It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the province of British Columbia and has the largest enrollment with over 57,000 students at its Vancouver and Okanagan campuses combined. The university was incorporated in Vancouver in 1908 as the McGill University College of British Columbia, and became the independent University of British Columbia in 1915. UBC’s 4.02 km2 (993-acre) Vancouver campus is located within the University Endowment Lands, about 10 km (6.2 mi) from Downtown Vancouver. The 2.09 km2 (516-acre) Kelowna campus, acquired in 2005, is located in the Okanagan Valley.
As of the 2013-2014 school year, UBC was ranked 2nd in Canada among major research universities in the Maclean’s 23rd annual rankings. The university was also ranked 31st worldwide (and 2nd in Canada) in the 2013–2014 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 40th worldwide (and 2nd in Canada) in the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities, and 8th overall (and 2nd among Canadian universities) in Newsweek’s ranking of top universities outside of the United States. In 2011, UBC reported the highest entrance requirements for undergraduate admission in Canada. UBC faculty, alumni, and researchers have won seven Nobel Prizes, 67 Rhodes Scholarships, 64 Olympic medals, and alumni include two Canadian prime ministers.
University of British Columbia research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Engineering immune cells to protect organs from transplant rejection – April 3, 2016
- House windows act as display screens while regulating heat and light? – February 12, 2016
- Study finds 30 per cent of global fish catch is unreported – January 22, 2016
- Malaria vaccine provides hope for a general cure for cancer – October 14, 2015
- UBC researchers create self-propelled powder to stop bleeding – October 4, 2015
- First superconducting graphene created by UBC researchers – September 9, 2015
- Tiny wires could provide a big energy boost – July 13, 2015
- Universal public drug coverage would save Canada billions – March 17, 2015
- Chemists develop new way to make cost-effective material for electricity storage – March 7, 2015
- Breakthrough UBC research finds cleaner, safer source of medical isotopes than nuclear power plants – January 8, 2014
- Researchers discover natural resistance gene against spruce budworm – November 26, 2014
- One drop will do: UBC researchers develop a simple test for vitamin B12 deficiency – November 4, 2014
- New software algorithm mimics human perception to turn sketches into 3D – August 17, 2014
- With light echoes, the invisible becomes visible – a camera that can see around the corner – June 18, 2014
- Promising approach to slow brain degeneration in a model of Huntington’s disease uncovered – May 30, 2014
- Improving the human-robot connection – Eye of the beholder – April 12, 2014
- Google Earth reveals untold fish catches
- Slacktivism: ‘Liking’ on Facebook may mean less giving
- 2013 Ocean Health Index Shows Food Provision Remains an Area of Great Concern
- New technology can prevent cellular overload, dropped calls
- Breakthrough discovery could result in fragrant golden harvest
- Sharks worth more in the ocean than on the menu
- UBC engineer helps pioneer flat spray-on optical lens
- Mussel goo inspires blood vessel glue
- Discovery could lead to new treatment for lung inflammation
- UBC research creates wireless charger for electric cars
- Seeking Cures, Patients Enlist Mice Stand-Ins
- How to make global fisheries worth five times more
- UBC researchers make flu vaccine breakthrough
- One-Pound Boat That Could Float 1,000 Pounds
- Switch off the lights, here comes the sun
- More Powerful ‘Lab-On-A-Chip’ Made for Genetic Analysis
- Herbs ‘can be natural pesticides’
- Underwater Robot to Explore Ice-Covered Ocean and Antarctic Ice Shelf
- Ostara reactors harvest phosphorus from raw sewage
- Money Buys Happiness When You Spend On Others, Study Shows
- Quantum state world record smashed
- Genetic analysis saves major apple-producing region of Washington state
- The Case For the Wooden Skyscraper
- STUDY FINDS A NEW PATHWAY FOR INVASIVE SPECIES – SCIENCE TEACHERS
- Team Tracks a Food Supply at the End of the World
- Older adults may be vulnerable to new swine flu virus
- ‘Wi-fi for energy’ wins Penn invention competition
- New power sources use magnesium
- Suffer the Little Children
- The Cyber Sea: World’s Largest Internet Undersea Science Station Boots Up
The ancient Japanese art of flower arranging was the inspiration for a groundbreaking technique to create tiny “artificial brains” that could be used to develop personalized cancer treatments.
