The only light source of its kind in Canada, the CLS produces a brilliant light to help scientists look at and learn about the molecular structures and chemical properties of a substance.
The discovered new information can be used in a myriad of ways: to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces to develop more effective motor oils, build smaller and more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help with the clean-up of mining wastes, to name just a few applications.
About the size of a football field, the CLS opened in 2004 and is one of the jewels on the USask campus.
Most recently, in an effort to help fight COVID-19, the CLS team made a special call out for research proposals for any work that will actively contribute to finding COVID-related treatments or vaccines, or improve conditions for frontline workers.
Here are five examples how world-leading researchers are working to make us safer. For more information about these stories and others, visit www.lightsource.ca.
Investigating the long-term impacts of COVID-19
Researchers are using the CLS and containment Level 3 facilities at USask’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization to study the virus that causes COVID-19 and its effects on blood vessels. They want to find out if individuals who have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus may be at risk for other health complications later on.
“You may be ‘fine’ now, but you may be at risk of other things later in life,” said USask team member Dr. Jake Pushie. “We want to forearm ourselves with some knowledge about what else this virus is doing within our bodies that may be putting us at risk for things like stroke, heart disease, and other major complications that we may not see the repercussions of for another 20 to 30 years as people start aging and those risk factors start piling up.”
Helping remove SARS-COV-2 from the air we breathe
Scientists have designed an air sanitizing device that could help protect us from airborne pathogens like the ones that cause COVID-19 and the common flu. The USask team is testing the effectiveness of their device and the feasibility of integrating it into current air conditioning systems. The researchers are using the CLS to gain a deeper knowledge of the sanitation process and optimize its performance. If successful, their affordable technology could help us breathe a cleaner, safer sigh of relief.
Developing more effective drugs
Developing new drugs to treat viruses such as COVID-19 is how University of Alberta researcher Joanne Lemieux spends much of her time. Structural biologists like Lemieux can use CLS data to develop treatments for COVID-19, a pivotal area of research given the increasing numbers of emerging variants. Her research focuses on creating an anti-viral medication to treat a viral infection as opposed to a vaccine which is a preventative type of drug.
Finding new therapies
From his lab at the University of Alberta, Dr. Jiang Yin is using the CLS to find new therapies that will help treat COVID-19. With the help of the CMCF beamline, Yin will analyze the papain-like protease — a protein that the SARS-CoV-2 virus needs to establish a COVID-19 infection. This research can lead to new therapeutics for the disease and help in the global fight against COVID-19.
Stopping infection in its tracks
Dr. Ken Ng, professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Calgary, is working with colleague Dr. Chang-Chun Ling to develop therapeutics for COVID-19. With his structural biology background, Ng and his lab partners are studying the polymerase of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. This essential enzyme copies the genetic material of the virus and is crucial to the creation of new viruses. The goal is to design new drugs that will inhibit the polymerase which will prevent the virus from making new viruses and stop the infection in its tracks.