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Here, you can find the most recent news stories from CAN

“If we can detect changes in the brain early, then we can test therapies before disabling symptoms set in,” says Eric Smith, associate professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Calgary.

Photo by Adrian Shellard, for the Hotchkiss Brain Institute 

Brain Canada Funds Innovative Alberta-Wide Research Into Alzheimer’s

Leading researchers use advanced imaging techniques to study diagnostic biomarkers for dementia.

By Jordan Scott, for Campus Alberta Neuroscience, April 26, 2017

Eric Smith of the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) has been awarded $1.5 million to support the development of new techniques to identify Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.

Working with researchers from the Universities of Alberta and Calgary, Dr. Smith will work with patients across the province to determine new diagnostic biomarkers through advanced imaging techniques. Together, they will identify patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“It’s one of the most comprehensive and innovative neuroimaging studies happening with these disorders,” says Smith, holder of the Katthy Taylor Chair in Vascular Dementia and an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

Novel research could transform diagnosis

In addition to neuroimaging, Smith and his team will work towards the world’s first blood test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s, and preliminary data shows that they’re on the right track. “It would be a major advancement,” Smith says. “We could accurately diagnose people before they even develop symptoms.”

Blood tests and early diagnosis could overcome barriers to developing treatments and open the door to new therapies. “If we can detect changes in the brain early, then we can test therapies before disabling symptoms set in,” says Smith.

Interdisciplinary research capitalizes on expertise in Alberta

Brain Canada, with financial support from Health Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund, will support Smith and his team through the Multi Investigator Research Initiative. Funding partners on this project are Alberta Innovates and the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories (alzAB/NT). Top researchers from across Alberta join Smith through Campus Alberta Neuroscience’s Imaging Consortium and Healthy Brain Aging and Dementia research team. Campus Alberta Neuroscience works with Alberta’s researchers and brain health stakeholders to increase the impact of neuroscience research, education and translation through collaboration.

The project’s funding partners also see significant potential in the outcomes of the work.

“We believe that the transformational approach taken by this group of researchers will allow big improvements in diagnosis,” says David Westaway, PhD, president of the AlzAB/NT. “It fits perfectly with our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and we’re excited by the possibility of making a dramatic impact in the lives of those affected by dementia.”

On April 25, 2017, The Government of Canada and Brain Canada Foundation announced funding for this and 17 other new brain research projects across the country. Read more

Joining Smith in this cutting-edge series of projects are fellow HBI members Nils Forkert, PhD; Richard Frayne, PhD; Dr. David Hogan; Bruce Pike, PhD; and Dr. Peter Stys from the University of Calgary. Colleagues from the University of Alberta include Christian Beaulieu, PhD; Dr. Richard Camicioli; Roger Dixon, PhD; Liang Li, PhD; and Nikolai Malykhin, MD, PhD.

Smith is the leader of the Dementia and Cognitive Disorders NeuroTeam within the university-wide Brain and Mental Health research framework. Led by the HBI, Brain and Mental Health is one of six strategic research themes guiding the university towards its Eyes High goals.

Funding Available for Spinal Cord Injury Provincial Clinical Implementation Grants

The Alberta Paraplegic Foundation is providing Provincial Clinical Implementation Grants for collaborative, province–wide basic science and health research teams working in the area of spinal cord injury (SCI) in Alberta. The purpose of the SCI Provincial Clinical Implementation Grant is to provide limited short-term support of clinical implementation of evidence based treatments and best practices into SCI care provincially. The Provincial Clinical Implementation Grants will serve to bring together Alberta clinicians and researchers building upon existing strengths within the province. Proposals submitted to this program should represent unique or novel ideas with potential to improve SCI patient care and research/knowledge translation capacity among SCI clinicians and researchers in Alberta.

Funded teams will receive project funding from The Alberta Paraplegic Foundation, via the Alberta SCI Research Support Fund. A maximum of two projects will be funded at up to $20,000 CAD per project over a one to two year (12-24 month) term.

