Monthly Archives: January 2015

Dr. Sheila Riazi

SheilaRiazi-2I consider myself extremely fortunate to have received funding from PSI for a few of my projects.

I received my first funding as a resident research project. With the help of PSI funding my supervisor (Dr. Colin McCartney), and I were able to show successful interscalene brachial plexus block with reduced phrenic nerve palsy using lower volumes of local anesthetic. This project which was published in British Journal of Anaesthesia, was one the first studies proposing use of lower volumes of local anesthetic while performing ultrasound guided regional nerve block.

I received funding from PSI for my fellowship project. With the help of PSI foundation, my supervisor (Dr. Ricky Brull), and I; with the generous collaboration of Drs. Vera Bril, and Bruce Perkins, were able to validate use of ultrasound as a bedside tool for detection of diabetic neuropathy. This novel approach, was published in Diabetes Care, and have been used by various specialists (neurologists, anesthesiologists, etc.) to identify diabetic neuropathy, especially prior to performing a nerve block, which can potentially aggravate neuropathy.

With the change of my research focus from regional anesthesia to malignant hyperthermia – a rare and potentially fatal genetic disease that can be provoked by certain anesthetics- PSI foundation helped me establish, and complete a few projects, focusing on genetics, as well as pathophysiology of malignant hyperthermia. These projects have been published in high impact journals, and are still on going. Personally, I owe the growth of my research interest, and career, to PSI foundation.

I truly believe Ontarian physicians are fortunate to have such an organization to help them performing clinical research, as well as research involving knowledge translation With the paucity of funding opportunities from federal organizations, PSI foundation is a major force in enabling research by physicians in Ontario. There is no project too small or too large for this foundation with the approval of their peer-reviewed process.

Sheila Riazi, MSc, MD, is an assistant Professor in the department of Anesthesia at University of Toronto, and University Health Network. She is an affiliated scientist at Toronto General research institute, and director of the only Canadian center for malignant hyperthermia investigation. Dr. Riazi is also a member of board of directors of Malignant Hyperthermia Association of United States (MHAUS).


Dr. Michael Fehlings

Fehlings Lab

PSI Success Story – Riluzole

Michael Fehlings-photoThe Fehlings laboratory was awarded a PSI Foundation grant in 1996 entitled “Role of Sodium and AMPA/Kainate Receptors in Acute Spinal Cord Injury”. This study resulted in a publication entitled “The Effect of the Sodium Channel Blocker QX-314 on Recovery after Acute Spinal Cord Injury” [J. Neurotrauma 14(2) p81-88]. Though the effect of QX-314 in this pre-clinical study was transient, it prompted further studies that assessed the efficacy of other sodium channel blockers following acute spinal cord injury (SCI) including riluzole, a clinically approved drug for the treatment of ALS. This pre-clinical follow up study demonstrated that riluzole protected against secondary tissue damage and improved functional recovery after SCI [J. Neurosurgery (Spine 2) 94:245-256]. Riluzole has been translated into clinical trials for SCI and Dr. Fehlings is currently the Principal Investigator on an AOSpine North America sponsored Phase II/III study (Riluzole in Spinal Cord Injury Study – “RISCIS”: identifier NCT01597518) that is expected to be completed in 2015. Dr. Fehlings has also applied riluzole to cervical spondylotic myelopathy, a similar condition as SCI. This study is currently in Phase III (Efficacy of Riluzole in Surgical Treatment for Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy – “CSM Protect”: clinical identifier NCT01257828) with an expected completion date of 2016.

PSI Success Story – IgG

In studies funded by the PSI Foundation in 2006 (“Neuroprotection of the injured spinal cord through inhibition of Fas-mediated apoptosis”), we have successfully blocked FAS-mediated cell death and improved functional recovery following spinal cord injury (SCI). In these studies, we used immunoglobulin G (IgG) as a control molecule for our Fas blocking therapy. To our surprise, when delivered intrathecally, IgG from pooled human serum improved functional recovery. Additional PSI support in 2012 (“Enhancing Recovery Following Cervical Spinal Cord Injury by Modulating Inflammation with IgG”) allowed us to show that, when delivered systemically, intravenous IgG (IVIG) leads to neurobehavioural and neuroanatomical recovery. We have recently been awarded a U.S. patent for the use of IgG in SCI (US12614252) and have successfully formed a linkage with a major international pharmaceutical company, who has agreed to sponsor our late stage pre-clinical work in 2014. Furthermore, in collaboration with this company, we are formulating the framework for clinical use of IgG in SCI once the pre-clinical work is complete.