Researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University and the MUHC, have received a total of over $4.5 M in funding, for innovative projects to accelerate diagnosis and drug discovery for diseases of the brain, including Alzheimer’s.
CQDM, Brain Canada Foundation and the Ontario Brain Institute made the announcement at the annual conference of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience in Vancouver. Six Canadian research teams share a total investment of $ 10 million, through the strategic "Focus on Brain" initiative.
Neuro researchers on the projects are Dr. Jean-Paul Soucy, Medical Director of the Positron Emission Tomography Unit and Louis Collins, scientist at the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre.
To successfully cross the blood-brain barrier
(Louis Collins and Jean-Paul Soucy)
The blood-brain barrier protects the brain from potentially toxic compounds from the bloodstream, but also restricts access of therapeutic agents to the brain. The drug delivery to brain targets is seriously hampered by the tight walls of the cerebral blood vessels. One of the approaches being considered in order to cross the barrier uses the transport receptors in blood vessels that carry natural chemicals and nutrients necessary for proper brain function. The approach of the team is to use an antibody fragment that binds to transport receptor to carry, like a Trojan horse, a therapeutic payload through the barrier. Specifically, the drug will be chemically bonded or fused to the natural or modified blood-brain barrier carrier thereby gaining access to brain targets. The project is designed to demonstrate that a payload, in this case, a candidate treatment for Alzheimer's disease, can be effectively transported across the human blood-brain barrier. The project is a collaboration between the National Research Council, KalGene Pharmaceuticals, Inc and the Montreal Neurological Institute.
The eye: a window to the brain
To date, Alzheimer's disease remains incurable and can only be diagnosed once symptoms begin to manifest themselves via the presence of β-amyloid plaques (Aß) and tau strands in the brain. The difficulty in developing new drugs for this disease is largely due to the difficult and late diagnosis of the disease. The ability to diagnose Alzheimer's disease at an early stage would afford a better understanding of the genesis in addition to radically transforming the design of clinical trials in order to develop new treatments. The eye provides a window to the brain through the retina, which may also have Aß plaques in individuals suffering from Alzheimer's disease. It is suggested that Alzheimer's disease is detectable by a simple non-invasive analysis of the eye. Jean-Paul Soucy and his team believe that is so and will develop a retinal imaging platform using fluorescence combined with advanced imaging instruments to detect Aß plaques in the retina of patients. This imaging platform will enable the detection and early diagnosis of the disease in at-risk patients which will facilitate the development of drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease. The project also involves Optina Diagnostics.
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