University of Alberta research is helping advance knowledge, improve our
world, and shape the future.
In late 1921 and early 1922, biochemistry professor and alumnus James Collip
played a key role in discovering insulin. He refined the crude pancreatic extract
obtained by Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and John Macleod so it could be used
in humans. Eighty years later, U of A researchers have developed a new “under the
skin” islet transplantation technique—an evolution of the U of A’s Edmonton
Protocol developed in the late ‘90s that temporarily enables severe Type 1
diabetics to stop taking insulin. The new technique offers less risk and greater
patient benefit and holds potential for regenerative medicine beyond diabetes. Other U of researchers are working toward needle-free management of Type 1
diabetes, by using blue light to stimulate insulin secreting engineered fat cells.
Early-stage research shows body fluids like saliva may help us understand the
potential of developing Alzheimer’s, even among people not yet exhibiting
Alzheimer’s-related memory problems. The saliva technique shows promise for
predicting and tracking cognitive decline and is a safe, easy, non-invasive, and
affordable diagnostic tool.
Science and Technology
Researchers found that ancient seawater was involved in forming diamonds in Canada's North. Last year the same researchers confirmed the presence of massive amounts of
water deep beneath the Earth’s surface, furthering theories that
Earth’s transition zone may contain as much water as all the world’s oceans.
Research on new antennae and front-end circuits for 5G networks is
underway at the U of A. Our researchers are also working on ways to wirelessly
power remote sensors and develop a new type of 3-D printer capable of
manufacturing electronic devices, sensors, and antennas in one integrated process.
Half of Alberta’s gross domestic product relies on water. To minimize this
dependency, the U of A, with Alberta government support, launched Predicting
Alberta’s Water Future, which uses supercomputing to create hundreds of
millions of simulations of Alberta’s river basins to forecast water supply and
demand for the next 50 years.
To better understand how forest management affects water supply and quality, the
U of A’s Southern Rockies Watershed Project is the first major effort globally to
examine forest disturbance on water from source to tap.
Internationally, we are exporting our water quality monitoring, treatment, and
transport technology advances through global partnerships, like IC-IMPACTS—a
five-year, $30-million Canada-India research collaboration seeking solutions to
water challenges affecting the quality of life for people in India and Canada.
Energy, the Environment, and Climate Change
In the 1920s, researcher Karl Clark devised the technique for liberating the
175 billion barrels of oil locked up in Alberta’s oilsands. Today, more than
1,000 U of A researchers collaborate on the oilsands and its environmental
impact, looking at carbon-capture sequestration, deep geothermal energy,
emission reduction, land reclamation, and water conservation.
U of A researchers developed technology that turns feedstock into gas or
diesel. The end product has no impurities such as metals, sulphur, or nitrogen,
but has as much energy as crude oil gas or diesel. U of A spinoff Forge
Hydrocarbons is commercializing this technology.
Our researchers are working with Mercedes-Benz and Ford to develop improved
hydrogen fuel cells that combine CO2 with methane to produce electricity and
carbon monoxide, thereby turning a waste product into a valuable chemical.
The U of A will soon house Canada’s ice core collection—some dating as far
back as 800,000 years. A rich source of information on past climate change,
ancient microbes, pollutants, and extreme weather events, the cores will play a
key role in climate change science at the U of A, nationally and globally.
Food and Agriculture
U of A plant scientist Gary Stringam saved Canada’s canola industry in the
1980s by developing a new strain of canola resistant to blackleg disease—a
blight that threatened the plant’s existence. His work followed in a long line of
agriculture research breakthroughs at the U of A that continue today. More
recently, crop researchers have isolated three genes from pomegranates and
incorporated them into oilseed crops, adding a polyunsaturated fatty acid found
to help slow the growth of some cancer cells.
U of A researchers are studying ways to reduce the beef industry’s large
environmental footprint. They are examining how genetic improvements could
affect production, profitability, and greenhouse gas emissions as well as
feeding, drinking, and other methane production parameters. Researchers
believe breeding for lower methane production and low residual feed could
reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 per cent.