McGill researchers honoured in Québec Science 2019 list of top discoveries

Four out of ten top discoveries in 2019 led by McGill scientists
Top (l to r): Heidi M. McBride wirh Samantha Gruenheid, Ehab Abouheif. Bottom (l to r): Tomislav Friščić, and Günther Grill with Bernhard Lehner

Research from McGill topped Québec Science’s annual list of the 10 most important scientific breakthroughs. This year, Günther Grill, Bernhard Lehner, Tomislav Friščić, Heidi M. McBride, Samantha Gruenheid, and Ehab Abouheif were recognized for their trailblazing work, by a jury of researchers and journalists reviewing the most influential discoveries made in Quebec.

Here is a closer look at the selected discoveries:

  • Günther Grill and Bernhard Lehner, along with a team of international researchers, assessed the connectivity of 12 million kilometers of rivers worldwide, providing the first-ever global assessment of the location and extent of the planet’s remaining free-flowing rivers. Their research offers a new method for tracking the status of free-flowing rivers over time.
  • Tomislav Friščić, in collaboration with researchers from Canada, Croatia, and the UK, demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to form strong, stable attractions between some of the heavier elements in the periodic table. This fundamental advance in supramolecular chemistry opens the door to new materials with unusual properties, and could one day lead to innovations like waterproof computers.
  • Heidi M. McBride and Samantha Gruenheid and collaborators found that a gut infection can lead to a pathology resembling Parkinson’s disease in a mouse model lacking a gene linked to the human disease. This discovery extends recent work by the group suggesting that Parkinson’s disease has a major immune component, providing new avenues for therapeutic strategies.
  • Ehab Abouheif led a team of researchers to uncover a surprising discovery in ants: the colony itself generates and regulates the balance between soldiers and workers thanks to a seemingly useless organ that appears only briefly during the final stages of larval development. This finding raises the possibility that seemingly unimportant organs in organisms, like the human appendix, play important regulatory functions during development.

Readers are encouraged to consult the full Québec Science list and vote for the Discovery of the Year online. Last year, a a new test for endometrial and ovarian cancers developed by a team from the RI-MUHC was voted as the Top Discovery of 2018.