The organoids, clusters of thousands of human brain cells, cannot perform a brain’s basic functions, much less generate thought. But they provide a far more authentic model – the first of its kind – for studying how brain tumours grow, and how they can be stopped.
“This puts the tumour within the context of a brain, instead of a flat plastic dish,” said Christian Naus, a professor in the department of cellular and physiological sciences, who conceived the project with a Japanese company that specializes in bioprinting. He shared details about the technique at November’s annual Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego. “When cells grow in three dimensions instead of two, adhering only to each other and not to plastic, an entirely different set of genes are activated.”
Naus studies glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive brain cancer that usually takes root deep inside the brain, and easily spreads. The standard care is surgery, followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy, but gliomas almost always return because a few malignant cells manage to leave the tumour and invade surrounding brain tissue. From the time of diagnosis, average survival is one year.
The idea for creating a more authentic model of glioblastoma originated when Naus partnered with a Japanese biotechnology company, Cyfuse, that has developed a particular technique for printing human tissues based on the Japanese art of flower arranging known as ikebana. In ikebana, artists use a heavy plate with brass needles sticking up, upon which the stems of flowers are affixed. Cyfuse’s bioprinting technique uses a much smaller plate covered with microneedles.
Working with Naus and research associate Wun Chey Sin, Kaori Harada of Cyfuse skewered small spheres of human neural stem cells on the microneedles. As the stem cells multiplied and differentiated into brain tissue, they merged and formed larger structures known as organoids, about two millimetres to three millimetres in diameter. Although the organoids lack blood vessels, they are small enough to allow oxygen and nutrients to permeate the tissue.
“The cells make their own environment,” said Naus, Canada Research Chair in Gap Junctions and Neurological Disorders. “We’re not doing anything except printing them, and then they self-assemble.”
The team then implanted cancerous glioma cells inside the organoids. Naus found that the gliomas spread into the surrounding normal cells.
Having shown that the tumour invades the surrounding tissue, Naus envisions that such a technique can be used with a patient’s own cells – both their normal brain cells and their cancerous cells – to grow a personalized organoid with a glioma at its core, and then test a variety of possible drugs or combinations of treatment to see if any of them stop the cancer from growing and invading.
“With this method, we can easily and authentically replicate a model of the patient’s brain, or at least some of the conditions under which a tumour grows in that brain,” said Naus. “Then we could feasibly test hundreds of different chemical combinations on that patient’s cells to identify a drug combination that shows the most promising result, offering a personalized therapy for brain cancer patients.”
UBC researchers have discovered how cancer cells become invisible to the body’s immune system, a crucial step that allows tumours to metastasize and spread throughout the body.
“The immune system is efficient at identifying and halting the emergence and spread of primary tumours but when metastatic tumours appear, the immune system is no longer able to recognize the cancer cells and stop them,” said Wilfred Jefferies, senior author of the study working in the Michael Smith Laboratories and a professor of Medical Genetics and Microbiology and Immunology at UBC.
“We discovered a new mechanism that explains how metastatic tumours can outsmart the immune system and we have begun to reverse this process so tumours are revealed to the immune system once again.”
Cancer cells genetically change and evolve over time. Researchers discovered that as they evolve, they may lose the ability to create a protein known as interleukein-33, or IL-33. When IL-33 disappears in the tumour, the body’s immune system has no way of recognizing the cancer cells and they can begin to spread, or metastasize.
The researchers found that the loss of IL-33 occurs in epithelial carcinomas, meaning cancers that begin in tissues that line the surfaces of organs. These cancers include prostate, kidney breast, lung, uterine, cervical, pancreatic, skin and many others.
