Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute scientists help lead nationwide consortium on dementia and aging

Four London researchers, Jane Rylett, Robert Bartha, Manuel Montero-Odasso, and Dr. Michael Borrie are leading the charge as part of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), a collaborative research program focused on tackling the challenge of dementia and other neurodegenerative illnesses.
Western University’s Jane Rylett is one of three theme leaders as part of the nationwide consortium. She will be providing direction to six research teams from across the country looking specifically at prevention of age-related cognitive impairment and dementia.

“Because of the demographics of our population, age-related neurodegenerative diseases have the potential to become the greatest burden on our health care system in the next few decades,” said Rylett, the chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and a scientist at Robarts Research Institute. “This is an outstanding opportunity for Canadian health researchers to come together to share information and focus their diverse range of expertise on solving this important problem. ”

The consortium brings together 300 researchers from across Canada, including 24 from Western and Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson). Leading two of the 20 research teams are Western’s Manuel Montero-Odasso and Robert Bartha; each of their teams has been awarded just under $1 million over five years to carry out their work.

Montero-Odasso, a scientist at Lawson and an associate professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, is world renowned for his research into the relationship between cognition and mobility in the elderly, and gait as a predictor of frailty and dementia. He will be leading the Mobility, Exercise and Cognition Team.

According to Montero-Odasso, the clinical and research approach to cognitive problems, such as dementia, and mobility problems, such as falls, has been done in silos. However, these problems coexist in the same individual.  
“Older people who fall have more cognitive problems, and older people with dementia have more falls and fractures.  More importantly, the disabilities in older people stem from cognitive and mobility impairments,” says Dr. Montero-Odasso. “My team will create standardized terminology and assessment protocols to integrate the approach to cognition and mobility problems across Canada.”
Robarts Research Institute scientist Robert Bartha will be leading a research team of 11 investigators focused on synapses and metabolomics. The team will be developing imaging techniques and studying the earliest changes in the synapses associated with neurodegenerative diseases. 
“Current methods of diagnosis are only sensitive to the late stages of the disease,” says Bartha, who is also an associate professor in the department of Medical Biophysics at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “We’re interested in identifying the earliest changes in order to identify those who will be affected even before they begin to show symptoms.”

Dr. Borrie, a scientist at Lawson and a professor in the Department of Medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, is the Canadian platform leader for the clinical cohorts and will oversee the recruitment of 1,600 subjects from across the country.
The CCNA is supported with funding of $31.5 million over five years from the Government of Canada through CIHR and a group of 13 partners from the public and private sectors. 

More information on the CCNA can be found here: https://www.cihr.gc.ca/e/46475.html 

For Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and Robarts Research Institute:
Crystal Mackay, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, t. 519.661.2111 ext. 80387, c. 519.777.1573, crystal.mackay@schulich.uwo.ca

For Lawson Health Research Institute: 
Julia Capaldi, Communications & Public Relations, Lawson Health Research Institute
519-685-8500 ext. 75616, 519-200-1115, julia.capaldi@lawsonresearch.com

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As the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, and working in partnership with Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute is committed to furthering scientific knowledge to advance health care around the world. www.lawsonresearch.com