News and events

U of T researchers build an antenna for light Posted: July 10, 2011

University of Toronto researchers have derived inspiration from the photosynthetic apparatus in plants to engineer a new generation of nanomaterials that control and direct the energy absorbed from light.

Examining the brain as a neural information super-highway Posted: June 2, 2011

Neuroscientists at Toronto's Rotman Research Institute showed how tools for modeling traffic on the Internet and telephone systems can be used to study information flow in brain networks. Their work is published in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology on 2nd June 2011: Extracting Message Inter-Departure Time Distributions from the Human Electroencephalogram.

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Canadian teen discovers treatment for cystic fibrosis Posted: May 13, 2011

Marshall Zhang, a 16-year-old high-school student in a Toronto suburb won first prize in the 2011 Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge ($5000) for using a supercomputer to predict that two separate drugs could be used simultaneously to correct a flaw in the protein that causes Cystic Fibrosis. He worked with Dr. Christine Bear of Sick Children's Hospital Research Institute

CMAJ calls on federal government to protect Canadians from unsafe drugs Posted: April 18, 2011

Canadians are poorly protected from potential side effects of new drugs and food additives due to our ancient federal Food and Drugs Act that has changed little since 1953. Repeated attempts since 1995 to effect change have been thwarted. An editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) explains.

Saskatoon scientist achieves malaria cure breakthrough Posted: March 24, 2011

Today's best anti-malaria drug is artemisinin, a compound derived from the sweet wormwood plant (Artemisia annua) from Asia and Africa. But extracting artemisinin directly from the plant is difficult and only small quantities are obtainable.  Patrick Covello, a senior researcher at the National Research Council in Saskatoon has found a number of genes in the sweet wormwood plant that code for the enzymes involved in the most difficult part of the synthesis of the rather complicated artemisinin molecule. Those genes have now been incorporated into a yeast by a Berkeley, California drug company so that the drug can be produced inexpensively and in quantity by the yeast. This could lead to a cheap and easily available cure for malaria, a disease which kills millions of people every year. Visit Dr. Covello's lab website to learn more.

Experts feel Japanese nuclear reactor fallout will not reach Canada Posted: March 17, 2011

One of the most reliable websites for updates about conditions at Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor is the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. Their website with current status and news is continually being updated. Canadian nuclear engineering experts such as Greg Evans, a professor in the department of chemical engineering and applied chemistry at the University of Toronto, do not think that Canada is in any danger. Most of the lethal radioactive materials ought to be contained by systems on the reactor site, even if there is a meltdown, and anything that escapes would dissipate over the vast area of the Pacific ocean before reaching Canada. However, for those concerned, there are a number of online resources. Radiolab in Arizona provides a constantly updated map of background radiation levels from online geiger counters in cities around North America including Vancouver, Canada. Blackcat systems in Westminster, Maryland provides a similar Online Geiger Counter Nuclear Radiation Detector Map with a station in the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia.

E-health must be a priority, researchers say Posted: March 8, 2011

The Canada Health Infoway project was implemented by the federal government in 2001 with the goal of accelerating e-health implementation and creating a national system of interoperable electronic health records. After 10 years and $1.6 billion of investment in 280 health information technology projects, Canada still lags behind countries such as Denmark, the UK, and New Zealand. These are the findings of a new study assessing the effectiveness Canada Health Infoway's e-health plan conducted by scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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Crocodile tears don't fool us all Posted: February 9, 2011

How easy is it to fake remorse? Not so easy if your audience knows what to look for. In the first investigation of the nature of true and false remorse, Leanne Brinke and colleagues from the Centre for the Advancement of Psychology and Law (CAPSL), University of British Columbia (in the Okanagan) and Memorial University of Newfoundland, show that those who fake remorse demonstrate a greater range of emotional expressions and swing from one emotion to another very quickly - a phenomenon referred to as emotional turbulence - as well as speak with more hesitation. These findings have important implications for judges and parole board members, who look for genuine remorse when they make their sentencing and release decisions.  Brinke's work is published in Springer's journal Law and Human Behavior.