Working in collaboration with researchers at the Vancouver Prostate Centre, and studying several hundred patients, they found that patients with prostate or renal (kidney) cancers whose tumours have lost IL-33, had more rapid recurrence of their cancer over a five-year period. They will now begin studying whether testing for IL-33 is an effective way to monitor the progression of certain cancers.
“IL-33 could be among the first immune biomarkers for prostate cancer and, in the near future, we are planning to examine this in a larger sample size of patients,” said Iryna Saranchova, a PhD student in the department of microbiology and immunology and first author on the study.
Researchers have long tried to use the body’s own immune system to fight cancer but only in the last few years have they identified treatments that show potential.
In this study Saranchova, Jefferies and their colleagues at the Michael Smith Laboratories, found that putting IL-33 back into metastatic cancers helped revive the immune system’s ability to recognize tumours. Further research will examine whether this could be an effective cancer treatment in humans.
Closing the high seas to fishing could increase fish catches in coastal waters by 10 per cent, helping people, especially the most vulnerable, cope with the expected losses of fish due to climate change, new UBC research finds.
“Many important fish stocks live in both the high seas and coastal waters. Effective management of high seas fisheries could benefit coastal waters in terms of productivity and help reduce climate change impacts,” said lead author William Cheung, associate professor and director of science of the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.
The high seas are areas of ocean outside the jurisdiction of any country and cover nearly two-thirds of the ocean’s surface.
Researchers used computer models to predict catches of 30 important fish stocks that live in both the high seas and coastal waters in 2050 under three different management scenarios: closing the high seas to fishing, international cooperation to manage fishing, and maintaining the status quo.
They found that both strengthening governance and closing the high seas to fishing increased the resilience of coastal countries to climate change, especially in tropical countries where there is a high dependence on fisheries for food and livelihood.
“The scenarios of closing the high seas may greatly reduce the issue of inequity of benefits and impacts among different countries under climate change,” said co-author Vicky Lam, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.
Climate change is expected to disproportionately impact countries in the South Pacific, Indo-Pacific, West African coast and west coast of central America. Previous UBC research shows that if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise on the current trajectory and the Earth warms, these countries could face a 30 per cent decrease in fish stocks as fish migrate to cooler waters.
“The high seas can serve as a fish bank of the world by providing the insurance needed to make the whole global ocean more resilient,” said paper co-author Rashid Sumaila, professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and director of OceanCanada, one of the research funders. “By closing the high seas to fishing or seriously improving its management, the high seas can help us mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.”
The new system consists of a small, thin patch that is pressed against a patient’s arm during medical treatment and measures drugs in their bloodstream painlessly without drawing any blood. The tiny needle-like projection, less than half a milimetre long, resembles a hollow cone and doesn’t pierce the skin like a standard hypodermic needle.
“Many groups are researching microneedle technology for painless vaccines and drug delivery,” said researcher Sahan Ranamukhaarachchi, a PhD student and Vanier scholar in UBC’s faculties of applied science and pharmaceutical sciences, who developed this technology during a research exchange at PSI. “Using them to painlessly monitor drugs is a newer idea.”
Microneedles are designed to puncture the outer layer of skin, which acts as a protective shield, but not the next layers of epidermis and the dermis, which house nerves, blood vessels and active immune cells.
Researchers at Duke University and the University of British Columbia are exploring whether surfaces can shed dirt without being subjected to fragile coatings
Scalpels that never need washing. Airplane wings that de-ice themselves. Windshields that readily repel raindrops. While the appeal of a self-cleaning, hydrophobic surface may be apparent, the extremely fragile nature of the nanostructures that give rise to the water-shedding surfaces greatly limit the durability and use of such objects.
