Dr. Bowdish talks with the CBC about whether we should worry about the coronovirus.

Canada is repatriating citizens from Wuhan, China. Should we be worried that this will bring the coronovirus to Canada?
Dr. Bowdish talks to CBC about the risks of bringing Canadians home, what we can do to protect ourselves from infection, and reveals that there is a virus circulating in Canada right now with similar symptoms that has killed hundreds of Canadians and is expected to kill hundreds more (it’s influenza and you should get your flu shot).


Bowdish lab research on the evolution of MARCO featured in the New York Times

Our research on the scavenger receptor MARCO was featured in an article “Air Pollution, Evolution, and the Fate of Billions of Humans” by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times. In this manuscript we collaborated with Dr. Brian Golding, an expert in evolutionary biology in order to understand the evolution of this macrophage receptor. MARCO (or macrophage receptor with collagenous structure) is expressed on macrophages where it binds bacteria and particles such as those found in dust and air pollution. We had hypothesized that because it is the receptor for two pathogens, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, that have played a major part in driving human evolution, that we might find evidence of areas of the receptor that were undergoing rapid evolution to protect us from this pathogen.

In order to determine which regions of the protein were changing we performed a phylogenetic analysis of the sequence of MARCO from humans, our close ancestors, the Denisovians and Neanderthals, and primates. We found a few interesting things. There was one mutation, which we call F282S (282 refers to the 282nd amino acid in the protein, the F = phenylalanine and the S= serine), had changed very rapidly. All our primate, Denisovian and Neanderthal relatives had a serine residue in that position but fully 83% of the human genomes we analyzed had a phenylalanine. The fact that this mutation spread so quickly through the population means that there must have been very strong selection pressure. We cloned both variants and found that the human specific variant was indeed better at binding inert particles and bacteria. There were a few other interesting mutations we characterized (see article below) but the take home message is that some of the evolutionary adaptations we have made to deal with pathogens may have influenced our ability to handle air pollution or, since the savannah was predicted to be a dry and dusty place, the adaptations we’ve made to deal with particulates in the air may have changed our response to pathogens.

To read the full article, see below.

Human-specific mutations and positively-selected sites in MARCO confer functional changes. Novakowski KE, Yap NVL, Yin C, Sakamoto K, Heit B, Golding GB, Bowdish DME. Mol Biol Evol. 2017 Nov 20. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msx298.
PMID: 2916561

Congratulations to Pat Schenck & Jessica Breznik on winning the Farncombe Research in Progress Awards!

Jessica Breznik (co-supervised by Dr. Deborah Sloboda) won the “Best Presentation by a PhD student” while Pat Schenck (co-supervised by Dr. Mike Surette) won runner up!  What a wonderful tribute to their skills in both research and communication – well done!

Publication: Age-associated Inflammation alters the aging trajectory.

This article is written for lay/broad audiences and describes what age-associated inflammation is and why it may be key to healthy/unhealthy aging.

White Paper: “As One of Canada’s Top Killers, Why Isn’t Pneumonia Taken More Seriously?” with Ryerson’s Institute of Aging


White paper: “Paving The Way For Immunization Innovation” with the Lung Association Ontario

Why does the public mistrust science? Radio interview with CHML.

Dr Bowdish talks to Scott Thompson on  CHML radio about a recent survey suggesting that more Canadians have lost their trust in science. Are scientists elitist? What can scientists do to regain the public’s trust ? Listen to this clip to hear more….

Available position: Research Technician in Mouse Models of Aging

This CIHR funded 12 month technician position will study how the immune system changes with age using mouse models. This position is suitable for someone with an MSc or strong experience in mouse models or immunology. The successful applicant will handle mouse breeding and inventory, liaising with animal care technicians to deal with health issues, ordering reagents for lab members, maintaining financial records, enforcing safety regulations and maintaining lab inventories. Research responsibilities will include working independently to perform studies of how the immune system changes with age and will include tissue collection, metabolic and behavioural testing, and creating bone marrow chimeras. This is a limited term contract but pending successful performance reviews it may be possible to extend the contract.

Essential skills
Animal handling
• This project requires significant experience in animal handling including breeding, non-terminal blood collection, anesthesia, tissue collection and procedures such as tail vein and intraperitoneal injections. Experience in behavioural testing, metabolic testing or flow cytometry would be assets. The applicant will be expected to work independently and be able to perform experiments with minimal guidance and to train junior members of the team in basic procedures. Please provide a detailed description of relevant animal experience and training in your cover letter.

Organization and Communication
• The applicant will be required to coordinate experiments with other team members and collaborators weeks to months in advance and consequently excellent organizational skills are required. The applicant will need to work closely with animal care staff and make good judgement calls on issues of animal welfare. The applicant must be able to document results in a laboratory notebook and will be responsible for writing protocols. Excellent written and oral English skills are essential.

Must be willing to learn:
Immunology assays
• The applicant will need to perform ELISAs including multiplex ELISAs (e.g. Luminex), flow cytometry and PCR for genotyping.
• The applicant will need to use Graphpad for data analysis and will need to know how to use statistical techniques such as ANOVA.

Additional skills which may be an asset:
Chimeric bone marrow transplants
• The applicant will create bone marrow chimeras. Previous experience in this or other mouse immunology techniques will be an asset.
Behavioural testing
• Experience in studying mouse behavior including anxiety, cognition, and mobility would be strong assets.
Metabolic studies.
• Experience in measuring blood glucose and insulin would be valuable.
Please describe your experience with any of these techniques in your cover letter.

Why the Bowdish lab?
Our lab’s core values are Diversity, Ambition, Innovation and Collaboration. These core values dictate our approach to doing science. Our technical staff are valuable members of our team who participate in our research by performing exemplary work, attending conferences, presenting their work, and communicating with the broader scientific and lay audience. We teach transferable skills that have broad utility within and outside of academia and provide opportunities for personal and professional growth. We value diversity and are family friendly. For more details on our lab see our website.