Scientist receives $1.1 million from Gates Partnership
September 9, 2020
TORONTO – The U.S.-based Alzheimer’s Association has awarded a $1.1 million research grant to Sunnybrook Hospital’s Dr. Krista Lanctôt (pictured), a senior scientist. The award is from the Part the Cloud-Gates Partnership Grant Program, partly sponsored by philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates.
Dr. Lanctôt’s innovative study is the only Canadian trial among 16 grant winners from around the world.
The $1.1 million grant will fund a first of its kind phase II clinical trial investigating a unique combination of treatment options for patients with vascular cognitive impairment – no dementia (VCIND), which involves an early decline in thinking and memory.
Treating patients diagnosed with cognitive changes in the earliest stages, as with VCIND, is important because they are at increased risk to progress to dementia.
For the first time, researchers will evaluate exercise “primed” transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for the treatment of VCIND. tDCS is non-invasive and uses mild electrical currents to stimulate the brain and increase brain activity. More activity or ‘excitability’ in these neurons may help to improve cognition.
In this study, researchers will stimulate the temporal lobes, which are key regions for memory function and show degeneration in early Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers will determine if giving exercise before receiving tDCS can help ‘prime’ the brain’s cells to be more receptive to the potential treatment as physical aerobic exercise increases brain activity. The study will investigate if the combination of both exercise and tDCS is effective in improving cognition, mood and behavioural symptoms, as well as brain and blood vessel health.
“We are grateful to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Part the Cloud-Gates Partnership Grant Program for supporting our research focused on innovative techniques for early intervention that may one day help prevent or slow the progress of dementia,” says Dr. Lanctôt. “Findings from this study will help support larger trials and may lead to future treatment and care that could have implications for all patients with cerebrovascular changes and early signs of cognitive impairment.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, “the strategic goal of Part the Cloud, in collaboration with Bill Gates, is to increase the options for potential interventions in early stages of neurodegeneration and to encourage the discovery and development of a wide range of interventions that target biology with strong scientific rationale” for Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease related dementias.
Eighty patients will be involved in the study which is recruiting individuals who can speak and understand English through reading, writing and speaking, are 50-years-old and up, and have a diagnosis of heart disease or have risk factors for stroke or heart disease.