Lab Canada

Researcher studying new way to capture images of the brain

Thunder Bay, ON – The Weston Brain Institute is providing $709,650 over three years to Dr. Mitch Albert, a researcher at Lakehead University and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute (TBRRI), to discover a more effective way to study the brain while treating Alzheimer’s disease.

“The goal of this research is to provide a more sensitive measurement of brain function in Alzheimer’s patients using hyperpolarized xenon,” said Dr. Albert. He added that when patients inhale hyperpolarized xenon gas, researchers will be able to take a clearer picture of the brain when using an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine.

This study will be the first large-scale clinical trial in the world using hyperpolarized gas to take an image of the brain.

“Development of effective Alzheimer’s drugs has been largely unsuccessful,” said Dr. Albert. “But the enhanced detection capabilities of our hyperpolarized technique with MRI will encourage an evidence-based approach to drug development, since more people will want to participate in clinical trials. This will also allow for the evaluation of new drugs.”

Dr. Albert will work with Dr. Alla Reznik, Canada research chair in physics of molecular imaging and researcher at Lakehead and TBRRI; Drs. Seda Rafilovich and Anton Kolobov from St. Joseph’s Care Group, practicing geriatricians and experts in Alzheimer’s disease management; and Dr. Ayman Hassan, a neuroradiologist from the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre who will assist with clinical oversight of the neuroradiology aspects of the study.

Neuroscientists Dr. Jane Lawrence-Dewar from TBRRI and Dr. Jonathan Marotta from the University of Manitoba are collaborators on the project. TBRRI also has an in-house biostatistician for statistical analysis of the study’s results.

“Understanding this complex disease will require expert researchers attacking the problem from multiple perspectives. The substantial award from the Weston Brain Institute will allow Dr. Albert to pursue a new approach with widespread clinical trials,” said Dr. Andrew Dean, Lakehead University’s vice-president, research and innovation.