Carleton University researchers have received almost $700,000 from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) to support projects exploring the link between pollution and suicide and the connection between brain inflammation and Parkinson’s disease.

“CIHR funding enables Carleton to expand its world-class research into these important areas which directly impact the health and wellness of Canadians and people everywhere,” said Rafik Goubran, vice-president (Research and International).

Shawn Hayley, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience will be using CIHR funding to investigate pesticides associated with Parkinson’s disease called Paraquat, which is still used in Canada.

“In our lab, we found that Paraquat causes a degeneration of the dopamine neurons in rodent brains,” said Hayley. “These are the same neurons that die in Parkinson’s patients and result in symptoms related to motor degeneration.”

Hayley is interested in how these substances cause detrimental changes to the brain.

It appears that pesticides are causing inflammation. Hayley believes the same thing could be happening in Parkinson’s patients. He is also looking at how these pesticides cause inflammation, focusing on two genes, LRRK2 and WAVE2.

Paul Villeneuve, a professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, is studying whether changes in air pollution and weather can be associated with suicide.

His interdisciplinary research team consists of Ian Colman from the University of Ottawa, Hymie Anisman and Paul Peters from Carleton, Cheryl Peters from the University of Calgary, as well as Statistics Canada and Health Canada.

In 2016, there were approximately 4,000 deaths from suicide among Canadians, the ninth leading cause of death. Mental illness is by far the most important risk factor for suicide, and previous work suggests that more than 90 per cent of those who die by suicide have a mental or addictive disorder. However, environmental factors may also be risk factors.

“We are very grateful to CIHR for supporting our research on how increases in air pollution and extreme heat may impact the risk of suicide among Canadians,” said Villeneuve. “We feel our research will provide important insights on this topic.  The project will provide training opportunities for graduate students at the University of Ottawa and Carleton.”

A few studies, mostly from Asia, have shown in recent years that there is a relationship between day-to-day changes in air pollution and suicide risk. There has also been some research potentially linking air pollution and depression. Potentially, for those who may already be at risk, air pollution may be an extra stressor and may affect neurological functions.

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Carleton University
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Thursday, August 29, 2019 in
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