Research.James Lim


Medical research takes time. While it may take years to uncover the cause of an illness, a research discovery has the potential to change the lives of countless children in BC and around the world.

Each year, donors like you fund the work of more than 200 researchers and scientists at BC Children’s Hospital’s research institute, one of the few institutes in the world dedicated to child and family health.

Our researchers come from every corner of the world, attracted by the high calibre of talent, research and the stable research infrastructure — thanks to donor dollars.

Making the most of mobile phones

In 2014, Dr. Mark Ansermino and his team in the hospital’s Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) developed the new mobile app RRate. The app measures the respiratory rate in children in an average of 9.9 seconds, about six times faster than the standard manual method.

 Traditionally, the World Health Organization recommends measuring respiratory rate by counting a patient’s breath for 60 seconds using a stop watch. This app is a big step toward better diagnoses for children with respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, the leading cause of death in childhood worldwide.

 It is particularly useful for health-care professionals working in low-resource areas, since it allows them to make faster and more accurate measurements, make better decisions and improve the outcomes of their patients.

Childhood leukemia discovery

Last year, our researchers made great strides in the area of childhood cancer research. Dr. James Lim and his team discovered how a group of cell adhesion proteins called integrins promote the ability of leukemia cells to survive chemotherapy.

In 15 per cent of leukemia cases, cell adhesion via integrins can cause the leukemia to return and become drug-resistant after treatment is complete. Dr. Lim is hopeful that by identifying these proteins, we will have a new target for cancer-fighting drugs — improving the odds for children fighting leukemia in BC and beyond.

Hope for children with inflammatory bowel disease

Every year at BC Children’s Hospital, about 100 children are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an umbrella term for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The painful and potentially embarrassing effects of IBD have a particularly traumatic effect on children, who often grow up confined to their homes, unable to play sports or participate in other childhood activities.

CFRI scientist Dr. Bruce Vallance, in collaboration with US colleagues, has found that the cells lining the gut make inflammasomes, groups of proteins that work together to trigger an immune response. This finding refutes a common belief that the cells lining the gut aren’t able to make these proteins.

 Dr. Vallance and his team suspect that many people with IBD develop the disease because their intestinal cells don’t properly activate inflammasomes, making them more susceptible to chronic bacterial infections. It’s also possible that inflammasomes help repair damage to the intestinal walls, and that this healing function is impaired in people with IBD.

With a better understanding of how inflammasomes are involved in IBD, Dr. Vallance hopes that more targeted therapies can be developed to treat this currently incurable disease.

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