Researcher Profiles

Dr. Brad Hanna

View Dr. Hanna's University of Guelph profile
Dr. Hanna studies diseases of domestic animals and wildlife that might be caused by defects in ion channels, the proteins that produce electric signals in cells.


Why is this important?

Once we understand the cause of a neuromuscular disease we can then develop a robust diagnostic test for it. In situations in which a disease is found to be heritable, such tests can be used in breeding programs to eliminate long-standing, crippling diseases of animals.

Research Related Goals:
To find the causes of abnormal electrical signalling in the nerve, heart and muscle, and to develop new diagnostic tests and treatments.  Disorders associated with episodic muscle stiffness, weakness, or incoordination, heart rhythm disturbances, hemiplegia, deafness, and other disorders of excitable cells are of interest.

BSc – Biological Sciences, University of Guelph
DVM – OVC, University of Guelph
MSc – Biophysics, University of Guelph
PhD – Biophysics, University of Guelph

Faculty Member, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

Teaching:  Dr Hanna teaches pharmacology and other subjects to veterinary students and is the coordinator of the second-year of the DVM program. He also teaches neuromuscular physiology to undergraduates in the BSc program, and pharmacology to optometry students at the University of Waterloo. He contributes to various graduate-level courses at OVC.

Research:  The study of putative ion channel diseases of animals is the main focus of his lab.  In addition, Dr. Hanna collaborates with scientists at York University in the study of nucleoside transporters, the molecules that transport the building blocks of DNA, as well as anticancer and antiviral drugs, across membranes.

Area of Specialty:
Neuromuscular diseases, in particular ion channel disorders.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Dr. Hanna graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1989, becoming the first veterinarian in his family.  He spent a year in general practice in Northern Ontario and then one winter in the Northwest Territories where he treated sled dogs (Qimmiqs).  Dr. Hanna then returned to Ontario to complete graduate and doctoral degrees in biophysics at the University of Guelph. It was during this time that he began studying ion channels with physicist George Renninger.  The thrust of Dr. Hanna’s PhD research was to determine whether the sodium channel mutation identified in Quarter horses with Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP) was benign, or whether it changed channel function in a manner that could cause the disease. He and his colleagues provided conclusive biophysical evidence that the equine HYPP mutation disrupts channel function in a manner that can account for the defective muscle function in affected horses. Together with the genetic work of Eric Hoffman and colleagues (USA), this research established HYPP as the first sodium channel disease in veterinary medicine.

Special Accomplishments:
In addition to confirming the role of sodium channels in equine HYPP, Dr. Hanna has collaborated with other Guelph scientists to identify a novel chloride channel mutation in Australian Cattle Dogs with Myotonia Congenita. They developed a new diagnostic test for this mutation that is now available through the Animal Health Laboratory in Guelph.