The Alzheimer Society of Ontario would like to thank all our research donors. Because of you, we are getting closer and closer to an Alzheimer miracle.
Your donations directly benefit your parents, friends, colleagues, neighbours and members of your community living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias because “they provide more opportunities for access to cutting edge treatments and clinical trials right here in Ontario,” says Dr. Sharon Cohen, Medical Director of the Toronto Memory Program.
Here are five critical research breakthroughs that Ontario researchers made happen thanks to you:
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I started out working on multiple sclerosis in Boston in the eighties, but then things began exploding in the Alzheimer’s field and I couldn’t resist changing directions.
Harvard Medical School was one of the key places where people were working on Alzheimer’s and the excitement was infectious. The amyloid precursor protein gene had just been cloned and that helped us begin to understand how the disease works.
Those were heady days of people thinking they could cure Alzheimer’s in a short while. While we now know it’s a far more complicated disease than we appreciated, the advancements just haven’t stopped.
Research moves along and sometimes it may seem like there is no end in sight. But I think the fact we now understand some of the genetic causes and other risk factors, and the fact we are actually moving into some real human therapies are important. And the potential for biomarkers that show who is at a risk, instead of waiting for clinical testing, is a huge event.
If we keep up at the same pace, it’s pretty certain some breakthrough is going to happen. Alzheimer’s disease is a major focus of research around the world. All you have to do is look at the scientific journals to see that so much is happening.
We know neurons die and people get dementia. And now we’re following the trail back to find the culprit. That’s why I still like this work. It’s why I haven’t retired and gone sailing. And I like sailing a lot.
Visit our website to read more about Dr. Paul Fraser.
Dr. Paul Fraser, PhD
Tanz Centre researcher
A guest speaker at my high-school science fair put me onto my career path. She was a woman whose son had multiple sclerosis and she spoke about her role as a caregiver. I was moved by how much research she had done to provide the best possible care for her son. Her passion was catching. She inspired me to pursue a career in medical research and to study diseases that affect the central nervous system.
In university, I learned about the brain and human behaviour. I gravitated towards courses on abnormal psychology. After a while, most of the books on my bedside table were about cognitive neuroscience because I wanted to know if, and how, we can influence learning and memory.
Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I met my supervisor Howard Mount. He gave a very interesting talk on the commonalities between Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. I found it interesting that many people with Parkinson’s also have dementia, but that it is different from the dementia in those with Alzheimer’s. I joined his laboratory to study how these neurodegenerative processes affect behaviour. My graduate work has helped identity neurochemical changes in the early stages of dysfunction in a genetically engineered mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.
Our aging baby boomers means the need to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease is urgent. As a young person researching a disease that predominantly afflicts the elderly, I have had many opportunities to present my research and influence the next generation of neuroscientists, caregivers and those at risk of dementia. It is this aspect of my PhD training that brings me joy. I want to continue investigating the molecular mechanisms that trigger dementia, with a focus on therapeutic interventions.
Read more about Beverly Francis and other TANZ researchers on our website
In my family, we like to joke about how we choose one of two professions – teacher or biologist. My identical twin sister chose teaching, so I chose biology.
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As a neuropathologist who studies Alzheimer’s, I spend a lot of time looking at the brains of people with the disease and comparing them to those who don’t have Alzheimer’s.
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