Photo by Catherine Goce

By: Abirami Sudharshan

In October 2018, the McMaster faculty of health sciences launched the “Centre for Metabolism, Obesity and Diabetes Research,” an initiative ten years in the making.  

Since then, the centre has been working to engineer novel clinical applications in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of adult and juvenile metabolic disease.

According to the agenda from the Oct. 18 McMaster board of governors meeting, 25 per cent of adults in Canada and around the world are affected by obesity, type two diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Every year, the Canadian health care system incurs more than $30 billion per year in incurred related costs.

The founding of the MODR centre, which was approved by the senate in April 2018, allows for the accelerated progression of pre-clinical to human research.

This is largely made possible through the MODR’s collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to metabolic research, according to a report in the Oct. 18 board of governors agenda.

“The MODR brings together a rich and diverse group of researchers from across McMaster University… with expertise ranging from cellular metabolism, physiology, clinical epidemiology, population health, pediatrics, adult medicine and clinical trials… who share a passion for collaborating and sharing insights and perspectives,” said Hertzel Gerstein, the centre’s senior advisor at the McMaster faculty of medicine.

Co-directors Katherine Morrison and Gregory Steinberg are studying these diseases at the clinical and cellular level, respectively.

Under their guidance, the centre is set to flourish as a world expert in determining the biological drivers behind metabolism disruption, understanding their mechanics and translating this knowledge into feasible, effective and clinical solutions.

“Ten years from now, we hope to have made a significant impact on the lives of people living with metabolic diseases by having developed new therapies,” said Steinberg.

The MODR is currently facilitating a number of metabolism-related research projects.

One project Steinberg and Morrison are leading is the “Gene Environment Team on Brown/Beige Adipose Tissue” project, which aims to understand the underlying causes of obesity, type two diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

According to the project description, brown adipose tissue is essentially the body’s furnace, burning sugar and fat in the body.

In individuals with obesity or T2D the ability to  switch on BAT is compromised, but the reasons for this are not well understood,” reads a statement on the MODR’s website. “The GET_BAT team is examining how agricultural and food processing practices may regulate BAT metabolic activity, directly, or indirectly by altering the gut microbiome.”

The results from these studies are expected to help the researchers develop strategies to increase BAT activity and treat and prevent metabolic disease.

Another project underway, the “Baby & Mi and Baby & Pre-Mi Studies,” is investigating the impact of gut bacteria on long-term health.

In particular, the study will be one of the first in North America to explore factors that may alter the gut bacteria picked up in the first three years of life.

In another study, Steinberg will be testing new medicines that impact proteins in the liver and adipose tissue in effort to treat type two diabetes.

More information about the research being conducted at the MODR can be found at https://healthsci.mcmaster.ca/metabolism-research.

 

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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By: Lauren Olsen

Last January, McMaster University’s president Patrick Deane took a stand and banned all forms of smoking on school grounds, making McMaster Ontario's first 100 per cent tobacco and smoke free campus. This included banning the on-campus use of cigarettes, cigars, hookah, pot and most importantly, the ever-popular vape pens.

The ban on campus was a welcome sight for those opposed to tobacco, however, the ineffectiveness of enforcing this policy rendered the ban as a bland suggestion rather than a legitimate rule.

You can witness this phenomenon simply by walking around campus. You won’t make it far before encountering students vaping in direct violation of the McMaster ‘ban’, with their discretion being non-existent. Students can be found vaping in classrooms, lecture halls, residences and around campus.

Recently, there was an opening of the 180 Smoke Vape Shop in Westdale which will only further support and make accessible the habits of smokers. The store offers everything including e-cigarettes, vape juice, pens and portable vaporizers, and is located just a short walk from McMaster University.  

They are attracting not only smokers who may be trying to quit, but others who lack the proper information about the hazards associated with vaping, and may only be concerned with becoming part of the current trend. They are promoting this product as a commercialized, socially-acceptable activity rather than a helpful addiction quitting strategy for tobacco smokers.

For McMaster students, it’s just a short stroll to a readily-available addiction which is now a booming industry. According to BBC News, the number of vapers has increased rapidly from about seven million in 2011 to 35 million in 2016. The global vaping products market is now estimated to be worth up to $22.6 billion USD.

The rapid growth of the industry is not a victimless development. New products need new users and stores like 180 Smoke Vape Shop will likely be getting their customer base from McMaster.  

Other than perpetuating the ‘look’ and fueling the industry, students are playing with fire and risking addiction. Although e-cigarettes do not contain any tar, carbon monoxide or other chemicals found in tobacco smoke, they still mimic the familiar action of a smoker and can be addictive. What used to be a method to quit is now becoming a method to start, and making smoking acceptable again.

The smoking population who are slowly cutting back their nicotine addiction to quit smoking have made way for the young adults who are peer-pressured by the new “cool” thing to do and, in turn, are becoming dependent on the addictive drug.

Harvard Health Publishing describes the side effects of vaping to include the potential of diabetes, loss of impulse control, impairment of brain development and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Thus, the antidote is quickly becoming the poison.

I am not advocating that McMaster shutdown 180 Smoke Vape Shop, or campaign to influence public policy. Rather, the university should enforce the very rule they promised in early 2018, in order to make McMaster a safer environment and community.

Creating a ban was a novel idea, but not following is more than just lazy enforcement — it is potentially dangerous to student health.

More and more youth will be exposed and persuaded to try vaping, which easily perpetuates an addiction whose lasting health implications are still being determined. Moreover, the campus itself is not an inviting space with smoke billowing from its hallways and paths. It’s time to inhale the future and start enforcing the smoking ban on campus.

 

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