Posted tagged ‘Edmontonians Visionaries’

Shadoo Protein detected by student researcher

May 4, 2009


may09-david-westawayAnother step forward in understanding what causes prion diseases like mad cow is the recent discovery of the shadoo protein.

Dr. David Westaway of the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases at the University of Alberta says shadoo is the name given to a theoretical protein by scientists studying DNA sequences on chromosomes. Its actual existence was confirmed by a student in Westaway’s lab. The student showed that shadoo is abundant in the brain and has a lot of features similar to normal prion proteins.

As Westaway explains, “We think that they may be part of a family of molecules on the surface of brain cells that help brain cells deal with damage. We have looked at what happens to the shadoo protein in an animal that has a prion disease… We were very surprised to get a very simple answer: that the shadoo protein starts to disappear. In one sense, the fact that the shadoo protein disappears when animals are replicating prions, it is what we call a tracer. We didn’t expect to make this discovery, but somehow when the protein is disappearing, it’s telling you that prions are replicating.”

Dr. Westaway speculates this may be related to yet another class of proteins called proteazes which function as a waste disposal team in the body. √    ~ Cheryl Croucher

 You can learn more about the research underway at the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases at


Urine test for mad cow means early detection

May 4, 2009


At the present time, the only way to confirm whether cattle are suffering from mad cow disease is to test them after they are slaughtered.

However, the research of Dr. David Knox and his colleagues at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg may soon lead to a simple urine test for mad cow disease.

Dr. Knox presented his findings at the recent prion conference in Edmonton which was hosted by PrioNet Canada and the Alberta Prion Research Institute.

As Dr. Knox explains, an examination of cattle urine would reveal biomarkers that indicate whether the cattle are infected, long before clinical symptoms appear.

“We found one marker, at least in our small test set, that is able to discriminate with 100 percent accuracy between control and infected samples. And that’s a protein called clusterin. However, it requires further validation. Does it work in all BSE infected cattle is one question. And the other question is, do you see increased amounts in response to other types of infection as well?”

Mad cow disease has a long incubation period. The good news is that Dr. Knox has detected the biomarker in urine as early as eight months after infection—long before clinical symptoms appear in cattle. √                                                            ~ Cheryl Croucher

 Cheryl Croucher’s interviews on prion research were funded by a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

Fun & flexibility for women in science

April 27, 2009

If you can’t find Margaret-Ann Armour in her office at the University of Alberta, you might very well find her in a school classroom surrounded by kids.

Take March 13th as an example. That’s when she spent the day at Windsor Park School showing grade three and grade five students how to make nylon.

“One of the great joys of my life has been going out to schools and having fun with chemistry. That means I can take all sorts of colourful demonstrations that I can get the children involved in as well. They get quite excited when, out of a beaker, you can pull a thread of nylon.”

Even I learned a thing or two listening to this amazing professor explain the chemical reaction that produces polymerization.

“We talk about the fact that nylon is made from two small molecules. And these two small molecules are in some way like people. They’ve got two arms. That means they can all join up together in a long line. And, of course, I always have the children join up. Nylon in chemical terms is called a polymer. And that just means that it is ‘many molecules’. We have such fun. I tell the children when they are all joined up with their hands that now they are ‘poly-people’. They remember that and so they’ve got the idea of the many molecules and this long chain which is why you get a thread of nylon.”  …. Read More

Perfecting Wheat Straw Pulp

April 14, 2009

pulpPulp made from wheat straw is commonly used in countries like China and Turkey where trees are in short supply. With the growing push for environmentally sustainable products, pulp and paper manufacturers in North America are also interested in wheat straw.


Over the last decade, Wade Chute and his colleagues at the Alberta Research Council have been looking at how wheat straw pulp could meet our market demands for brightness and strength. He is the team leader for pulp and paper in the Forest Products Business Unit at the ARCl.

As Chute explains,In China they will cook wheat straw to a higher yield, so they will remove less of the lignan. As a result they will bleach to a lower brightness. The lower brightness and the higher yield basically saves them money, but it is more than enough to achieve the paper objectives that they have there. In North America, we seem to have this fascination with ultra high bright, ultra white, ultra pure printing and writing papers and that necessitates that you cook to a much, much lower yield. It also implies that you use a lot more bleach. So the straw pulp that’s produced in China right now, they just cook it and bleach it a little bit differently.”

