Biobank projects

Details on projects that have been approved to use Statistics Canada biobank biospecimens are provided below. To ensure confidentiality, data from these projects will only be available to the Research Data Centres user community.

  • Estimating HCV/HBV prevalence among the general population in Canada

    Principal Researcher: Nashira Popovic

    Affiliation: Public Health Agency of Canada

    Summary

    Globally, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and 257 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B infection. Hepatitis C is a major public health problem that is underdiagnosed and undertreated. Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, available and effective.

    The Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) measured HBV/HCV infection between 2007-2015. However, HCV and HBV measures were not included in the CHMS after 2015. This time period is especially important, given that medications for the treatment and cure of chronic hepatitis C became available in Canada around that time.

    This project proposes to use Biobank blood samples from CHMS Cycle 5 and 6 to test for HCV/HBV infection in the general Canadian population. These data will help us to understand and report on the current disease burden and may be used to inform the planning of public health programs for these two diseases.

  • Improved delivery of respiratory health care services using a metabolomic approach

    Principal Researcher: Dr. Darryl Adamko

    Affiliation: University of Saskatchewan

    Summary

    Metabolomic analyses allow researchers to investigate globally the chemicals that result from different cellular processes. Following these chemical fingerprints, it is possible to investigate the physiological state of cells and, by extension of the organism. Thus, metabolomics is an analytical tool with great potential for diagnosis of human diseases. Since 2009, our team has been developing analytical models via metabolomic analyses, for adults and children with respiratory diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), with the ultimate goal of establishing a urine-based diagnostic test.

    For this project, we are using existing cohorts to show how our methods can differentiate preschool children with asthma from other causes of wheeze-like illness, and differentiate adults with asthma from COPD. We will also study differences in sex among these cohorts, ensuring that our test can identify such differences and improve health outcomes. Ultimately, our diagnostic urine test will empower patients, helping them to get a correct diagnosis, and initiation of treatment.

  • Generation of Reference Intervals for Neurological Biomarker Analytes in Plasma

    Principal Researcher: Dr. Cheryl Wellington

    Affiliation: University of British Columbia

    Summary

    Traumatic brain injury is one the leading causes of mortality and morbidity affecting humanity, and a recognized risk factor for late-life neurodegenerative disorders and dementia. Since it is now possible to accurately measure several brain-derived proteins in blood samples using ultrasensitive technologies, some proteins present in the blood are emerging as good biomarker candidates for brain damage, meaning they could be used to evaluate its extent and monitor its progression by means of a blood test.

    A key step in developing these blood tests is to first understand what normal levels of the biomarkers, technically called “reference intervals”, are in the representative population. This project will generate reference intervals in the Canadian population for up to 17 proteins (starting with 5) that are emerging as promising biomarkers for neurological conditions. These references could be used in the future to assess the extent of brain damage from blood samples.

  • Evaluation of diagnostic assays for COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2

    Principal Researchers: Dr. Michael Drebot

    Affiliation: Public Health Agency of Canada

    Summary

    The recent outbreak of COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 was deemed a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020. Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is crucial for informing treatment and tracking the spread of the virus to limit transmission. The widely used molecular diagnostic test, which detects genetic material of SARS-CoV-2, is useful for case management but may be limited in identifying infections after virus clearance and determining who has been exposed.

    To improve our ability to identify such cases we aim to evaluate multiple commercially-available blood tests which detect antibodies raised in patients that have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. We also wish to evaluate antigen capture tests to add to the repertoire of available diagnostic assays for COVID-19.

    Samples from patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 will be tested in order to establish the sensitivity of the diagnostic tests. A panel of samples from patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-1 and other respiratory illness, as well as healthy individuals, will be tested in order to establish the cross-reactivity and specificity of the diagnostic tests. Pre-outbreak samples, including sera, blood, plasma, and urine from the CHMS biobank will also be important for determining performance of the various serology platforms.

  • Biomonitoring of environmental chemicals in samples of the CHMS biobank

    Principal Researchers: Annie St-Amand

    Affiliation: Health Canada

    Summary

    The biomonitoring component of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) measures many environmental chemicals and their metabolites in the blood and urine of survey participants.

    An environmental chemical can be defined as a chemical substance present in the environment, either human-made or natural, to which humans may be exposed through media such as air, water, food, soil, dust, and consumer products. The primary purpose of this project is to aid scientists, and officials in assessing exposure to environmental chemicals, and in developing policies to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals for the protection of the health of Canadians.

    Biomonitoring of environmental chemicals in biobank samples from cycles 4 to 6 will provide information on recent, and historical concentrations of high priority chemicals in the Canadian population.

