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Using Novel Approaches for Early Recognition of TIA, Heart Failure, and Connections with Vascular Dementia (UNEARTH CVD

Principal Investigator:
  • Douglas S. Lee, University Health Network
  • Gustavo Saposnik, St. Michael’s Hospital
Team Members:
  • Shelagh Coutts, University of Calgary
  • Richard Swartz, Sunnybrook Research Institute
  • Heather Ross, UHN
  • Phyllis Billia, TGHRI/UHN
  • Nadia Khan, University of British Columbia
  • Steffen Bolz, University of Toronto
  • Kim Connelly, St. Michael’s Hospital
  • Jason Fish, TGH
  • Anne Simard, Ted Rogers Centre
  • Thalia Field, University of British Columbia
  • Moira Kapral, UHN
  • Sharon Straus, St. Michael's Hospital
  • Lynden Crowshoe, University of Calgary
  • Jennifer Gibson, Dalla Lana Public Health
  • Paula Rochon, Women's College Hospital
  • Heart & Stroke

Project Overview

In this program, we will study: 1) patients with stroke, which occurs when blood flow is stopped to a part of the brain causing weakness or loss of sensation;2) patients with heart failure which is when the heart does not pump properly or does not relax; 3) patients with dementia, which is deficit of brain function that impairs the ability to perform daily functions.  


In those with strokes or ‘mini-strokes’ (aborted strokes), we will develop new blood tests and strategies that can be used in the hospital or family doctors’ offices to diagnose patients sooner. We will determine if artificial intelligence can help detect dementia in those with prior stroke by conducting detailed analyses of blood samples and brain scans. We will study the links between heart failure and dementia by conducting a clinical trial of a new drug that improves blood flow to the brain. This new drug is approved for use in children with cystic fibrosis, but our team has found that it could improve brain function in adults with abnormally reduced blood flow to the brain. We will also develop an entirely new type of blood test that will enable early diagnosis of heart and brain disorders. Finally, we will examine if low blood pressure in the body can affect brain function in those with heart failure, culminating in a clinical trial of low or high blood pressure targets and its impact on brain function. In sum, we will find better ways to diagnose possible strokes early and prevent devastating effects such as paralysis. We will develop new methods to diagnose early declines in brain function, so that patients can receive preventive strategies. Finally, we will study the intersection between heart failure and dementia, and may radically change how doctors treat this condition in the future.