Chute says ARC’s pilot plant is now processing a wheat straw pulp that could meet the high standards of North American pulp and paper makers. What’s needed, however, is access to a full size pulping line to demonstrate that wheat straw pulp can be produced in commercial quantities. √                                                                         ~Cheryl Croucher

Triticale… a new source of bioproducts

April 8, 2009

Who needs oitriticalel from Saudi Arabia or Fort McMurray   when you can grow triticale in the back forty?

Triticale is a cereal grain hybridized from wheat and rye half a century ago. It never took off as a substitute for wheat flour. But in the 21st Century, the Alberta Research Council is betting triticale will make a dandy substitute for petroleum.

The Council has just received $15 million dollars from the federal Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program to show us how.

Richard Gibson is the business development manager for Industrial Bioproducts at ARC, and marketing manager with the Canadian Triticale Biorefinery Initiative. He says the main interest in triticale is its potential for chemical and material applications. “If you had crude oil coming out of the ground and you put it into a refinery, you’ve got crude oil turned into a whole range of products. And if we think about triticale as the crude oil for a biorefinery and put triticale in one end of the refinery, we’d get a whole range of products coming out the other side—anything from materials to chemicals and energy as well.

Gibson points out that triticale is a crop well suited for growing in marginal areas, and it is a good addition to a suite of industrial crops for biorefining, including hemp. √

~ Cheryl Croucher

A Start-Up Business YouTube?

November 7, 2008

It seems that in the state of the current economy more and more cities like Edmonton are seeking new ways to promote their young entrepreneurs and technology sectors. Just recently we discovered some striking similarities between the technology sectors of Edmonton and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

It seems that young entrepreneurs are beginning to find success in promoting and raising awareness of start-up businesses in areas that are not technically considered hubs of entrepreneurship.

Case in point, promotes start-up businesses in the Milwaukee area and the country. The owners, Ryan Graves and Blake Samic share between themselves a wealth of information technology experience that could launch their website into the next “YouTube” for start-up businesses. In a sense, their site could become a popular source for young entrepreneurs and investors to gather and share information through the use of video and other sources of technology. But will they succeed?

When Bruce Johnson released Semanti, a brilliant search technology that sets on top of Google to personalize the searching experience, he probably never would have guessed the level of the technology’s current success. Though Graves and Samic do have a long way to go before they can consider themselves as being the next start-up YouTube or even as successful as Bruce Johnson, the potential is definitely there, and just as Semanti’s potential was recognized and marketed, so too will the idea of these two young entrepreneurs.

It serves as a reminder to all social networkers, young entrepreneurs and investors alike that we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to ideas. New ideas are developing and will continue to develop in our current economic crisis, and as Edmontonians Visionaries often discovers, technology is always at the heart of those developments.

Investors are Seeking Safe and Practical Investment Opportunities

October 26, 2008





Recently Edmonton was named one of the 21 Smartest Communities in the world by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF).   Yet the technology and life science sectors of Edmonton seem to have fallen below the radars of many economic strategists in the past.  However, in the state of the current economic crisis facing the world today, along with the commitment of Edmontonians Visionaries and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), more and more economic strategists are becoming aware of the financial and investment potential of Edmonton. 


Raising this awareness, Edmontonians Visionaries has an eighteen year history of promoting the economic and social energy of Edmonton and the surrounding areas.  Publisher of Edmontonians, a monthly publication aimed toward the commerce leaders and individuals of the community, Edmontonians strives to develop effective mediums that promote the commerce aspect of Edmonton.  Also raising awareness and owned by the city of Edmonton, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) is a non-profit organization responsible for many things, including the economic development of Edmonton.  But what exactly are these two institutions promoting?   


Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), a prestigious technology institute, is an investors’ paradise.  Northern Alberta Institute of Technology has been noted for its many achievements, including creating and operating Canada’s first commercially operated fuel cell, providing the institution with 8% of their energy needs.  And more green products and programs at NAIT are underway that are expected to save the institution over $100,000 a year per program in energy costs. 


NAIT is active in twenty-three countries and is currently serving as one of Alberta, Canada’s top thirty-five employers.  They pride themselves in having a 95% graduate placement rating, as well as a 98% employer satisfaction rating.  In short, NAIT possesses the necessary resources as well as the potential to develop new energy technology that the world so desperately needs.


More about NAIT and other Edmonton investment possibilities coming in future posts.