  • Genome-wide Genotyping of the Canadian Health Measures Survey

    Principal Researcher: Dr. Ioannis Ragoussis

    Affiliation: University of McGill, Montreal, Quebec

    Summary

    DNA samples from consenting participants from cycles 2 to 5 of the CHMS will undergo genotyping. This is a process of determining differences in the genetic make-up between individuals. This will greatly expand the scientific utility of the current data and will allow for substantial contributions to disease understanding. The knowledge of common genetic variation of the CHMS participants will permit researchers to undertake genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify the genetic determinants of many of the CHMS-measured variables. Strict safeguards are in place to ensure that the confidentiality of the CHMS results are respected.

  • Fatty Acid Reference Ranges from the CHMS

    Principal Researcher: Dr. David Ma

    Affiliation: University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario

    Purpose

    To determine the reference ranges (normal values) of plasma fatty acids of Canadians to provide an appropriate clinical interpretation of laboratory test results. The study will also serve to establish healthy target levels of fatty acids and determine whether certain concentrations are associated with deficiency or increased risk of chronic disease.

    Scientific importance

    Fatty acid measurement is being widely reported in research. However, the relevance to the health of Canadians is poor due to the lack of available clinical reference ranges. Determining reference ranges for individual fatty acids from the CHMS biospecimens would make it possible to establish healthy targets and evaluate whether certain levels of fatty acids are associated with deficiency or increased chronic disease risk.

    This study will address the development of fatty acid reference ranges in healthy Canadians. The data will enable the development of relevant fatty acid reference ranges in the majority of Canadians from 6 to 79 years of age. Fatty acid reference ranges in young children are highly relevant given that growing evidence links the development of adult chronic disease to these early sensitive years of growth and development.

    Output

    Data results from analysis of the biosamples will be made available to researchers at Statistics Canada's Research Data Centres. Only aggregate statistical outputs conforming to the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act will be released. Research findings will be disseminated through peer reviewed academic publications.

    Biospecimens used in this study were collected in CHMS cycle 1 (March 2007 to February 2009) and cycle 2 (August 2009 to November 2011).

  • Measuring the Immunity of Canadians to Measles and Varicella and Assessing the Risk of Epidemics (iCARE)

    Principal Researchers: Dr. Natasha Crowcroft and Dr. Shelly Bolotin

    Affiliation: Public Health Ontario

    Purpose

    This study aims to examine the level of population immunity to measles and varicella, (chickenpox) which are both vaccine-preventable diseases in Canada.

    Scientific importance

    Research into the immunity of populations to infectious diseases like measles and varicella is critical. There have been recent measles outbreaks in several Canadian provinces including Ontario in 2008 and Quebec in 2011. By studying the level of immunity to measles and varicella in Canadians, we can understand whether specific populations are at higher risk of future outbreaks.

    This study will measure measles and varicella immunity using serum samples collected from the CHMS, a nationally representative population-based survey of Canadians. The results will show whether Canada is at risk of large outbreaks and to evaluate whether infection patterns of varicella (chickenpox) and herpes zoster (shingles) are changing. These findings will be presented to the policy makers who recommend the best use of vaccines. This will play an important role in improving the health of Canadians by enabling us to predict future trends of these preventable diseases.

    Output

    Study findings will be presented at conferences and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In addition, findings will be shared with stakeholders such as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), Canadian Immunization Committee (CIC) and provincial and territorial immunization committees and Ministries of Health. Results from this study could also be used to support the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) and WHO (World Health Organization) initiatives that are documenting the global elimination of measles.

    Biospecimens used in this study were collected as part of the CHMS cycle 2 (Aug 2009 to Nov 2011) and cycle 3 (Jan 2012 to Dec 2013)

  • Canadian Biomonitoring Data, Reference Ranges and Associations with Health Outcomes of Priority Metals and Trace Elements to Inform Risk Assessment under the Chemicals Management Plan

    Principal Researchers: Dr. Innocent Jayawardene and Dr. Sabit Cakmak, Health Canada

    Affiliation: Health Canada

    Purpose

    This project will generate biomonitoring data, examine associations with health outcomes, and establish reference ranges to inform risk assessment for metals/trace elements identified as priorities for action under the Government of Canada's Chemicals Management Plan (CMP). These metals and trace elements include (but may be not limited to) Aluminum (Al), Bismuth (Bi), Chromium (Cr), Germanium (Ge), Lanthanum (La), Lithium (Li), Neodymium (Nd), Tellurium (Te), Titanium (Ti), Yttrium (Y), Cerium (Ce), and Praseodymium (Pr).

    Scientific importance

    This analysis will provide an estimation of exposure to metals and trace elements and will allow for the investigation of possible associations with respiratory, kidney, liver and hematopoietic health, using data collected as part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). It will also provide data for regulatory assessments under the CMP to help determine the potential for harm to human health from current levels of exposure to these substances from the environment, food, drinking water and consumer products. If the potential for human health risk is identified, risk management actions may be proposed to reduce risk for the Canadian population as appropriate.

