Alzheimer's Disease Dementia Heart Lung Research Seniors Valve Disorders

Researcher developing new test to diagnose early stage Alzheimer’s

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but patients can have a greatly improved quality of life when the disease is diagnosed and treated early.

With this in mind, Dr. Junyan Shi, a post-doctoral fellow with the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation at St. Paul’s Hospital, is conducting research that aims to develop a new test that could help doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease with gradual loss of nerve cells and resulting problems with thinking, memory and movement. Changes in the brain can start to happen 20 years before any memory problems appear.

Currently, measurement of some proteins in a body fluid found in the brain and spinal cord is used to aid in diagnosis. The sample collection is performed by inserting a needle into the spinal canal and people are often reluctant to take the test, which causes a delay in diagnosis.

The new test Dr. Shi is working on is different from the current tests in two ways: it uses blood instead of spinal fluid, which is much easier to get through venipuncture; and it uses a new technique that is more sensitive and specific.

According to her project abstract, “The resulting blood test could be a convenient and accurate way of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage.”

Dr. Shi’s study “Targeting The Complement System In Alzheimer’s Disease” is supported by a 2018 Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Trainee Award. She was one of 33 post-doctoral fellows to receive the award, which provides salary support to health researchers in the training phase of their careers to enable career development and promote the long-term success of the BC health research landscape.

In addition to Dr. Shi, there are several other 2018 MSFHR Research Trainee Award recipients with Providence Health Care affiliations:

  • Dr. Kiffer Card (BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS)
    Project: “Optimizing PrEP and TasP adherence among substance using gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men”
  • Dr. Olivier Ferlatte (BC Centre on Substance Use)
    Project: “Improving substance use care for gay, lesbian and bisexual youth in British Columbia”
  • Dr. Paul Hanson (Centre for Heart Lung Innovation)
    Project: “Personalizing myocarditis diagnostics through novel biomarkers”
  • Dr. Yannick Molgat-Seon (Centre for Heart Lung Innovation)
    Project: “Investigating the role of skeletal muscle dysfunction on dyspnea and exercise intolerance in interstitial lung disease”
    Co-funded with the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation – Providence Health Care Research Institute and St. Paul’s Foundation
  • Dr. Stephanie Sellers (Centre for Heart Lung Innovation)
    Project: “Structural valve degeneration in bioprosthetic heart valves”
    Co-funded with the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation – Providence Health Care Research Institute and St. Paul’s Foundation

Click here for a list of all 33 award recipients and their projects.

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