This competition is now closed.


Note: funding is also available to facilitate Alberta trainees’ participation in unique learning opportunities intended to build spinal cord injury scientific and research capacity. A maximum of $1,500 per award with a maximum total of $7,500 per funding cycle. Contact Chester Ho for more information.

Graduate Student Internship Opportunity

Campus Alberta Neuroscience (CAN) is looking for a University of Calgary graduate student in neuroscience, or a related field, for a Symposium Coordinator Internship Position. The placement will primarily involve planning and coordination support for CAN’s 6th annual provincial neuroscience symposium, to be held in Calgary in October 2017. The placement will be part-time (10 hours/week) over approximately six months.

The position will support program development, committee activity, venue logistics, marketing and promotion, and on-site coordination. The successful candidate will attend planning committee meetings and ensure that tasks and milestones are on schedule. Finally, the successful candidate will play a key role in marketing and promotion for the symposium.

This is a unique placement that will allow the intern to gain experience in a grassroots initiative that involves a geographically-distributed team environment. The placement will help CAN in its effort to make a significant impact on Alberta’s neuroscience and mental health community.

All University of Calgary full-time graduate students who are at least one year into their programs are eligible to apply for a placement. Please see the Transformative Talent Internship Eligibility Guidelines for more information on the Faculty of Graduate Studies requirements.

To apply, please see the posting on Career Link under Faculty of Graduate Studies. If you have any questions about the position please contact Clint Westgard, Partnership Coordinator.

Applications Now Being Accepted for the Spinal Cord Injury Pilot Project Grant Competition

The Alberta Paraplegic Foundation and Campus Alberta Neuroscience are accepting research proposals from collaborative, province-wide basic science and health research teams to provide Pilot Project grants in the area of spinal cord injury (SCI) research.  The purpose of the Pilot Project Grant is to provide limited short-term support of research related to SCI in areas where preliminary data are scant or nonexistent. Research proposals submitted to this program should represent unique or novel ideas with potential to open significant new avenues of research in SCI.

Funded teams will receive project funding from The Alberta Paraplegic Foundation, via the Alberta SCI Research Support Fund and within-Alberta travel support to facilitate collaborative engagement from Campus Alberta Neuroscience. A maximum of four Pilot Projects will be funded at up to $30,000 CAD total (including all direct and indirect costs), over a one-year period.

Applications are intended to include investigation of primary spinal cord injury (i.e. SCI; spinal cord dysfunction resulting from a single diagnosis or etiology) of traumatic and non-traumatic origin.  In this target population, SCI is defined as damage to the spinal cord that causes changes in its function, either temporary or permanent. These changes translate into loss of motor, sensory, or autonomic function in parts of the body served by the spinal cord below the level of the lesion. Injuries can occur at any level of the spinal cord and can be classified as complete injury, a total loss of sensation and muscle function, or incomplete, meaning some nervous signals are able to travel past the injured area of the cord. Depending on the location and severity of damage along the spinal cord, the symptoms can vary widely, from pain, numbness to paralysis and even devastating neurologic deficits and disability.

This competition is now closed.

Applications Now Being Accepted for the Spinal Cord Injury Equipment Grant Competition

The Alberta Paraplegic Foundation and Campus Alberta Neuroscience are accepting applications for Equipment Grants from basic science and health researchers working in the area of spinal cord injury (SCI) in Alberta. The purpose of the Equipment Grant is to provide assistance with funding of equipment purchases and maintenance costs.

Funded applications will receive equipment funding from The Alberta Paraplegic Foundation, via the Alberta SCI Research Support Fund. A maximum of 4-5 equipment grants will be funded at up to $7,000 CAD per applicant, over a one-year period.

