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AAIC 2017 reveals great strides in research

AAIC 2017 reveals great strides in research

By Nalini Sen, Director, Alzheimer Society Research Program

I had the opportunity to attend this year’s annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in London, UK. This conference brings together some of the world’s leading researchers and clinicians in dementia treatment, detection and prevention. And with a record number of presentations—3300 in all—I have to admit, I was awestruck. Here are a few takeaways I would like to share with you:

Stress can age your brain

How we manage stress is even more important than was previously thought. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin studied 1320 people who had experienced stressful events like losing a job, getting a divorce or grieving the death of a family member. What did they find? A single stressful experience can age your brain by four years! Their findings reaffirm that healthy lifestyle habits matter.

Your brain needs a good night rest

Getting good sleep is as important as getting enough sleep. In a 516-person study, researchers from Wheaton College found greater instances of beta amyloid deposits in the brains of those with sleep disordered breathing and noticed that these deposits accumulated faster over time. Sleep disordered breathing is common. It includes hypopnea (under breathing) and apnea (not breathing) during sleep. While researchers need to do more investigative work, if we can better treat these sleep disorders, we may be able to reduce the risk of dementia or possibly delay the progression of the disease where it has already occurred.

Other presentations at AAIC reported on advancements in diagnosing dementia, which is a complicated and often a long process:

PET brain scans can improve diagnosis

For example, researchers from Sweden reported a 68 per cent increase in dementia diagnoses when PET brain scans were used in a small test sample of 135 people with memory problems. PET scans help identify whether amyloid plaques, the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, are present in the brain. It does this by injecting a special dye with radioactive tracers into the arm which is then and absorbed by the organs and tissues.

Steps closer to a dementia blood test

In another study, Washington University researchers were able to measure amyloid beta in the cerebrospinal fluid (a fluid in the brain) with 89 per cent accuracy. Amyloid beta and tau protein which accumulate in the brain are triggers for Alzheimer’s disease. While more study is needed, a blood test for dementia may soon become available. This kind of test could identify those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease even years before symptoms appear.

One thing was clear at this year’s AAIC conference: Researchers around the world are working diligently to find a cure and identify new ways of diagnosing dementia earlier. And while they continue their search, there is now even more evidence that we can take steps to reduce our risk of developing dementia by living a healthier lifestyle.

Learn more about what you can do to keep your brain healthy at alzheimer.ca/brainhealth.

Research Video Series: Introducing Danielle Alcock

Research Video Series: Introducing Danielle Alcock


Danielle’s personal experience inspired her to pursue research in the field of continuity of care. She will assess existing services through the use of oral narratives by female, Indigenous caregivers for a loved one diagnosed with alcohol-related dementia and will make recommendations based on their experience.

Coming from a First Nations family, it was difficult to navigate the healthcare system dealing with jurisdictional barriers, stigma and a lack of resources. As a caregiver, there are no existing supports for alcohol-related dementia that are culturally safe.
-Danielle Alcock

Danielle Alcock

Alzheimer Society Research Program Quality of Life Grant Recipient in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – $66,000
Project: Oral narratives of female Indigenous caregivers for loved ones diagnosed with alcohol-related dementia.

Read about more of our grant and award recipients here.

Announcing the top 10 Canadian dementia research priorities

Announcing the top 10 Canadian dementia research priorities

[Le texte en français suit l’anglais ci-bas.]

By Drs. Katherine McGilton and Jennifer Bethell

Over the course of the past year, we asked Canadians affected by dementia—either personally or through their work—for their unanswered questions about living with dementia, dementia prevention, treatment and diagnosis. This study, also known as the Canadian Dementia Priority Setting Partnership, set out to identify the top 10 dementia research priorities, and to share them with Canadian researchers and research funding organizations.

We thank the over 1200 participants who shared their insights. Thousands of questions were submitted and the shortlist was debated at an in-person workshop, held in Toronto on June 8-9, 2017.

Canadian Dementia Priority Setting Partnership workshop,
June 8-9, 2017, in Toronto

The workshop brought together 28 participants from across Canada—persons with dementia, family members, health and social care providers and members of organizations that represent persons with dementia. Participants worked in small teams and as a group to discuss each question and decide what matters most to them.