    The establishment of Canadian reference ranges will afford opportunities to identify vulnerable populations and/or track progress in reducing exposures over time.

    Output

    Population-weighted summary statistics of concentrations of metals and trace elements in Canadians will be published as part of assessment reports on the CMP Website, as biomonitoring reports, in peer review journals, and/or presented nationally or internationally at scientific conferences on environmental health.

    Biospecimens used in this study were collected as part of CHMS cycle 2 (August 2009 to November 2011)

  • Testing of Potential Interfering Substances in Human Serum on the Liaison 25OHD Assay (Dr. Steve Brooks)

    Principal Researcher: Dr. Steve Brooks

    Affiliation: Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Health Canada

    Purpose

    This proposal aims to investigate a possible bias in the method used to measure Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) which could affect the status of Vitamin D concentrations in individuals with high total cholesterol.

    Scientific importance

    It has been noted that vitamin D levels (measured through circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D) are lower in individuals with higher amounts of body fat. There are several ideas about why this happens but one theory is that something in the blood interferes with either the method (immunoassay) used to measure vitamin D or with its metabolism in the body.

    Cholesterol is a good candidate for this interference since it increases as body weight increases, is similar in structure to vitamin D, and is present in higher blood concentrations compared to 25-hydroxyvitamin D. It is possible then that higher cholesterol interacts with 25-hydroxyvitamin D to lower Vitamin D levels in the blood.

    The method first used by the CHMS to measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D was a method called immunoassay, which is known to be sensitive to different elements in the blood. Using this method, it is possible that blood cholesterol or triglycerides influenced the 25-hydroxyvitamin D value. To verify this, we will re-measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D in serum using a newer method that is not affected by other components in the blood.

    The results from this study should help us better interpret vitamin D status in Canadians, which plays an important role in bone health.

    Output

    Only aggregate statistical outputs conforming to the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act will be released. Research findings will be disseminated through peer reviewed academic publications.

    Biospecimens used in this study were collected as part of the CHMS cycle 1 (March 2007 to February 2009)

  • Genetic modifiers of folate, vitamin B-12, and homocysteine status in a cross-sectional study of the Canadian population

    Summary

    Genetic variation in the Canadian population means that not all individuals respond equally to the same nutrients. In Canada, Folic Acid (folate) and Vitamin B12 are two nutrients with important public health and policy implications. Folic Acid is required to prevent some birth defects, and Vitamin B12 is required to prevent megaloblastic anemia and neurodegeneration. We identified associations between a number of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs; genetic variants), that are common in the Canadian population, with folate and Vitamin B12 status. These novel associations provide insight into why these SNPs have been associated with B vitamin–related diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer and birth defects, and how we may make recommendations to meet the nutritional needs of Canadians who have them.

    Additional information can be found in the journal article listed below:

    Zinck, John, Margaret de Groh, Amanda MacFarlane. 2015. "Genetic modifiers of folate, vitamin B-12, and homocysteine status in a cross-sectional study of the Canadian population." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

  • Testing of Potential Interfering Substances in Human Serum on the Liaison 25OHD Assay (Hope Weiler)

    Principal Researcher: Hope Weiler

    Summary

    This first part of this study aims to investigate a possible bias in the method used to measure vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) which could affect the status of vitamin D concentrations in individuals with high total cholesterol.

    Scientific Importance

    It has been noted that vitamin D levels (measured through circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D) are lower in individuals with higher amounts of body fat. There are several ideas about why this happens but one theory is that something in the blood interferes with either the method (immunoassay) used to measure vitamin D or with its metabolism in the body.

    Cholesterol is a good candidate for this interference, is similar in structure to vitamin D, and is present in higher blood concentrations compared to 25-hydroxyvitamin D. It is possible then that higher cholesterol interacts with 25-hydroxyvitamin D to lower vitamin D levels in the blood.

    The method first used by the CHMS to measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D was a method called immunoassay, which is known to be sensitive to different elements in the blood. Using this method, it is possible that blood cholesterol or triglycerides influenced the 25-hydroxyvitamin D value. To verify this, we will re-measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D in serum using a newer method that is not affected by other components in the blood.

    Analysis of CHMS Standardized 25OHD Data from Cycles 1-5

    The second part of this study will be to make comparable the vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) measurements from Cycle 4 to the rest of the Cycles by using a small sampling from Cycle 4.

    Scientific Importance

    Health Canada sets its population targets for healthy vitamin D levels using standard methods. Previous work has been done to standardize CHMS vitamin D results from Cycles 1 to 3 whereas Cycle 5 samples were all tested using the standardized method. Cycle 4 vitamin D results have not undergone this standardization process. Performing this standardization of Cycle 4 vitamin D results and thus including the fully combined vitamin D status data (Cycles 1 through 5) will provide a very thorough assessment of Canadians before the updated vitamin D food fortification policy becomes active in industry and the market place.

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