Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/12/2016 (1601 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A researcher at the University of Manitoba has received $1.7 million in funding to help combat Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Zahra Moussavi, the Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Engineering, will be testing the effectiveness of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in the treatment of early onset and mild Alzheimer’s. The Ontario-based Weston Brain Institute announced the grant for a large clinical trial involving about 300 test participants at the Riverview Health Centre on Dec. 13.
"Everyone who has lost a family member to Alzheimer’s knows that Alzheimer’s is a thief," Moussavi said. "It comes and steals away the most precious memories that people identify themselves with. In fact it’s very a clever thief because people who are affected don’t even know what they have lost."
Based on the results of a pilot study performed over the past four years, Moussavi said she is hopeful the clinical trial — the first of its kind — will produce significant results. The study uses a placebo-controlled, double blind method and involves more than half a dozen experts from across Canada and Australia.
"We have a very strong team and I am quite hopeful that the results of this study will be worth the funding that the Weston Brain Institute invested," Moussavi said.
Moussavi’s first pilot study conducted in her lab at Riverview Health Centre involved about 15 volunteer patients who were treated with rTMS, a painless technology that produces a mild headache as the only side effect.
Using a coil to create a magnetic field, researches can target the brain’s prefrontal cortex with weak electrical pulses that activate neurons in a desired section. Moussavi explained that in Alzheimer’s the synapses which connect neurons in the brain are lost and when the neuron is isolated it dies. With this treatment, high frequency pulses excite the neurons and can strengthen or preserve the existing connections in the brain.
Currently, rTMS has been used to treat many neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. It is still in the research stage but is an approved treatment for depression worldwide.
In her pilot study, researchers observed that people with moderate-stage Alzheimer’s improved slightly, and for advanced Alzheimer’s, patients didn’t show any improvement or decline.
"Keep in mind that Alzheimer’s a neurodegenerative disease and if you can plateau the condition that can be considered an improvement," Moussavi said. "So there are some hopes that we can improve the condition of the patient if they are in the early stages, or at least we can slow down the progression."
Dr. John Bond, manager of research at the Riverview Health Centre, has been working with Moussavi in her research projects for a number of years and says the partnership with the University of Manitoba strengthens the centre’s mandate.
"One of the principles of Riverview as a health centre is there should be research going on in addition to clinical care and education," Bond said. "I’m really excited that Riverview can be a part of something that is looking at not just identifying causes of Alzheimer’s, but actually may do something to impact the course of the condition."
The clinical trials will begin in January and researchers are currently recruiting volunteers.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.