Here are the top 10 dementia research priorities, according to Canadians affected by dementia:

Top 10 dementia research priorities

The Alzheimer Society Research Program will use these results to help bring the voices of Canadians affected by dementia into the research agenda. These priorities will also be shared with researchers and other research-funding organizations in hopes of stimulating more research in these areas.

The Canadian Dementia Priority Setting Partnership was funded by the Alzheimer Society Research Program as part of the Alzheimer Society’s commitment to the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA). Special thanks to our Steering Group and partner organizations for their involvement and assistance in the study.


ANNONCE DES DIX PRIORITÉS DE RECHERCHE SUR LES MALADIES COGNITIVES AU CANADA

researcher
Par les Dres Katherine McGilton et Jennifer Bethell

Au cours de la dernière année, nous avons demandé aux Canadiens touchés par une maladie cognitive, soit personnellement ou dans le cadre de leur travail, de faire part de leurs questions sans réponses sur la vie avec une maladie cognitive, la prévention, le traitement et le diagnostic. Cette étude, aussi connu sous le nom du Partenariat canadien pour l’établissement des priorités sur les maladies cognitives, visait à identifier les priorités de recherche à l’intention des chercheurs et des organismes de financement.

Nous remercions les plus de 1 200 participants qui ont partagé leurs points de vue. Des milliers de questions ont été soumises et la liste présélectionnée a été débattu lors d’un atelier en personne qui a eu lieu à Toronto les 8 et 9 juin 2017.

Atelier du Partenariat canadien pour l’établissement des priorités sur les maladies cognitives, le 8 et 9 jun 2017 à Toronto

L’atelier a mis à contribution 28 participants de tout le Canada, dont des personnes atteintes d’une maladie cognitive, des aidants familiaux, des fournisseurs de soins de santé et de services sociaux, et des membres d’organisations qui représentent des personnes atteintes d’une maladie cognitive. Les participants ont discuté au sein de petites équipes et en commun de chacune des questions afin de décider ce qui est important pour eux.

Voici les 10 priorités de recherche les plus importantes selon les Canadiens touchés par une maladie cognitive :

Priorités de recherche sur les maladies cognitives

Le Programme de recherche de la Société Alzheimer utilisera ces résultats pour faire entendre la voix des Canadiens touchés par les maladies cognitives dans les futures décisions en ce qui a trait à la recherche. Ces priorités seront également transmises aux chercheurs et aux autres organismes de financement dans l’espoir de stimuler la recherche dans ces domaines de prédilection.

Le Partenariat canadien pour l’établissement des priorités sur les maladies cognitives a été financé par le Programme de recherche de la Société Alzheimer dans le cadre de son engagement envers le Consortium canadien en neurodégénérescence associée au vieillissement (CCNV). Nous remercions tout particulièrement notre groupe d’orientation et les organisations partenaires pour leur participation et contribution à cette etude.

Research Video Series: Introducing Sharon Koehn

Research Video Series: Introducing Sharon Koehn

Too often, immigrants in Canada don’t receive the help and support they need because of barriers like language and culture.

That’s why Dr. Sharon Koehn from Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, is on a mission to identify ways to foster relationships of trust among immigrants affected by dementia and encourage them to reach out to multicultural agencies.

Living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is hard enough; it’s essential that we ensure that we don’t make it even harder by not paying attention to how and if people access appropriate information and care.
-Dr. Sharon Koehn

Dr. Sharon Koehn

Quality of Life Grant Recipient in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – $119,623
Project: Building trust to facilitate access to dementia care for immigrant older adults: the role of the multicultural services sector.

Read about more of our grant and award recipients here.

Research Video Series: Introducing Dr. Edith Hamel

Research Video Series: Introducing Dr. Edith Hamel


Dr. Edith Hamel’s research focuses on the supply of blood to the brain, which is so important as the brain doesn’t have a reserve of oxygen and glucose – the main fuel for neurons. This project could uncover ways to slow down the progression of vascular dementia, possibly through the use of therapies already available for the treatment of diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. Dr. Hamel is a professor at McGill University in Montreal.