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Canadian researchers link music to dopamine release in brain Posted: January 18, 2011

Using PET brain scanning techniques, scientists at McGill University's Neurological Institute in Montreal have shown that listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain important for more tangible pleasures associated with rewards such as food, drugs and sex. The results were published in Nature Neuroscience on Jan 9, 2011. More at the Neurological Institute's website.

Climate change to continue to year 3000 in best case scenarios Posted: January 9, 2011

Research at Canada's Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis indicates the impact of rising CO2 levels in the Earth's atmosphere will cause unstoppable effects to the climate for at least the next 1000 years, causing researchers to estimate a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet by the year 3000, and an eventual rise in the global sea level of at least four metres.

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Canadians image new planet in planetary system very similar to our own Posted: December 8, 2010

A Canadian led team of astronomers has discovered and imaged a fourth giant planet outside our solar system, a discovery that further strengthens the remarkable resemblances between a distant planetary system and our own.

Researchers discover a way to delay Christmas tree needle loss Posted: December 6, 2010

Canadian scientists at Université Laval, in collaboration with Nova Scotia Agricultural College, have discovered what causes Christmas tree needles to drop off, and how to double the lifespan of Christmas trees in homes. The authors presented their findings in a recent issue of the scientific journal Trees.

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'No fish left behind' approach leaves Earth with nowhere left to fish: UBC researchers Posted: December 2, 2010

A University of British Columbia study says the Earth has run out of room to expand fisheries. We need to change our fishing practices now.

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Researchers trap antimatter atoms Posted: November 17, 2010

A team of researchers from many universities across Canada and around the world have discovered how to trap atomic antimatter and the results of their discovery are published in the journal Nature.

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Special skin keeps fish species alive on land Posted: November 8, 2010

Canadian study shows how an amphibious fish stays alive for up to two months on land. It's all in the skin.

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What did T. rex eat? Each other Posted: October 15, 2010

It turns out that the undisputed king of the dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex, didn't just eat other dinosaurs but also each other. Paleontologists from the United States and Canada (Philip J. Currie at the University of Alberta) have found bite marks on the giants' bones that were made by other T. rex, according to a new study published online Oct. 15 in the journal PLoS ONEread more

Genomic 'haircut' makes world's tiniest genome even smaller: UBC research Posted: September 21, 2010

The world's tiniest nuclear genome appears to have "snipped off the ends" of its chromosomes and evolved into a lean, mean, genome machine that infects human cells, according to research published today by University of British Columbia scientists. read more

Link to autism in boys found in missing DNA Posted: September 15, 2010

New research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), both in Toronto, Canada provides further clues as to why Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects four times more males than females. The scientists discovered that males who carry specific alterations of DNA on the sole X-chromosome they carry are at high risk of developing ASD. The research is published in the September 15 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

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A discovery by Dr. Andre Veillette's team could impact the treatment of autoimmune diseases Posted: August 19, 2010

Dr. André Veillette, Director of the Molecular Oncology research unit at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) and his team published a scientific breakthrough which could have an impact on the treatment of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases affecting tens of thousands of Canadians. Dr. Veillette's team discovered the function of a protein located in T cells, which are immune cells known as lymphocytes that play a central role in the protection against viruses and other microbial agents. They also take part in the development of certain diseases, including diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The protein in question is the "phosphatase" PTP-PEST, an enzyme that removes phosphates from other proteins in the cell.

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First results from Large Hadron Collider announced Posted: July 26, 2010

A group of University of Toronto high-energy physicists, along with their 3,000 ATLAS colleagues, announced they have broken world records in the search for new particles as the first findings from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) were presented this morning in Paris, France.

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Canadian research reveals how monarchs fly away home Posted: July 26, 2010

Monarch butterflies — renowned for their lengthy annual migration to and from Mexico — complete an even more spectacular journey home than previously thought.

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Canadian study warns that many psychological studies rely on WEIRD sample populations Posted: June 30, 2010

A new University of British Columbia study by psychologist Joseph Henrich says that an overreliance on research subjects from the U.S. and other Western nations can produce false claims about human psychology and behavior because their psychological tendencies are highly unusual compared to the global population.

