Dalhousie researchers on the hunt to fund new Alzheimer’s tool

Click to play video: 'Dalhousie to receive tool that will help diagnose Alzheimer’s'
Dalhousie to receive tool that will help diagnose Alzheimer’s
WATCH: Dalhousie University researchers will soon be receiving a tool that plays a critical role in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. Alexa MacLean reports – May 3, 2018

Its name doesn’t exactly roll off the tip of the tongue — but it’s a piece of equipment that could play a crucial role in advancing scientists’ understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Leica HistoCore PEARL is a tissue-processing machine that will advance the research of many scientists, and Dr. Sultan Darvesh, a Dalhousie Medical School neurologist and director of the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank, is one of them.

“Brain tissue is very delicate. It needs to be handled and processed properly in order to analyze the detailed architecture of what’s going on inside the tissue,” Dr. Darvesh said.

READ MORE: A new discovery could lead to a more timely diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

The tissue-processor that has been used in Dr. Darvesh’s lab for the past several decades is outdated and will be replaced by the new machine.

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The Leica HistoCore PEARL gives scientists the ability to quickly and precisely analyze brain tissue, though it can also be used in cardiology and cancer research.

But the tool will come at a cost.

A funding project is underway to raise the $50,000 needed to purchase the new tissue-processing machine.

Dr. Sultan Darvesh and his team are advancing research into Alzheimer’s disease that aims to be able to fully diagnose people while they’re still living. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax.

The processor will help advance the research by Dr. Darvesh and his team. They’re looking for new ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

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One of the goals of the lab is to be able to fully diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in patients while they’re still alive.

“When we see patients in the clinic, it’s very difficult to be 100 per cent sure that patient, who has developed dementia, has Alzheimer’s disease, because there are other dementing illnesses where there is an overlap,” Dr. Darvesh said.

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Currently, families can choose to donate brains to the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank where they’re analyzed for research.

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Click to play video: 'Minds in Motion: Helping those with Alzheimer’s and dementia'
Minds in Motion: Helping those with Alzheimer’s and dementia

That’s another critical part in determining the factors behind the disease.

“When people develop dementia syndrome, it could be Alzheimer’s disease. So, to make a definite diagnosis, the pathologist has to look at the brain at the time of death,” Dr. Darvesh said.

He adds that being able to 100 per cent diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s disease in the early stages of their symptoms, will eventually lead to many benefits when it comes to care.

“To be able to find a cure, we need to be able to diagnose it better during life. The other thing is, once you diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, then at least you can put people on medications right now that are not curative but at least they treat symptoms of the disease,” Dr. Darvesh said.


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