be a professor in the future, so I also felt like it would be a good opportunity for me to make more connections and learn more about research and education in a developed country.”

Looking for the right opportunity to pursue her research interests, Macedo sought advice from one of her professors, and was ultimately put in touch with Philip Britz-McKibbin, a professor in McMaster’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

“Dr. Britz-McKibbon was coming to Brazil a few months later for a conference,” she recalls. “We had the chance to meet in person – he was very friendly and very welcoming. That’s when I decided I wanted to come to McMaster with him as my supervisor.”

Before long, she arrived in Hamilton and was working with Britz-McKibbin and his research group, applying her expertise in bioanalytical chemistry to multiple interdisciplinary research projects with potentially far-reaching implications for global public health.

Collaborating with epidemiologists at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI), Macedo played a pivotal role in helping to develop a simpler, and more cost-effective method of analyzing iodine levels in urine to screen for iodine deficiency, the most common cause of preventable intellectual disabilities in children and which can also lead to hypothyroidism, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, as well as some types of cancers.

She also worked with a multidisciplinary team that included clinicians at McMaster and Sick Kids, identifying compounds in infants’ sweat that could help improve the test used to screen for Cystic Fibrosis in newborns. Though her research results are preliminary, her findings could help improve the test and lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease.

“Usually babies who are diagnosed earlier in life have fewer hospitalizations and infections, especially during childhood, so they have better outcomes in general,” she says. “For parents, and the anxiety that comes with not knowing whether their child has a disease or not, I think this would be a great step.”

In addition to her research contributions, Macedo also honed her skills as a teaching assistant, a role she says she enjoyed. She designed a new experiment for an undergraduate chemistry lab course that tied in with her research on iodine nutrition. The experiment demonstrated the importance of continuously monitoring iodine levels in populations and helped students understand how analytical chemistry can impact public health decisions.

Macedo recently returned to Brazil.  She a now postdoctoral scholar at the University of São Paulo, and is continuing to conduct health-related research and work toward her goal of becoming a university professor.

She has taken what she learned at McMaster home with her and says that her time here helped her grow both personally and professionally.

“I’m grateful that I went to Canada, that I went to McMaster,” she says. “I had a great experience.”

 

By Erica Balch

 

Link: https://brighterworld.mcmaster.ca/articles/science-grad-i-like-knowing-that-im-doing-something-that-may-have-an-impact-on-peoples-lives/