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Novel blood and neuroimaging markers of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy

Principal Investigator:
  • Eric Smith,

    University of Calgary

Team Members:
  • Nils Daniel Forkert, University of Calgary
  • Christian Beaulieu, University of Alberta
  • David Hogan, University of Calgary
  • Bruce Pike, Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute
  • Richard Frayne, University of Calgary
  • Nikolai Malykhin, University of Alberta
  • Liang Li, University of Alberta
  • Roger Dixon, University of Alberta
  • Peter Stys, University of Calgary
  • Alberta Innovates Health Solutions
  • Alzheimer Society of Alberta & Northwest Territories
  • Campus Alberta Neuroscience

Project Overview

As our brains age, they become vulnerable to diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease which can cause dementia. Dementia is defined as cognitive (i.e., thinking) problems that interfere with usual daily activities. In the milder stages of dementia, this includes difficulty with shopping, finances, and cooking. As dementia progresses, difficulties with basic activities arise–such as bathing and dressing–typically leading to a need for placement in an assisted living facility and, ultimately, causing death. Because of the aging of our population, dementia is becoming more common. Within 25 years it is expected that more than one million Canadians will have dementia.Although doctors can recognize the symptoms of full blown dementia, it is much harder to diagnose the brain diseases that cause it. As a result, there is a need for better diagnostic tests for the diseases that cause dementia. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, caused by the build-up of two abnormally folded proteins in the brain, called beta-amyloid and tau. The beta-amyloid affects the blood vessels too, causing a sister condition called cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Our objective is to develop and validate diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, based on a blood sample and MRI scan. We have strong preliminary (i.e., early) data that we can detect misfolded proteins and other markers in the blood of patients with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, and that we can use brain MRI scans to measure the early effects on brain connections and blood vessels. We are now asking for funding to thoroughly test these markers. If our ideas are correct, then we will have developed the world’s first accurate blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, as well as brain MRI scan techniques that allow doctors to determine the prognosis.