Advancing Healthcare Diagnostics for Neurodegenerative Disorders

Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive neurological decline and substantially decreases the quality of life of patients and their caregivers. In 2011, 747,000 Canadians had Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. With a rapidly aging population, this figure is projected to rise to 1.4 million by 2040, costing $293 billion/year, thus representing an urgent and rapidly growing healthcare issue.

Early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is critical because timely access to healthcare and community services has the potential to slow disease progression and improve quality of life. Current approaches for diagnosis rely on traditional imaging tests and observation of the signs and symptoms of the disease. Adding the measure of proteins found in cerebrospinal fluid (biomarkers) helps doctors correctly identify the disease. This project aims to create better tools for timely diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and make these tools easily accessible to those that need them.

This program of research will develop a comprehensive understanding of how biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease impact clinical decision making and healthcare costs. It will develop an Alzheimer’s disease diagnostic tool and with input from patients, their families, their doctors and other relevant stakeholders, address barriers to uptake and use in the healthcare system. In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, this research will investigate development of diagnostic technologies for related disorders such as frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia.

The ultimate goals of this work are to build a diagnostic platform for early detection and diagnosis of cognitive impairment; establish BC as a leader in neurodegenerative diagnostics; and ease the psychological, physical and financial burdens for people with dementias and their families.