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Arthritis Society Canada announces $1 million for paradigm-shifting research

10 projects to receive Ignite Research Grants 

Most people associate sugar and other carbohydrates with, perhaps, a box of donuts. But what if understanding these compounds could hold the clue to halting the inflammation that makes arthritis worse?

Two projects examining sugar and other carbohydrates at the cellular level are among 10 new projects that have been awarded Ignite Research Grants from Arthritis Society Canada. Made possible by donor funds, the grants represent a $1 million investment into developing and testing high-potential, but high-risk ideas that challenge our understanding of arthritis.  

“Arthritis is a devastating, chronic condition and six million Canadians are aching for a cure,” says Dr. Sian Bevan, Chief Science Officer at Arthritis Society Canada. “Ignite Research Grants enable paradigm-shifting ideas to be explored.” 
Dr. Simon Wisnovsky
Dr. Simon Wisnovsky of the University of British Columbia is receiving $100,000 over two years to study if the sugars that attach to certain immune cells in our bodies might be causing excess inflammation that leads to arthritis. The research may uncover new molecules that can be targeted with drugs to reduce the severity of arthritis. 

Dr. Langdon EdgarDr. Landon Edgar at the University of Toronto is receiving $100,000 over two years to identify if defects on the carbohydrate coating that is present on all immune cells could be targeted to improve the early diagnosis and treatment of axial spondyloarthritis, a painful type of arthritis that affects the spine, often in early adulthood.

Last year, Arthritis Society Canada invested $5.3 million in research through its inaugural Ignite Research Grants, as well as through the Stars Career Development Awards, the Strategic Operating Grants and research training awards. All of these projects are selected for funding after a competitive process that draws on the expert input of scientists, clinicians and patients.   

Here's a list of this year’s other eight Ignite Research Grant recipients:  
Dr. Abdelaziz Amrani
Dr. Abdelaziz Amrani, Université de Sherbrooke: developing an innovative new approach to rheumatoid arthritis therapy using immune cells, called dendritic cells, that are genetically engineered to fight inflammation. These experiments could accelerate a potential immunotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis into clinical trials. 
Dr. Nikolas Knowles
Dr. Nikolas Knowles, University of Waterloo: using a new imaging technology that can detect changes in multiple tissues, not just cartilage, to assess shoulder osteoarthritis. If successful, this could change how medical imaging is used to quickly and cost-effectively diagnose early osteoarthritis and assess treatment options. 
Dr. Geoffrey Ng
Dr. Geoffrey Ng, Western University: using a state-of-the-art robot to move hip joints while a medical imaging scanner captures the synovial fluid’s movements to provide insights into how hip impingement could lead to osteoarthritis as well as how to improve hip surgery to promote joint health. 

Dr. Sophie Roux, Université de Sherbrooke: Dr. Sophie Rouxstudying bone destruction in rheumatoid arthritis by analyzing blood cells called osteomorphs. This could identify distinct subtypes of the disease as well as biomarkers to help recognize severe forms of rheumatoid arthritis early, before permanent damage occurs. 

Dr. Atena Roshan Fekr, University Health Network: testing a first-of-its-kind “tele-rehabilitation” technology, Dr. Atena Roshan FekrBuddy4Rehab, to automatically analyze a person’s exercise performance and the pain level using a 3D camera system and artificial intelligence to provide real-time feedback to the user. If successful, this system could empower people with arthritis to stay active at home, while also reducing healthcare costs.  

Dr. Jean-Sébastien RoyDr. Jean-Sébastien Roy, Université Laval: developing a system of wearable sensors for the shoulder to estimate physical work demands and provide feedback to the user to help them protect their joint. If successful, this research could reduce arthritis-related workplace disabilities and help keep people in the workforce. 

Dr. Brett ThombsDr. Brett Thombs, Jewish General Hospital: developing and administering a tool to assess pain sources and pain patterns in more than 1,400 people with scleroderma around the world. This research will shed light on the complexities of scleroderma pain in unprecedented detail and provide avenues for future research and improved pain management. 

Dr. Cari WhyneDr. Cari Whyne, Sunnybrook Research Institute: developing a large integrated database with high-quality data from patients’ entire joint replacement journey to help understand how they will do after their surgery. This research will help proactively identify patients who may need more support, reduce surgical complications, improve patient outcomes, improve access to care, and reduce associated healthcare system costs. 


About Arthritis Society Canada   

Arthritis Society Canada is a national health charity, fueled by donors and volunteers, with a mission to fight the fire of arthritis with the fire of research, advocacy, innovation, information and support. Arthritis Society Canada is accredited under Imagine Canada’s Standards Program. For more information, visit     

For more information or to arrange interviews:    

Judy Noordermeer 
Vice President, Marketing and Communications   

Brigitte Fortin 
Directrice du marketing et des communications 

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