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NOT A SOLAR BED: Dr. Jen Coorssen poses proudly next to one of the technological wonders in the new proteomics lab located in the U of C Health Sciences Centre. The lab is the first of its kind in North America.
Aaron Whitfield/The Gauntlet

More medical marvels

New facility provides insight to CNS afflictions

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Calgary can now add a new proteomics lab to its list of world-class facilities.

On Oct. 5, Dr. Jens Coorssen and his team of researchers officially opened the new Faculty of Medicine facility in the Heritage Medical Research Building. The lab will be used to identify proteins essential to functions of the central nervous system.

"Overnight we have become a major international centre for proteomics research," said the Assistant Professor of Physiology and Biophysics. "This facility puts us on the cutting edge."

More research is needed before researchers can even begin to understand the causes of CNS diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia.

"We don't understand most molecular mechanisms. We need to understand how the CNS works so that we can see where disruptions are happening and why they are happening," said Coorssen, as he described how his current research will play a role in future developments concerning the functions of the CNS. "You don't go to a mechanic because he can somehow magically fix your car. You go to a mechanic because he has the best understanding of how your car works and that will enable him to identify problems."

Until now, only members operating in the private sector could afford to assemble equipment of this caliber in one facility.

"Part of the problem with wanting to get this particular suite of equipment was the price," said Coorssen.

Funding for the facility came from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Alberta Network for Proteomics Innovation, the Alberta government's Research Excellence Envelope, the Alberta Cancer Board and PerkinElmer Life Sciences Canada who supplied the equipment at a reduced cost.

According to Coorssen, PerkinElmer Life Sciences Canada was happy to contribute when informed of the planned research.

"Rather than taking a broad mapping approach... we're taking a functional proteomic approach," said Coorssen. " We are asking very specific questions. For example about the secretion of neurotransmitters, [and then we] dissect this mechanism using proteomics."

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