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Two UM Alzheimer’s disease experts receive Alzheimer Society Research Project funding

Eftekhar Eftekharpour and Tiina Kauppinen awarded proof-of-concept support for groundbreaking research

October 10, 2023 — 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 per cent of cases. It is unpredictable, affecting each person differently, altering the way they think, act and feel. Although these symptoms can be treated, there is still no cure.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada funds dementia research in Canada, announcing support for two UM proof-of-concept projects on July 20. The Alzheimer Society Research Program expanded in 2023 to nearly $6-million from $3.5-million last year thanks to new funding partners including Brain Canada Foundation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Aging, and Research Manitoba.

“Researchers at the UM Rady Faculty of Health Sciences are working to realize the potential of new treatments and cures for diseases every day,” says UM Vice-President (Research and International) Dr. Mario Pinto. “Congratulations to Dr. Eftekharpour and Dr. Kauppinen for securing this critical support to improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease here in Manitoba, and around the world.”

Dr. Eftekhar Eftekharpour

Dr. Eftekhar Eftekharpour, associate professor, physiology and pathophysiology, Max Rady College of Medicine, received funding for Examination of neuronal nuclear damage as a new player in pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.

Eftekharpour investigates how neurons maintain their complex structure and function to better understand molecular events related to brain health and disease.

Conventional research into Alzheimer’s disease focuses on removing amyloid plaques that form in the brain. These plaques contribute to causing nerve cell death but may themselves be the result of other malfunctioning cellular systems.

The lab has discovered that a decrease in the level of thioredoxin, an antioxidant protein in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains, may cause such interruption of cellular systems. When the level of this protein decreases in the nerve cell, genetic damage characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease can happen.

With this project, Eftekharpour seeks to show whether an experimental antioxidant drug has the potential to protect nerve cells from damage during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Tiina Kauppinen

Dr. Tiina Kauppinen, associate professor, pharmacology and therapeutics, Max Rady College of Medicine, received funding for NUDT5 as a therapeutic target in Alzheimer’s disease.

Kauppinen studies brain immune cells and signaling pathways that regulate their functions with a goal of harnessing immune cell function to promote recovery from brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases.

Her pioneering research has demonstrated that immune cells change in Alzheimer’s disease, becoming inflammatory and actively damaging neurons. Kauppinen’s team has developed a novel drug, NUDT5 inhibitor, to target the signaling pathway that turns brain immune cells destructive.

Importantly, this inhibitor can get into the brain, does not cause serious side effects, and thus is ideal for a disease requiring a long treatment regimen. Using this novel drug, Kauppinen hopes to slow or even stop the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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