I strongly believe that real possibilities exist to prevent or delay the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia.
-Dr. Edith Hamel

Dr. Edith Hamel

Biomedical Grant Recipient in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – $150,000
Project: Role of compromised cerebral circulation in susceptibility to cognitive failure.

Read about more of our grant and award recipients here.

Research Video Series: Introducing Iva Brunec

Research Video Series: Introducing Iva Brunec


Iva Brunec is investigating how memories about the duration and order of events are created in healthy brains, and how this ability changes in those at risk for dementia. Is the ability to encode and recall information about time one of the first functions to break down with Alzheimer’s disease? Does it affect other aspects of memory as a result? This research aims to provide evidence of a sensitive indicator before a diagnosis of dementia even occurs.

Investigating these disorders and aiming to understand what causes them, how they progress, and how they may be alleviated or prevented could enrich the lives of not only those living with dementia but also the networks of their families and caregivers.
-Iva Brunec

Iva Brunec

Biomedical Doctoral Award Recipient in Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia – $66,000
Project: Investigating the hippocampal role in encoding temporal information as a possible

Read about more of our grant and award recipients here.

Research Video Series: Introducing Hadir AlQot

Research Video Series: Introducing Hadir AlQot


Hadir AlQot aims to further our knowledge and understanding of the complex mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, she aims to investigate a novel aspect of the cholinergic system and its vulnerability in Alzheimer’s disease in relation to key pathological features and cognitive decline. Hadir AlQot is doctoral student at the University of Western Ontario.

It is my hope that this research will help unravel potential novel therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
-Hadir AlQot

Hadir AlQot

Biomedical Doctoral Award Recipient in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – $66,000
Project: The functional role of nuclear 82-kDa ChAT in APP metabolism and its potential neuroprotective significance

Read about more of our grant and award recipients here.

Research Video Series: Introducing Dr. Lisa M. Munter

Research Video Series: Introducing Dr. Lisa M. Munter


Dr. Lisa M. Munter will be investigating a novel aspect of the cholesterol metabolism with respect to Alzheimer’s disease. Her goal is to understand how dietary cholesterol affects generation of harmful amyloid peptides. She hopes to reveal whether certain lipoprotein particles of the blood may trigger amyloid generation in the brain. Dr. Munter is a researcher and professor at McGill University and the recipient of an ASRP biomedical grant.

A long and prosperous life should end with human dignity.
-Dr. Lisa M. Munter

Dr. Lisa M. Munter

Biomedical Grant Recipient in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – $150, 000
Project: Peripheral and central pathways of cholesterol-induced Alzheimer’s disease pathology

Read about more of our grant and award recipients here.

Research Video Series: Introducing Marco Prado

Research Video Series: Introducing Marco Prado


Dr. Marco Prado’s research aims to address the mechanisms by which deficient cholinergic circuits contribute to dementia. He is an Alzheimer Society Research Program Biomedical Research Grant recipient and a professor at the University of Western Ontario.

Let’s make sure that aging does not mean losing one’s identity.
-Dr. Marco Prado

Dr. Marco Prado

Biomedical Grant Recipient in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – $149,128
Project: Mechanisms of anti-cholinergic activity mediated dementia and Alzheimer’s pathology

Read about more of our grants and awards recipients here.

Research Video Series: Introducing Laura Hamilton

Research Video Series: Introducing Laura Hamilton


Dr. Laura Hamilton is testing the efficacy of a new therapeutic target (stearoyl CoA desaturase (SCD)-1) to improve learning and memory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease using a mouse model. Laura is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Montréal and is this year’s Alzheimer Society Research Program Spark Award Recipient.

The potential to contribute to a better quality of life for millions of people motivates me every day.
-Dr. Laura Hamilton

Dr. Laura Hamilton

Spark Postdoctoral Fellowship in Alzheimer’s Disease (Biomedical) – $100,000
Project: Triggers and behavioural consequences of elevated oleic acid in the Alzheimer’s disease brain

Read about more of our grants and awards recipients here.