It began with the unwavering belief that discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease requires looking at our brains to understand what is happening within them. Now, over 900 brain tissue samples later, Dr. Sultan Darvesh and his team at the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank (MBTB) are confident that they have found the target that could enable the definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) is accelerating these efforts by providing the infrastructure and support to enable collaboration amongst Canada’s top dementia researchers.
Having developed a radioactive molecule that binds with butyrylcholinesterase – i.e. a regulatory enzyme that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease – Dr. Darvesh’s team has reason to be excited. After all, this compound delivers exactly what they were looking for in a diagnostic agent, like“penetrating the blood-brain barrier, surviving in the bloodstream, locating and binding to the butyrylcholinesterase in the brain, and lighting up in nuclear imaging scans. [In short], it is potent, targeted, and specific,” Darvesh explains.
In collaboration with Drs. Chris Bowen and Steven Beyea (who work in the Biomedical MRI Research Lab at the IWK Health Centre on pre-clinical tests), Dr. Darvesh intends to have optimized molecules ready for clinical testing by 2016. While this research is taking place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, CCNA’s Brain Banking Platform, in conjunction with MBTB, makes tissue samples available worldwide. Researchers from Denmark, Africa, Israel, and throughout Canada have already benefited from them. In fact, Dr. Darvesh invites everyone to try, in order to accelerate discovery by finding a “clever person in the world who can find a cause and cure.”
The question that remains is: Are you that person?