Research round-up

McGill research news update: New guidelines for treating Juvenile Arthritis, finding hope in the headlines, management study preaches value of moderation, plus some explosive geological news.

New guidelines for JA treatment

Dr. Ciaran M. Duffy, Dept. of Pediatrics, was one of several Canadian pediatric rheumatologists and health professionals to play a prominent role in developing new guidelines for treating juvenile arthritis (JA). Released last week by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), the guidelines will likely be used by rheumatologists around the world. The guidelines are the first of their kind and are most notable for endorsing the use of biologic medications in the treatment plans for someone with JA.

 All things in moderation, even efficiency

A new study, co-authored by Desautels management professor Saurabh Mishra, indicates that there are some benefits to having a bit of slack to serve as a cushion, particularly when the unexpected hits. The study, reported in the Journal of Operations Management, sheds new light on a dilemma that has resurfaced amid global manufacturing and supply chain disruptions stemming from the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan: While maximum efficiency may serve companies well when everything is flowing smoothly, firms with little or no resource slack are also highly vulnerable to any external shocks.

Explosive geological news!

Between 75 and 80 per cent of all volcanic activity on Earth takes place at deep-sea, mid-ocean ridges. Most of these volcanoes produce lava flows rather than explosive eruptions. Over the last few years, geologists have nevertheless speculated that explosive eruptions can also occur in deep-sea volcanoes. But no one has been able to prove it until now.

By using an ion microprobe, Christoph Helo, a PhD student in the Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, has now discovered very high concentrations of CO2 in droplets of magma trapped within crystals recovered from volcanic ash deposits on Axial Volcano on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, off the coast of Oregon. These entrapped droplets represent the state of the magma prior to eruption. As a result, Helo and fellow researchers from McGill, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have been able to prove that explosive eruptions can indeed occur in deep-sea volcanoes.

Good news: Hope makes headlines

If it bleeds, it leads, or so the old journalistic adage goes. Not necessarily, say researchers from McGill and the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital. In a first-of-its kind study that analyzes how cancer is portrayed in Canadian newspapers today versus 20 years ago, positivity and hope seem to be winning out. Researchers found that cancer coverage in newspapers has increased compared to 20 years ago. While this may be associated with rising cancer rates, heightened public awareness and an aging population, a significant shift to more positivity in tone and content also came with the uptick in coverage. Lead author Melissa Henry added that the positive coverage, while important, comes with a caveat: one needs to be wary of overly optimistic portrayals of cancer. The team found that the number of stories from 2008 relating to death and dying were half the number seen in 1988-89, which suggests that the public may not be getting the full picture in its understanding of issues surrounding the disease.