Research Interests:

Cord Blood predictors of atopy
  • Molecular biomarkers or allergic risk in umbilical cord blood.

Allergic Rhinitis 

  • Systemic and Local Mechanisms of Inflammation.
  • Randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) of allergic rhinitis treatments, utilizing the internationally recognized Environmental Exposure Unit (EEU) (www.eeu.on.ca).
  • Factors affecting the "priming" response to allergen exposure.
  • Multicentre RCTs of allergic rhinitis therapies.

Anaphylaxis and adverse reactions 

  • Incidence and predictors of biphasic anaphylaxis.
  • Improving anaphylaxis management and education.

Training Opportunities:

The training environment in Dr. Ellis' lab is unique in Canada. As a Clinician-Scientist, she emphasizes heavily the importance of integrating basic science research with clinical experience. All trainees in her laboratory, regardless of their level of training, will have the opportunity to attend observerships in her outpatient Allergy & Immunology clinics, as well as the review of inpatient Allergy consults. This will allow trainees to gain an appreciation for the clinical impact that allergic diseases have on patients, and bring the relevance of their research in the laboratory to light. In addition, all trainees will have the opportunity to participate, in varying degrees, to the Allergy Clinical Trials program at KGH, the cornerstone of which is the internationally recognized Environmental Exposure Unit (EEU). Developed by Dr. James Day and Dr. Reginald Clark in the early 1980's, this specially designed room provides a reliable and reproducible clinical model of allergic rhinitis for the evaluation of a wide variety of anti-allergic therapies. The EEU (www.eeu.on.ca) was the first allergen challenge system of its kind in Canada, is the gold standard to which all others are compared; and provides a decisive component to the assessment of new anti-allergic therapies.

To gain more information about participating in Dr. Ellis' research program, call 613.548.2336 or email ellis.research@gmail.com

Details of Research Interests:

Allergic diseases, which include asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis, have reached epidemic proportions worldwide, and their incidence continues to increase. Allergic disorders now affect at least 30% of the Canadian population, and their impact extends to family members of affected children. As a consequence of these epidemiologic changes, allergic diseases are now the most common chronic disorders of children and adolescents. We are facing a crisis of epidemic proportions in the young (and otherwise healthy) members of Canadian society.

Dr. Ellis' research program aims to mitigate the impact of allergic diseases upon Canadians. As a result, it is a critical challenge to understand the development of allergic responses, their basis in immunity, and factors underlying their increasing prevalence. Dr. Ellis' over-arching research program "Slowing the Allergy Epidemic through Understanding and Prevention: A Dual-Themed Research Initiative in Atopy" will address these questions through two major research themes. Theme I, Cord Blood Predictors of Atopy, aims to identify reliable predictors of future atopic diseases in neonatal cord blood. Theme II, Systemic and Local Mechanisms of Allergic Rhinitis, will utilize the unique capability of the Environmental Exposure Unit (EEU) at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) to provide samples from patients with established allergic disease before, during, and after allergen exposure. Details of these research themes are outlined below.

Dr. Ellis has applied to become an Investigator in the AllerGen-NCE (Network of Centres of Excellence), a federally sponsored research network supporting the collaboration and partnering of allergy research across the country. AllerGen has recently been awarded matching funding from CIHR to begin recruiting newborns into the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study, a large scale multi-centre prospective general population birth cohort study which plans to follow 5,000 infants to at least 5 years of age evaluating factors that lead to the development of allergies and asthma. Dr. Ellis' lab contributes to the Immunology Platform of this pivotal research study.

Theme I: Cord Blood Predictors of Atopy:
Studies have demonstrated that the developing immune system in utero is capable of responding to allergens as early as 22 weeks gestation, and an emerging body of evidence suggests that maternal exposures during the in utero stage may be as -- or perhaps more -- important than neonatal exposure. This has led to increased research over the past decade in the area of early life immune events and their potential role in the development and maintenance of the atopic phenotype.

Umbilical cord blood (CB) provides a unique window into the physiology of both the maternal and fetal environment prior to the commencement of the neonatal environment. CB is routinely obtained from every hospital delivery, often in volumes that far exceed the requirement for the requisite laboratory analyses. Identification of biomarkers in cord blood (CB) that are predictive of allergy could allow for early intervention with appropriate treatment and/or avoidance strategies that may potentially slow, halt or avoid the allergic disease development.

The Ellis lab is collaborating with Dr. Judah Denburg's lab at McMaster University to expand upon his observations that eosinophil progenitors and their cell of origin, the pluripotent CD34+ cells are altered in number and function in infants of higher risk for atopy. Dr. Ellis has developed a surrogate molecular assay for these cells that has passed feasibility testing in random cord blood donors. What remains to be tested is if there are differences in these molecular biomarkers between infants of high atopic risk compared to low atopic risk infants, and more importantly, what the differences are at birth between those groups with documented atopic outcomes identified in the future.

Theme II: Systemic and Local Mechanisms of Allergic Rhinitis
In order to identify new potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of this extremely prevalent disorder, we must gain a better understanding of the underlying allergic inflammatory cascade.

Kingston General Hospital is home to the unique, internationally recognized research facility called the Environmental Exposure Unit or EEU, which allows for the exposure of large groups of participants to controlled levels of airborne allergens such as ragweed pollen. Over the past decade, the EEU has gained international acceptance for the clinical research conducted in Kingston with over 20 publications in top research journals (see publication list below). (www.eeu.on.ca)

A better understanding of the capabilities and advantages of the EEU over traditional allergy study settings has led to the call for exploration of new endpooints and development of innovative techniques so that we can further our understanding of allergic rhinitis and its treatment. Dr. Ellis' access to the EEU will allow for the collection of blood and nasal samples before, during and after allergen exposure, in addition to during treatment with various anti-allergic medications.