New wing of Meakins-Christie Laboratories opens its doors

Extension to world-class research lab enhances ability of McGill/MUHC scientists to study respiratory diseases

In a collaborative effort to push the boundaries of respiratory science to the next level, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and McGill University have teamed up  to build (with the help of private funding) a new wing of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories — one of the premier centres for respiratory research worldwide. The goal: to achieve a better basic understanding of respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and translate that understanding into better diagnosis and treatment.

The new 15,000 square foot extension opened for business this morning. The facility includes wet labs (where actual research is conducted) and a lecture theatre. "The laboratories started in 1972 as mainly a physiology-based research facility," says Dr. Qutayba Hamid, director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and holder of the MUHC Strauss Chair in Respiratory Medicine. "It has since included molecular and mechanism based science. With this new extension we now want to move to the next step, which will include genetics and regenerative research."

According to Dr. Hamid, applying new knowledge to patient care will be a top priority.

"The Meakins-Christie Laboratories are not only the focal point for respiratory research at McGill University, but also one of the premiere centres for respiratory research in the world," adds Dr. Richard Levin, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University "This wonderful expansion lays the ground for continued scientific excellence in the 21st century by the laboratories' outstanding director and internationally renowned researchers."

In the new lab, research programs will include:
  • Asthma in the pediatric population. There is currently an epidemic of asthma in Canada. Twenty years ago, only five or six per cent of the pediatric population had asthma, now over 10 per cent, sometimes 20 per cent in some countries (not in Canada), have asthma. "We want to know why the stats are increasing," says Dr. Hamid. "We also want to link pediatric asthma to adult asthma, and learn why some children grow out of the disease while some continue to have chronic difficult-to-treat asthma."
  • Difficult-to-treat asthma: "We are seeing more and more patients with asthma who are difficult to treat. This population constitutes for only 10 percent, but they consume a large percentage of the health services," says Dr. Hamid. "This is because these patients stay in the hospital for a long time. We would like to see what is the mechanism behind this hard-to-treat form of asthma."
  • Link between obesity, asthma, and sleep apnea. "There is a link between obesity, asthma and sleep apnea that we would like to better understand," adds Dr. Hamid. "About  30 per cent of adults have sleep apnea, and the incidence of obesity is increasing in Canada. Work in the new extension will help improve our understanding in this area."
 "Within this new wing we are going to find new ways to fight respiratory diseases, so ultimately we can give patients a better quality of life," concludes Dr. Vassilios Papadopoulos, Director of the Research Institute of the MUHC. "We are trying to better understand the processes or causes of disease to find new ways to treat them.

 "With this new extension we continue to build for the future for the MUHC and for Montreal. The extension will allow us to continue to be successful in this area and be competitive on the world stage. "

The opening ceremony of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories new wing will be held on Monday, October 20 at 9 a.m. followed by a tour of the old and new labs. There will be also a full-day scientific workshop.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. Its partner hospitals are the Montreal Children's Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Hospital, the Montreal Chest Institute and the Lachine Hospital. The goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and health-care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, the university health center affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 600 researchers, nearly 1200 graduate and post-doctoral students and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge.
The Research Institute of the MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.
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For more information please contact:

Rebecca Burns
Communications Coordinator
MUHC Public Relations and Communications
514 843 1560