To remedy this, researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, are investigating the mechanisms of self-propulsion that occur when two droplets come together, catapulting themselves and any potential contaminants off the surface of interest. They ultimately hope to determine whether superhydrophobicity — a surface that is impossible to wet — is a necessary requirement for self-cleaning surfaces.
“The self-propelled catapulting process is somewhat analogous to pogo jumping,” said Chuan-Hua Chen, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. He and his colleagues present their work this week in Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing.
When the droplets coalesce, or come together on a solid particle, they release energy – analogous to the release of biochemical energy of a human body on a pogo stick. The energy is then converted through the interaction between the oscillating liquid drop and the solid particle – analogous to the storage and conversion of energy by the spring mechanism of the pogo stick.
“In both cases, the catapulting is produced by internally generated energy, and the ultimate launching comes from the ground that supports the payload – the solid particle or the pogo stick,” Chen said.
Microbiologists unravel relationship among plants, mycorrhizal fungi
An ancient, mutually beneficial relationship between plants and fungi could make agriculture more sustainable by reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, according to professor Heike Bücking of the South Dakota State University Department of Biology and Microbiology.
For more than 500 million years, the majority of land plants have shared their carbohydrates with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that colonize their root systems, Bücking explained. In exchange, these fungi provide plants with nitrogen and phosphorous, and improve the stress resistance of their host.
These fungi are seen as living fossils and explore the soil with its hyphae in the search for nutrients, and deliver these nutrients to its host. As reward the host plant transfers anywhere from 4 to 20 percent of its photosynthetically fixed carbon to these mycorrhizal symbionts.
“We think these fungi have the potential to increase the biomass production of bioenergy crops and the yield of food crops and do so in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way,” said Bücking. She studies these interactions in food and bioenergy crops including wheat, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, clover and perennial grasses, such as prairie cordgrass.
Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, South Dakota Wheat Commission, Sun Grant Initiative, Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the U.S. Department of Energy – Joint Genome Initiative.
Defining plant-fungi relationships
Supply and demand determine the amount of nutrients that plant and fungi exchange in this mutualistic relationship, according to Bücking. To unravel these complex interactions, she collaborates with researchers at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and the University of British Columbia as well as other South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station researchers.
“Though a host plant is colonized by multiple fungi species simultaneously, the plant knows exactly where certain benefits are coming from. The host plant can distinguish between good and bad fungal behavior and allocates resources accordingly,” she said, noting that the host plant transfers anywhere from 4 to 20 percent of its photosynthetically fixed carbon to mycorrhizal fungi.
These fungi also form common mycorrhizal networks that give them access to multiple hosts. Her research showed that when host plants were shaded and thus decreased their carbohydrate allocation, fungi responded by reducing their nutrient share.
Optimizing fungi for specific crops
She and her collaborators have also found that some fungi are more beneficial than others. For example, Bücking and her collaborators evaluated the relationship between alfalfa and 31 different isolates of 10 arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal species.
They then classified the fungal isolates as high-, medium- or low-performance isolates. The researchers found that high-performance isolates increased the biomass and nutrient uptake of alfalfa by more than 170 percent, while the low-performance ones did not have any effect on growth.
However, those that benefit one crop may not provide the same nutrients or benefits to another crop species, she cautioned. “Even different isolates of one fungal species can behave differently, and it will be necessary to identify fungi that are optimally adapted to their specific environment and host plant to get the highest plant benefit.
Adapting to stressors
In addition to providing nutrients, these fungi can protect food and bioenergy crops from environmental stresses, such as drought, salinity and heavy metals, and diseases, Bücking explained. “All the stresses that a plant can potentially be exposed to are generally improved by mycorrhizal interactions.”
Increasing tolerance through conventional breeding generally targets only one specific stress factor, but crops are often subjected to multiple stresses simultaneously, she pointed out. “These fungi, if used efficiently, can provide the plant with an improved resistance against stresses that are often difficult for us to predict.”
However, she added, more research is necessary to better understand how this ancient symbiosis between land plants and fungi can be used to its full potential.