University leading research in trials to cure dementia

Graphic by Fani Hsieh

Research to find a cure for dementia has begun its first stages at Wilfrid Laurier University. At the Waterloo campus, the movement disorders research and rehabilitation centre (MDRC) has been working with science facilities across the country to work towards a cure or possible mitigatory to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“The goal of the research is to basically try and pull together the best community of researchers in the field of neurodegeneration from across the country,” Quincy Almeida, a professor for kinesiology and physical education and director of MDRC said.

The federal government has backed this research and begun an initiative called Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), resulting in a total amount of 55 million dollars for funding from partners.

CCNA will be focused on the prevention and mitigation of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.

“We’re testing strategies that involve cognitive training, physical exercise and vitamin D. The clinical trial involves delivering all these treatments in different combinations, to subsets of patients in hopes to find a treatment strategy that will work,” Almeida said.

CCNA will attempt to bring together 20 research teams, which will include over 340 of Canada’s top researchers in neurodegeneration.

Other universities included in conducting the trials are University of Waterloo, University of Western Ontario and University of Toronto. However, Laurier has been leading the research.

“One of the greatest things about the trial is that … undergraduate students are the ones that are hands-on involved with the patients. It’s a very unique opportunity that many universities don’t have,” Almeida said.

“Imagine as an undergrad student … to be able to work with those patients and do assessments of their memory, their walking, balance, then actually be hands on with them in treatment, helping them with their exercises and rehabilitations. It’s unique for the undergraduates involved and of course there’s PhD students and masters’ students also involved.”

The research has been broken into three sections.

The first will focus on primary prevention, which will be aimed to prevent neurodegenerative diseases from ever developing. The secondary prevention focuses on delaying an already developing disease.

Lastly, the research will focus on quality of life, which is designed to help not only the patient recieving treatment, but the caregiver as well and additionally the health system within the context of a clinically developed disease.

“We are really fortunate that Laurier was selected to take the lead role in this trial. Normally, we will tag along with what other universities are doing. But to be able to be one of the lead sites of research, it helps put Laurier on the forefront.”

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