Applications are intended to request equipment funding for investigations of primary spinal cord injury (i.e. SCI; spinal cord dysfunction resulting from a single diagnosis or etiology) of traumatic and non-traumatic origin.  In this target population, SCI is defined as damage to the spinal cord that causes changes in its function, either temporary or permanent. These changes translate into loss of motor, sensory, or autonomic function in parts of the body served by the spinal cord below the level of the lesion. Injuries can occur at any level of the spinal cord and can be classified as complete injury, a total loss of sensation and muscle function, or incomplete, meaning some nervous signals are able to travel past the injured area of the cord. Depending on the location and severity of damage along the spinal cord, the symptoms can vary widely, from pain, numbness to paralysis and even devastating neurologic deficits and disability.

This competition is now closed.

Alberta MS Collaboration Seed Grant Competition

The Alberta Multiple Sclerosis Collaboration is accepting basic science and clinical research proposals from new Alberta-based investigators with a faculty appointment less than 5 years or experienced Alberta-based investigators new to MS research for seed multiple sclerosis (MS) research projects focused on neuroprotection and repair.

The Alberta MS Collaboration is a multi-stakeholder initiative supporting innovation in MS research and translation in Alberta. Current partners include the Alberta MS Network, Alberta Economic Development and Trade, Alberta Health, Campus Alberta Neuroscience, the MS Society of Canada, and Sanofi Genzyme Canada. Funding for the current competition was provided by Alberta Economic Development and Trade, Sanofi Genzyme Canada. Additionally, the Branch Out Neurological Foundation will provide funding for a project that is aligned with Branch Out Neurological Foundation objectives.

New researchers who are based in Alberta and hold a full-time, continuing faculty appointment made in the last five years may submit a proposal. As well, any researchers based in Alberta who hold a full-time, continuing faculty appointment and whose research has focused on an area other than MS may submit a proposal. A maximum of four seed projects will be funded at up to $75,000 CAD total (including all direct and indirect costs), over a one-year period.

The application period for this competition has closed. All submitted applications are currently under review.

2 teams + $200,000 + 2 years = more MS research capacity

The University of Alberta’s Dr. Bradley Kerr (with co-principal investigator Dr. Gerlinde Metz from the University of Lethbridge) and University of Calgary’s Dr. V. Wee Yong (with co-principal investigator Dr. Olga Kovalchuk from the University of Lethbridge), have received $200,000 each over two years by the Alberta Multiple Sclerosis Collaboration (Alberta MS Collaboration).

“We’re really excited about the opportunities provided by the Collaboration and its partners,” says Dr. Yong. “This competition is helping to increase the capacity for MS research and translation in Alberta.”

The Team Grant Competition accepted basic science and health research team proposals from investigators based in Alberta for collaborative projects on multiple sclerosis (MS) focused on neuroprotection and repair. Applications were reviewed and ranked by an independent committee of MS experts from institutions outside the province of Alberta.

The Alberta MS Collaboration is a multi-stakeholder initiative supporting innovation in MS research and translation in Alberta. Current partners include the Alberta MS Network, Alberta Economic Development and Trade, Alberta Health, Campus Alberta Neuroscience, the MS Society of Canada and Sanofi Genzyme Canada. Funding for the neuroprotection and repair competition was part of the $1 million commitment provided by the Ministry of Alberta Economic Development and Trade and Sanofi Genzyme Canada.

Dementia project funding focuses on disease spread in the brain

The Alberta Prion Research Institute and the Alzheimer Society of Calgary — a partnership forged at the recent Campus Alberta Neuroscience international conference — are supporting an Alberta-led research team focusing on Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the team is investigating how the spread of abnormal amyloid plaques leads to decline in memory and brain activity.

Drs. Robert Sutherland (University of Lethbridge), Majid Mohajerani (University of Lethbridge) and David Westaway (University of Alberta) have received $144,000 to study the spread and functional outcomes of amyloid-ß in mice. Dr. Robert Sutherland sees the development of this model as a crucial step to advancing the study of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. “Through the use of this model, we hope to establish a new, rapid system for evaluating new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.”