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Could life survive on Mars? Canadian scientists say yes Posted: June 4, 2010

Researchers at McGill's department of natural resources, the National Research Council of Canada, the University of Toronto and the SETI Institute have discovered that methane-eating bacteria survive in a highly unique spring located on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada's extreme North. Dr. Lyle Whyte, McGill University microbiologist explains that the Lost Hammer spring supports microbial life, that the spring is similar to possible past or present springs on Mars, and that therefore they too could support life.

Astronomers confirm Einstein's theory of relativity and accelerating cosmic expansion Posted: March 25, 2010

University of British Columbia astronomer Ludovic Van Waerbeke with an international team has confirmed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating after looking at data from the largest-ever survey conducted by the Hubble Space Telescope. The astronomers studied more than 446,000 galaxies to map the matter distribution and the expansion history of the universe. This study enabled them to observe precisely how dark matter evolved in the universe and to reconstruct a three-dimensional map of the dark matter and use this to test Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.

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Unlocking the opium poppy's biggest secret Posted: March 14, 2010

Researchers at the University of Calgary, Peter Facchini and Jillian Hagel, have discovered the unique genes that allow the opium poppy to make codeine and morphine, thus opening doors to alternate methods of producing these effective painkillers either by manufacturing them in a lab or controlling the production of these compounds in the plant. More at University of Calgary News.

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Mescal 'worm' test shows DNA leaks into preservatives Posted: February 9, 2010

Just because you don't swallow the worm at the bottom of a bottle of mescal doesn't mean you have avoided the essential worminess of the potent Mexican liquor, according to Mehrdad Hajibabaei at the University of Guelph. The study is part of the technology development phase of the International Barcode of Life Project. Based in Canada at the University of Guelph, it's the largest biodiversity genomics project ever undertaken. More than 200 scientists from 25 countries are creating a DNA barcode reference library for all life on Earth.

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Méthode découverte pour réparer les nerfs adultes endommagés Posted: December 11, 2009

Le scientifique canadien Patrice Smith à l'Université Carleton à Ottawa a trouvé un moyen d'obtenir des cellules nerveuses adultes à se développer chez les souris. Son article dans la revue Neuron cette semaine avec les  co-auteurs Sun Fang et Zhigang de L'université de Harvard, il décrit la découverte d'une molécule spécifique dans le système nerveux central qui supprime notre capacité à réparer les neurones blessés. En bloquant cette molécule, Smith a réussi à encourager le repoussement du nerf optique chez des souris adultes aveugles. Il reste à voir si la repoussement du nerf optique va restaurer la vue, mais ces repousses restaurer la vue dans les aveugles bébés souris. Smith est né en Jamaïque et est arrivé au Canada à titre d'immigrant pauvre. Dans un article du Globe and Mail dit-elle, "je ne suis pas issu d'un milieu de privilège. Mais si vous voulez faire quelque chose, vous pouvez le faire." Plus d'information sur Smith et sa découverte est disponible au service de nouvelles de l'Université Carleton.

Super fast X-ray laser to start up in Ottawa Posted: November 27, 2009

Dr. Paul Corkum, this year's winner of Canada's most prestigious science prize, the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, will be joined by representatives from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the University of Ottawa on Monday November 30 to officially open the Joint Laboratory for Attosecond Science in Ottawa. The laboratory is home to Canada's fastest X-ray laser. Dr. Corkum and his team will use this one-of-a-kind facility to take pictures of molecules during chemical reactions to study the motion of electrons. This is the first step to unpacking the molecules that make up all the matter of our universe. The laboratory is a collaboration between NRC and the University of Ottawa.

Nova Scotia scientist wins 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics Posted: October 6, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared today between Charles Kao (1/2) the discoverer of fibre optics, George Smith(1/4) and Willard Boyle (1/4) who invented the CCD, or Charge Coupled Device, the imaging chip used in many cameras, camcorders, telescopes and other devices. Boyle was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, and grew up in Quebec but made his discovery at Bell Labs in New Jersey in 1969. He never gave up his Canadian citizenship and moved back to Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1980s.

