At times it's a very fine line that separates human and beast

At times it's a very fine line that separates human and beast

July 1, 2002

In fact, the similarities between the two can sometimes seem uncanny-even genetically predetermined and scientifically supportable. Now researchers at the University of Prince Edward Island are gearing up to more closely study the connection between the two and are targeting one particular way in which humans and animals may be linked: disease.

The Atlantic Veterinary College at UPEI in Charlottetown is home to the new Atlantic Centre for Comparative Biomedical Research-currently under development. The centre will build on the college's already impressive expertise in the field of comparative biomedical and medical research-the study of phenomena basic to diseases of all species. It's an essential link between basic biomedical and clinical research, with the ultimate goal of developing treatments or preventative strategies for human and animal diseases. Since animal diseases are frequently excellent models for the study of human conditions, and advances in veterinary science are spin-offs from human medical research, the research at the centre has the potential to bring impressive findings .

With infrastructure support from the CFI, UPEI is building new research facilities to house the Atlantic Centre for Comparative Biomedical Research and its group of researchers led by Catherine Chan. The four-story centre will be connected to the Atlantic Veterinary College and will house state-of-the-art facilities for such activities as molecular biology, animal surgery, microscopy and imaging, cell culture, electrophysiology, and behavioural studies.

Researchers believe the time is right to push the boundaries of this type of biomedical investigation. With the advent of "designer" animals whose physiology has been tailored by genetic engineering, comparative biomedical research is more valuable than ever. In fact, comparative research is the basis of biomedical research that has historically laid the foundation for the understanding of the human disease process.

The new facility will help UPEI build upon its existing strengths in comparative biomedical research, and will help create synergies among researchers at UPEI and other universities in Atlantic Canada who are conducting animal-based research. It will also help the university attract and retain the highly qualified personnel it needs for future research into such areas as drug metabolism, biomechanics, and neurodegenerative diseases.