donate icon DONATE

Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada Research Centre Turns 50

Dr. St. Arnaud in laboratory

Dr. René St-Arnaud in the new research facility at Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada

Research Centre mission: To deliver the best treatments to children in Quebec and all over the world.

For 50 years, scientific breakthroughs at Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada’s Research Centre have turned dreams into reality: transforming new knowledge into new approaches for diagnosing, treating and curing pediatric musculoskeletal diseases.

In 1973, following our integration into the Quebec healthcare network, Shriners Children’s management, with the approval of the provincial government, created the first research center within the Shriners Children’s healthcare network, which has continuously supported the activities of our Montreal center. Thanks to this stable financial support, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada Research Centre (formerly known as the Genetics Unit) has contributed to Quebec's vast exchange of knowledge since its inception.

The initial laboratory was located at our hospital’s heritage site on Cedar Avenue, within the former nurses’ living quarters, measuring just 100 square feet. In October 2015, we moved to our new facility adjacent to the McGill University Health Centre. We now have an outstanding healing environment that enhances the staff’s capacity to care for, treat and cure even more children, and a new 19,000-square-foot, state-of the-art Research Centre.

Historic image of two men in discussion in lab

Half a Century of Great Success

Affiliated with McGill University, the Centre's researchers and physicians are dedicated to excellence and innovation using an integrated approach to scientific research, including basic, translational and clinical research. McGill University's excellent reputation and the Centre's scientific successes have attracted world-renowned researchers, who in turn attract students from all over the world to further their training at master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral levels.

Historic image of three people viewing lab equipment

During its 50 years, the Research Centre has made significant contributions to the advancement of standards of care, specifically for three pediatric metabolic bone diseases:

  • X-linked hypophosphatemia, the most common form of hereditary rickets
  • Vitamin D hydroxylation deficiency rickets type 1A (VDDR1A): mapping of the VDDR1A disease gene has led to its cloning, the development of a preclinical model and hormone replacement therapy
  • Osteogenesis Imperfecta (or brittle bone disease): the groundbreaking studies of Francis Glorieux, OC, M.D., on adapting bisphosphonates to help children with brittle bones, are among the outstanding examples of knowledge transfer
Historic image of female working in laboratory

"The discoveries made here have become the global standard of care, and our research center is still involved in the continuous improvement of these treatments. In Montreal, there has always been a critical mass of research on mineralized tissue (bone and teeth), and our research center benefits from the local presence of two faculties of medicine and two faculties of dentistry. So, research into mineralized tissue has always been a strength in Quebec," explains Professor René St-Arnaud, Ph.D., director of the Research Centre.

"Research is one of the pillars of our mission. It drives teaching and care. It leads to the best possible treatments. From the very beginning, our researchers have had a single goal: to improve the quality of life of children suffering from bone diseases and rare illnesses. Research is a long process. However, some families are well aware of the impact of these 50 years of research. Some parents with a genetic disease see the immense progress made in their own children's treatment, and are impressed and delighted by the reduction in pain and recovery time. This first generation is also proud to have contributed to today's treatments by participating in research," says Jacques Boissonneault, hospital administrator.

Male doing research in lab

The Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada Research Centre is constantly developing new ways to care for children. Thanks to the dedication of its researchers, international collaborators and the use of cutting-edge technologies, the team pursues its mission by focusing on:

  • Genetic causes of metabolic bone disease, including the identification of genetic mutations that lead to bone disease
  • Identification of targets and development of treatments for bone regenerative medicine to eventually enable bones to repair themselves more rapidly
  • Clinical and applied pediatric orthopedic research, including research into movement analysis to improve and develop the diagnosis and treatment of bone diseases
  • Nursing research, including the use of virtual reality to manage procedural pain and anxiety

To celebrate this incredible milestone, Dr. St-Arnaud hosted a scientific seminar at the hospital featuring several guest speakers, and hosted many of the hospitals researchers and staff from over the years. Here is to another 50 years of groundbreaking research!

Five people standing at research group seminar

Dr. René St. Arnaud (second from left) and Dr. Francis Glorieux (third from left) with guests at the 50th anniversary research seminar

Next Steps

Share Your Story

Our patients and families are at the heart of everything we do at Shriners Children's. We invite you to share how the team at Shriners Children's has helped your child.

Give to Shriners Children's

Through the generosity of donors like you, we've helped over one million children lead more fulfilling lives, regardless of their families' ability to pay.

Contact Us

Have a question or request? Need to make an appointment? We're here for you.