New study shows those blinded by brain injury may still 'see' Posted: September 2, 2009

Except in clumsy moments, we rarely knock over the box of cereal or glass of orange juice as we reach for our morning cup of coffee. New research at The University of Western Ontario has helped unlock the mystery of how our brain allows us to avoid these undesired objects.

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Canadians make a major breakthrough in lithium batteries Posted: May 21, 2009

A research team at the University of Waterloo led by professor Linda Nazar has employed nanoscale mesoporous carbon in the cathodes of lithium-sulphur batteries to store and deliver more than three times the power of conventional lithium ion batteries. More at the NSERC website.

Yeast-powered fuel cell feeds on human blood Posted: April 1, 2009

A team at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, has created tiny microbial fuel cells by encapsulating yeast cells in a flexible capsule. The fuel cells can generate power from a drop of human blood plasma. The team is led by Mu Chiao professor of mechanical engineering. The yeast-based fuel cell produces around 40 nanowatts of power, compared to the microwatt a typical wristwatch battery might produce, Chaio says. That might be enough power for some devices if it were coupled with a capacitor to allow energy to be stored. The yeast could also be genetically engineered to boost its power output.

Spiders, frogs and gecko among exciting discoveries found in Papua New Guinea Posted: March 25, 2009

UBC scientist Wayne Maddison, jumping spider expert and Director of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver was part of a team that found dozens of new species. Jumping spiders, a tiny chirping frog and an elegant striped gecko are among 56 species believed new to science discovered during a Conservation International (CI) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition to Papua New Guinea's highlands wilderness.

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Canadian makes stem cells from skin Posted: March 1, 2009

Toronto researcher Dr. Andras Nagy discovered a new method of creating stem cells that could lead to possible cures for devastating diseases including spinal cord injury, macular degeneration, diabetes and Parkinson's disease. The study, published by Nature online, accelerates stem cell technology and provides a road map for new clinical approaches to regenerative medicine.

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University of Alberta scientists make solar energy breakthrough Posted: February 25, 2009

University of Alberta and the National Research Council's National Institute for Nanotechnology have improved the performance of plastic solar cells called hybrid organic cells. According to lead investigator Jillian Buriak, inexpensive, mass-produced plastic solar panels are now a step closer.

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Quantum dot breakthrough could revolutionize computers Posted: February 4, 2009

Dr. Robert Wolkow at Edmonton's National Institute for Nanotechnology have achieved a milestone in nanotechnology that could help pave the way for new generations of smaller, more energy-efficient computers. They created the world's smallest quantum dots, using silicon atoms, which can control electrons with a fraction of the power of conventional computer systems. Wolkow predicts a 1,000 fold reduction in power usage and computer size if future computers are based on the new technology. More at Robert Wolkow's website.

Queen's chemist sheds light on health benefits of garlic Posted: January 30, 2009

A team of scientists at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario led by Dr. Derek Pratt has discovered the reason why garlic is so good for us. It has to do with a decomposition product of allicin, the main medicinal ingredient of garlic. When allicin is metabolized by the body sulfenic acid is produced, a powerful antioxidant that rapidly reacts with free radicals. Find out more at the Queens News Centre.

Canada has world's most advanced microscope Posted: October 20, 2008

The most advanced and powerful electron microscope on the planet—capable of unprecedented resolution—has been installed in the new Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy at McMaster University. The lead researcher, Gianluigi Botton says it's like having a Hubble telescope for looking at things at the atomic level.

Canadian instrument detects falling snow on Mars Posted: September 29, 2008

A Canadian-designed and manufactured laser instrument aboard the Mars lander has detected snow from clouds about 4 kilometers above the surface. Data show the snow vaporizing before reaching the ground. Canada's York University professor Jim Whiteway, the lead scientist for the Meteorological Station onboard the Phoenix Mars lander says, "Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars. We'll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground." Read an interview with Jim Whiteway at the Canadian Space Agency website.

Oldest known rock on Earth discovered Posted: September 26, 2008

Canadian bedrock more than 4 billion years old may be the oldest known section of the Earth's early crust.

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