Canada Foundation for Innovation

Canada Foundation for Innovation

March 16, 2011 09:23 ET

Canada Foundation for Innovation: Finding Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 16, 2011) - There have been incredible advances in our understanding of the links between brain structure and function over the last decade. Yet the number of individuals affected by neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's continues to rise in Canada's aging population.

Alzheimer's alone is expected to affect more than 500,000 Canadians by 2030 — that's one in 13 Canadians over the age of 65.

But a research initiative at the John P. Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., is helping lead the way to understanding the cellular and tissue damage that results from neurodegeneration and brain injury.

Robarts researcher Sean Cregan is one of the first scientists worldwide to identify the key role of apoptosis inducing factor, an atypical regulator of cell death in the brain.

"Our research is concerned with identifying the molecules that force injured nerve cells in the brain to die during a stroke or in neurodegenerative conditions," says Cregan. "Finding the molecular pathways that regulate cell death in neurodegenerative conditions will lead to the identification of markers for early diagnosis and potential targets for therapeutic drug development."

Cregan's team recently identified a key cell-signalling pathway that activates the death of neurons in the injured brain. There is promise of new therapeutic Alzheimer's treatments that involve inhibiting these pathways and allowing neurons to live. 

Stephen Pasternak, a member of the Robarts Research team, is also investigating the pathways connected to the overproduction of beta-amyloid, a protein that is thought to initiate Alzheimer's. The team discovered that the enzymes responsible for making beta-amyloid are located in the cell's lysosome and uncovered how the protein, which is the precursor to beta-amyloid, is transported to the lysosome. Pasternak hopes this knowledge will help curb beta-amyloid production to treat the disease.

Cutting-edge research infrastructure funded in part by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, along with the world-renowned research knowledge at the Robarts Research Institute, provides a solid foundation for novel insights that may soon pave the way to treatment and early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

For more information on new understanding of cellular and tissue damage due to neurodegeneration and brain injury, contact:

Dr. Sean Cregan, Professor
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
(519) 663-5777 ext. 24134
The John P. Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario

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Created by the Government of Canada in 1997, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) strives to build our nation's capacity to undertake world-class research and technology development to benefit Canadians. Thanks to CFI investment in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions are attracting and retaining the world's top talent, training the next generation of researchers, supporting private-sector innovation and creating high-quality jobs that strengthen Canada's position in today's knowledge economy.

Contact Information

  • The John B. Robarts Research Institute at
    the University of Western Ontario
    Kathy Wallis, Coordinator
    Media Relations 519-663-2111 ext. 81136