Research Nova Scotia is pleased to announce more than $2 million in funding for 21 research projects at eight Nova Scotia universities and healthcare centers through its New Health Investigator Grant.
The New Health Investigator Grant supports early-career health researchers who are engaged in work that aligns with the province’s health research priorities. The grant aims to provide two years of support of up to $100,000 for researchers who are within the first five years of their academic appointment in Nova Scotia or who are new to the field of health research. Funding provided will support the establishment of independent programs of research, support and expand the research productivity necessary for obtaining long term funding from national and external agencies and expand the potential for early career investigators to make significant contributions in their field. For the 2020-21 academic year, funding for this grant is provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.
New Health Investigator Grant Recipients
Dr. Leah Cahill
Project: Does a Simple Blood Test Predict Who Needs Strict Blood Sugar Control to Prevent Heart Disease?
Diabetes is a common health problem many Nova Scotians live with. Researchers have yet to discover why strict blood sugar control prevents heart disease in some people with type 2 diabetes but can cause harm in others. Dr. Leah Cahill and her research team have been working to fill this gap. They think the answer may depend on the form of the blood protein ‘haptoglobin’ that a person has, which can be measured by an inexpensive blood test. Dr. Cahill has recently published a major study in which they used this blood test that found that strict blood sugar control prevented heart disease in people with one haptoglobin type, but people with the other type had no heart disease benefit. Her research team plan to expand their work to include more representation in the people they study. Skilled researchers from a large existing study of blood sugar control called the ADVANCE study will provide them with blood samples from 3,900 people with type 2 diabetes around the world with different ethnicities, genders, and lengths of time with type 2 diabetes. This project is a cost-effective and ethical way to learn whether the haptoglobin type blood test can consistently tell which people will benefit from strict blood sugar control and who will not.
Funding amount: $93,381
Team members: Dr. John Sapp, Eric Rimm, Dr. Susan Kirkland, Dr. Andrew Levy, Dr. Mark Woodward, Dr. Elizabeth Selvin & Allie Carew
Dr. Michael Kucharczyk
Project: Can Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Prostate Combined With a Radiomics Evaluation Determine the Invasive Capacity of a Tumour (Can MRI-PREDICT)
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men in Nova Scotia. The advanced age of Nova Scotia’s population increases risk here. A prostate biopsy involves attending a specialist’s clinic where a needle is placed through the rectum to get a prostate sample. This sample is looked at under a microscope to get the result. However, prostate biopsies risk pain, bleeding, issues achieving an erection, and potentially severe infections. Through their research, Dr. Michael Kucharczyk and his team hope to confirm that their non-invasive innovative tool, the Magnetic resonance imaging of the prostate based Radiomics Tool (MRT), can reliably and accurately predict a prostate cancer’s aggressiveness. In addition, they plan to create a database of MRI images to allow for rapid future MRT improvements to determine a prostate cancer’s current aggressiveness. From an MRI scan of the Prostate (MRI-P), the MRT can predict the results of a prostate biopsy. Unlike a biopsy, an MRI-P is considered non-invasive – having very few risks to the patient.
Funding amount: $97,683
Team members: Dr. Sharon Clarke, Dr. Ahmad Chaddad, Dr. Ricardo Rendon, Dr. Steven Beyea, Dr. Ross Mason, Dr. Chris Bowen & Kara Matheson
Dr. Paula McLaughlin
Project: Identifying, Understanding, and Mitigating Gaps in Dementia Care
There are an estimated 12,000 older adults currently living with dementia in Nova Scotia. This number is expected to grow in the coming years as our population continues to age. Identifying and understanding the needs of persons with dementia is an important first step in providing care and support to these individuals and their families. Dr. Paula McLaughlin and her research team will look at the needs of Nova Scotians with dementia who are currently living at home and explore ways to improve the care and services provided to them.
Telehealth (delivery of care from a distance using telephones and the internet) can be an effective way of improving access to care in rural communities and other underserviced areas, but it is not commonly used in Nova Scotia at the present time. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic many in-person medical visits and support programs have been put on hold, and telehealth has been used to provide care on a large scale throughout the province. Although telehealth is a promising way of filling this gap in delivering health services, it is unclear whether telehealth and other virtual supports are the best way to improve dementia care in Nova Scotia. The team plan to use a province-wide survey to identify the current needs of persons with dementia in relation to diagnosis, treatment, clinical care, and community support. This research project will help determine whether virtual care is suitable, feasible and effective for Nova Scotians with dementia, and will increase our understanding of the current health and social needs of persons with dementia.
Funding amount: $98,882.97
Team members: Dr. John Fisk, Dr. Christopher MacKnight, Jennifer Haley, Dr. Jennifer Prentice, Dr. Robin Urquhart, Dr. Maia von Maltzahn & Sacha Nadeau