The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is increasing every year. To fight it, efforts must focus on early detection, prevention, and the improvement of treatments. The Louise and André Charron Research Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease will investigate these areas of research. It studies the role of oxidative stress in the development of AD and the biomarkers that precede the onset of symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), an irreversible stage in the neurodegenerative process, affects over 35 million people worldwide, including more than 450,000 in Canada alone. Based on current data, if no action is taken, 65 million people will have the disease by 2030, and that number will grow to 115 million by 2050. In light of this situation, the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association, and World Health Organization are calling for increased efforts to develop means of prevention.
What’s more, current pharmacological treatments for Alzheimer’s disease often have serious side effects that can interrupt treatment and negatively affect patient quality of life. Since only a small amount of the medication reaches the brain, high doses are required, which increases the adverse effects.
Early detection of AD
To develop ways to prevent AD, the biomarkers characterizing the very first signs of the disease must be identified to enable early detection. Currently, 80% of the neurons involved in cognitive processing have already degenerated by the time the disease is diagnosed. This phase is irreversible and the goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms or, at best, slightly slow down the progression of the disease.
With access to patient groups with different cognitive statuses, the chair will research peripheral biomarkers that evolve with the disease and characterize the various phases leading to AD. These biomarkers represent a first step toward biochemical tools for early detection of the disease.
More effective treatments
AD patients also need treatments that improve their quality of life. The blood-brain barrier presents a challenge for reaching the brain structures being treated: It prevents most medications from working, since they are blocked outside the brain. Nanotechnology offers new opportunities, which will be explored by the chair.
Certain nanoparticles cross the blood-brain barrier to reach neurons, so drugs could be attached to them for targeted delivery. This approach has many advantages—in particular, it significantly reduces the required treatment dose and, by the same token, the peripheral side effects.
The active molecules transported to the brain are not limited to drugs already used by AD patients. New avenues for action have been proposed to slow the disease by reducing oxidative stress in neurons. To this end, research will focus on polyphenols in food to determine their efficacy.
Launched in 2012, the Louise and André Charron Research Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease is funded by Armand-Frappier Foundation.
Professor Charles Ramassamy focused on free radicals and oxidative stress for his doctorate in neuroscience at Université de Rouen in France. At the time he was studying their role in Parkinson’s disease. His researchled him to take an interest in Alzheimer’s disease during his postdoctoral training at McGill University.
Professor Ramassamy first developed his theory on the major role of oxidative stress in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease while working in the laboratory of Professor Judes Poirier, an internationally renowned researcher in the fields of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Inpursuing his career as a professor, first at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, then at INRS since 2004, Charles Ramassamy has focused on the neurotoxic mechanisms of oxidants and the protective effects of various antioxidants. He is a member of many research networks, has many well-known collaborators, and regularly serves on grant and scholarship selection committees for Alzheimer’s disease–related projects.
Since joining INRS, Professor Ramassamy has published over 28 peer-reviewed articles and six book chapters. He has been a keynote speaker at more than 30 national and international conferences and his publications have been cited more than 2200 times. He edited the book Recent Advances on Nutrition and the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease (Transworld Research Network, 2010) and a special issueof the prestigious journal Current Alzheimer Research on the same topic. He is an associate editor of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Parkinsonism.
In addition to his scientific activities, Professor Ramassamy is involved in various outreach initiatives as president of the Montreal chapter of Brain Awareness, a neuroscience awareness organization.
Centre for Studies on Prevention of Alzehimer’s Disease (McGill University)
Centre de recherche sur le vieillissement (Université de Sherbrooke)
Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (Université Laval)
Consortium pour l’identification précoce de la maladie d’Alzheimer-Québec (CIMA-Q)
Réseau AFIRMAQ (Approches fondamentales et innovatrices de la recherche sur la maladie d’Alzheimer au Québec)
Information on Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s Disease: Causes, symptoms and evolution (Douglas Mental Health University Institute)
Information about Alzheimer’s and related dementias (Canada Institutes of Health Research)