Year in Review: 6 vital health stories from 2014

Working to improve the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness
Michael Kennedy

In 2014 the University of Toronto continued its legacy of life-changing discovery and solidified its reputation as a global medical-research powerhouse. 

Scientists discover tiny gene fragments linked to brain development and autism

"We were amazed by the extent to which microexons are misregulated in people with autism," says Professor Benjamin Blencowe
Jim Oldfield

Very small segments of genes called “microexons” influence how proteins interact with each other in the nervous system, say scientists at the University of Toronto.

It's a discovery that opens up a new line of research into the cause of autism.

Machine learning reveals unexpected genetic roots of cancers, autism and other disorders

Researchers from engineering, biology and medicine teach computers to ‘read the human genome’ and rate likelihood of mutations causing disease, opening vast new possibilities for medicine
Marit Mitchell

In the decade since the genome was sequenced in 2003, scientists, engineers and doctors have struggled to answer an all-consuming question: Which DNA mutations cause disease? 

A new computational technique developed at the University of Toronto may now be able to tell us.

Still too salty: slight decrease in sodium levels for some foods at chain restaurants, whopping increase for others

Jim Oldfield

Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that sodium levels in Canadian chain restaurant meals have changed little since 2010, despite the food industry’s commitment to offer more meals with less sodium.

The researchers analyzed nutrition information from 61 sit-down and fast-food restaurants in 2013 and found that compared to levels in 2010, 54 per cent of foods did not change. In 30 per cent of foods, the amount of sodium decreased marginally and in 16 per cent of foods, levels increased.

Fighting Ebola in West Africa: alumna Stefanie Carmichael

"When I was called to join the Ebola response, I couldn’t say no"
Terry Lavender

Reactions to the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa have been varied – from cancelled flights to highly-publicized quarantines to heroic efforts by nurses and doctors to treat the afflicted. Many people are trying to help out however they can, including Stefanie Carmichael, a U of T alumna now working for the United Nations.

Northern Biologics: new biotech company to develop cancer drugs

It's a biotech company sprung from research by University of Toronto Professor Sachdev Sidhu and backed by the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Versant Ventures. The goal: to develop antibody-based drugs to treat cancer and fibrosis.

Stem cell pioneer's major multinational discovery may speed research

Five articles published simultaneously by Professor Andras Nagy and scientists from four continents

There's a new class of stem cell that's exciting researchers around the world – and it was discovered by an international  team of almost 50 scientists on four continents, led by U of T researchers.

U of T, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College to work together

“We’re delighted to partner with an organization committed to improving health with an evidence-based approach,” says Faculty of Medicine dean

The Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) has signed an official Memorandum of Understanding to explore education and research collaborations with the University of Toronto, through the Faculty of Medicine, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. 

U of T, Harvard collaborate on substance to repel blood clots and bacteria

Engineering a surface so slippery a gecko couldn't climb it
Luke Ng & Sydney Goodfellow

Engineering a surface that is so slippery even geckos can’t stick to it may sound like a fun science fair project.

But new surface-coating technology developed by materials science and engineering professor Ben Hatton, together with colleagues at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, does just that – and its slick properties have the potential to save lives.

Of atrazine, frogs and the most effective ways to communicate science

Alumna Melanie Duhamel shares insights gleaned from endocrinologist's talk
Melanie Duhamel

Alumna Melanie Duhamel is a Toronto-based engineer, environmentalist and freelancer who is fascinated by frogs, sharks, and other less-popular branches on the Tree of Life.

She recently attended a guest lecture by Professor Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley at the University of Toronto. Below, Duhamel shares her thoughts on the event.

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