“We are really excited about the opportunity to support a team of Alberta researchers,” says Barb Ferguson, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Calgary. “This project will help us get closer to understanding how this disease spreads in the brain.”

The funding partnership resulted from discussions at CAN’s international conference Promoting Healthy Brain Aging and Preventing Dementia: Research and Translation (held May 24-27, 2016, in Banff, Alta.). By bringing together Alberta researchers, world-renowned experts in dementia research, and provincial and national dementia stakeholders, connections and partnerships were forged within the healthy brain aging and dementia provincial research community.

Neuro pilot flies into new partnership territory

The Universities of Calgary and Lethbridge are strengthening the Campus Alberta Neuroscience network this fall, offering an interactive shared course between the two institutions — and students are eager to take part in a groundbreaking, highly interactive initiative that breaks down barriers between campuses and enhances learning.

History, Philosophy, Society and Ethics of Neuroscience is being shared across the two sites as an initial pilot. “As far as we know, there is no course like this available in Canada, so we’re creating a unique resource for students in Alberta,” says Andrew Bulloch, course coordinator at the University of Calgary. Next year, CAN and the team of instructors hope to extend the course to Edmonton, too, to allow University of Alberta students the opportunity to take part alongside peers from other institutions.

“Sharing courses like this certainly benefits the neuroscience educational landscape in Alberta. It opens up a space for the sharing of expertise and creates an invaluable opportunity for learning that students wouldn’t be able to access otherwise,” says Bulloch. The course covers a myriad topics, including neuroethics, the discovery of the neuron and speech neuroscience. Students attend class at their home university and video technology enables them to connect with peers in real time, creating opportunities for wide-ranging discussion and to build the CAN trainee community.

Interns learn, hone skills and contribute to CAN’s impact

Two graduate students are advancing their knowledge and professional skills outside the classroom — applying their learning in a work environment and being paid for this experience alongside their studies — in internships with Campus Alberta Neuroscience. The opportunities were made possible through a partnership among partner universities’ Faculties of Graduate Studies and funding from the Government of Alberta.

Emily Lennon is taking her Master’s degree in public health at the University of Alberta. She’s working to enhance CAN’s communications activities (newsletters, announcements, social media, the website and more).

“I’m thrilled that I have this opportunity to learn about the mental health and neuroscience research community in Alberta while developing concrete skills in the communications field and pursuing a Master’s,” she says.

For his part, Pourya Karimian, an international student enrolled in the University of Alberta’s Master’s program in electrical and computer engineering, is helping to improve technology-driven accessibility to Alberta-based neuroscience research. He’s helping with the continuing refinement of CANdex by developing novel methods for quickly and accurately linking researchers with their PubMed publication list — by pressing a single button on their CANdex researcher profile.

“I like to think of myself as an adventurer,” he says. “My main goal is to take advantage of every opportunity in life to gain knowledge and experience, and I hope to achieve this in my current position as an intern with CAN.”

Successful internship programs work for organizations and students alike, and require the participation of both. CAN strives to connect neuroscience and mental health graduate students with stakeholders, the three partner universities and the broader community.

Healthy Brain Aging and Dementia Researchers Meet to Connect Nationally and Globally

The international conference, Promoting Healthy Brain Aging and Preventing Dementia: Research and Translation, brought together Alberta researchers and world-renowned experts in dementia research to discuss healthy brain aging, delaying or preventing dementia, and care services.

READ MORE

University part of Alberta partnership to advance research and improve care for MS patients

READ MORE

International Scholars Program Now Expanded

The Campus Alberta Neuroscience International Scholars Program (CANIS) has been expanded to include internationally recognized visiting scholars who participate in conferences or symposia, or who only visit one campus — provided there is significant engagement of the neuroscience and mental health academic community from other Alberta campuses.

READ MORE