Two veterinary academics receive prestigious Canada Research Chairs | New


For a young and relatively small veterinary college, the UC Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) does well above its weight when it comes to outstanding research.

This week, the federal government announced more than 150 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) at institutions across the country. Two of the three new CRCs awarded to UCalgary Fellows come from UCVM.

Dr. Susan Kutz, DVM, PhD, professor at UCVM, has been appointed CRC Level I in Arctic One Health. Dr. Li-Fang (Jack) Chu, PhD, Assistant Professor, has been appointed CRC Level II in Cellular Reprogramming.

“The fact that UCVM has awarded two of the three new CRCs to the University of Calgary is a sensational result,” said Dr. Hermann Schaetzl, MD, PhD and Associate Dean of Research at UCVM. “It shows how exceptional our research program is and a testament to the world-class caliber of our research talent. “

Partnership with Indigenous communities to study the impact of climate change on Arctic wildlife

For more than two decades, Susan Kutz has worked with indigenous peoples of the Arctic and Subarctic to understand and track the health of wildlife in a rapidly changing landscape.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Kutz is a recognized expert on arctic wildlife health and climate change. His areas of expertise include wildlife parasitology and disease ecology, arctic ecology, climate change, and community-based wildlife health surveillance.

For more than two decades, Kutz has worked with indigenous peoples of the Arctic and Subarctic to understand and track the health of wildlife in a rapidly changing landscape. The objective: to ensure the sustainability of wildlife for healthy ecosystems and as a traditional source of food and income for generations to come.

A unique aspect of Kutz’s approach is close collaboration with indigenous communities. By bringing together local, traditional and Western scientific knowledge, community concerns about wildlife can be addressed and a better understanding of the Arctic can be gained. Through wildlife health monitoring programs, First Nations and Inuit hunters record data and collect samples of animals that they hunt for their livelihood. The data and samples are then analyzed to address community concerns about food safety and animal health, and to answer specific research questions about wildlife health and ecology. Hunters report any abnormalities they may encounter in the animals they harvest.

“People talk to each other, they learn from each other,” says Dr. Fabien Mavrot, DVM, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the Kutz lab, who, along with Kutz, has spent a lot of time in northern communities building relationships. solid. “It’s a good way to increase knowledge and awareness about diseases in these communities. “

A true One Health approach to solving complex problems

“The Arctic is undergoing unprecedented ecological and socio-economic changes,” says Kutz. Climate change has not only dramatically altered ecosystems, but it has also put the Arctic on the radar internationally, providing better access to rich sources of non-renewable natural resources, as well as new routes to travel. transport and new tourism opportunities. “With these accelerating stressors, wildlife populations, food security and the indigenous way of life are increasingly threatened. “

Musk ox

Susan Kutz’s research aims to ensure the sustainability of wildlife for healthy ecosystems and as a traditional source of food and income for generations to come.

Susan Kutz.

Kutz’s One Health approach, which works from the laboratory and experimental research to the field, bringing together traditional and Western knowledge, seeks to address these threats to the peoples and ecosystems of the Arctic.

Funding from Kutz CRC allows her to expand the world-class program she has built over the years.

“I am delighted to be recognized for the work our group has done over the years and to be supported to continue to develop it,” said Kutz. “Our work is only possible through strong partnerships with northern communities and governments.

“Decolonize science” and meet the needs of northern communities

Kutz says the CRC is helping advance Nordic science, while simultaneously supporting its efforts to “decolonize science and respond to calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

“It’s really good for the North. I am delighted to use this support from CRC to advance what we can do with Northerners, for the North.

Understanding the developmental clocks and the genetic and environmental factors behind spinal deformities

Jack chu

Jack Chu’s research focuses on developmental “clocks” and the genetic and environmental factors that cause spinal deformities.

The successful application of Dr. Jack Chu’s Level II CRC focused on the use of stem cells to model the clocks of human and animal development and related disorders. These include spinal deformity, a congenital disease where the patterning of embryonic development of the spine during specific periods is poorly regulated.

The Chu lab is focused on developing a stem cell-derived model to mimic this early phase of development, in hopes of identifying the genetic and environmental factors contributing to such a distortion – and ultimately identifying new targets. therapeutic.

“We are focused on the development of an in vitro segmentation clock system,” says Chu. “Genes move up and down in a rhythmic fashion that models the spine, so that it grows with regular size and spacing. There is a “clock” or a very rigorous period of time controlling each phase of the development of the vertebrae. “

In congenital conditions, there are mutations of a single gene that lead to poor regulation of certain signaling pathways. Using a stem cell model and CRISPR gene editing technology, Chu can capture and manipulate this precise clock system.

“So, in a Petri dish, we can introduce patient-specific mutations based on CRISPR technology to help us understand the underlying mechanism and how genetic and / or environmental factors might contribute to spinal deformation. the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) award from the Canada Foundation for Innovation; JELF is a CRC program partner which provides basic research infrastructure funding to help a number of researchers become leaders in their field.

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