null Zombie cells and flu fighters

Research by postdoc Hosni Cherif and Dr. Inés Colmegna makes Arthritis Society’s Top 10 breakthroughs

By James Martin, Internal Communications, McGill University

Source: McGill Reporter. Arthritis is Canada’s most prevalent chronic health condition, and there’s no known cure. Six million Canadians are currently living with one of the 100 types of this potentially devastating condition, which causes painful inflammation and stiffness in joints.

Every January, the Canadian Arthritis Society selects the previous year’s Top 10 Research Advances that promise to improve health outcomes for people living with arthritis – and the 2020 list includes breakthroughs by projects by postdoc Hosni Cherif and Dr. Inés Colmegna, researchers from McGill’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC).

Taking out “zombie” cells

Hosni Cherif, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Injury Repair Recovery Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC

Degeneration of parts of the spine can cause debilitating back pain and osteoarthritis. While some treatments can help manage the pain, there is no cure or way to prevent the degeneration from progressing. Hosni Cherif, a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Lisbet Haglund, PhD (Dept. of Experimental Surgery, McGill University, and Injury Repair Recovery Program, RI-MUHC), studies the role of senescent cells – also known as “zombie” cells because they’ve stopped multiplying but haven’t died – in spine degeneration. He’s found that RG-7112, a synthetic drug, and o-Vanillin, a natural compound, triggered changes that helped grow new, healthy cells while also killing senescent cells. These findings could lead to new drugs for back pain that slow the degeneration of the discs and reduce pain.

Fighting the flu

Dr. Inés Colmegna is a member of the Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC
Dr. Inés Colmegna is a member of the Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC

Patients living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are more prone to infections than people without the condition –and one of the most frequent causes of infections is seasonal influenza. Dr. Inés Colmegna, associate professor in the Division of Experimental Medicine at McGill and scientist at the RI-MUHC, studies how patients with rheumatoid arthritis are affected by the flu. She led the first study to show that the use of a high-dose influenza vaccine provides better protection from the flu in RA patients compared to the standard dose vaccine. These results support the use of the high-dose influenza vaccine for people with RA of any age, potentially enhancing vaccine-induced protection and lower the risk of influenza in those patients.

“We’re proud and excited about all the research we support,” said Siân Bevan, PhD, Chief Science Officer at the Arthritis Society, which is the largest charitable funder of cutting-edge arthritis research in Canada. “Our annual list of the Top 10 enables us to shine a spotlight on some of the projects that really stood out for their potential impact in the fight to stop arthritis. Congratulations, and thank you to the researchers we’ve highlighted.”

January 20, 2021