Monthly Archives: May 2017

CNA2017

Nuclear Science: Mapping Out Alzheimer’s

Canadian women over 65 are at the greatest risk for developing dementia and that number is drastically rising. It is predicted that the number of Canadians living with dementia will almost double, affecting one million people by 2030. In the United States, a person is diagnosed with dementia every 66 seconds.

A large aging population and rising dementia rates are placing tremendous strains on an already stressed health care system, particularly long-term care facilities. Across the country, wait lists for long-term care varies from province to province but wait times in excess of a year are not unheard of. An overwhelming care demand coupled with a shortage of beds has meant many seniors are forced to stay at home longer.

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is an important step in planning for both patients and their families. A step that is closer to reality thanks to nuclear science and the stable isotope labeling kinetics (SILK) technique.

Inside your brain’s nerve cells are tau proteins. These proteins work to stabilize other proteins in the brain known as microtubules. These microtubules are responsible for cell structure and movement.  New findings from the  Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis this past spring reveal the importance of tau proteins in early Alzheimer’s progression.

“Tau is abundant in the brain’s nerve cells, where it stabilizes the scaffold-like microtubules that play a critical role in transporting cargo within cells. But in Alzheimer’s disease as well as other “tauopathies,” such as progressive supranuclear palsy and frontotemporal dementia, clumps of tau protein are abnormally deposited in nerve cells in tangles.”

In order to assess the health and levels of tau protein a patient is given a stable isotope of amino acids and then through a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, the amount of labeled tau produced in the brain is measured. Knowing how much tau is produced, researchers can then calculate how fast the protein is produced and cleared away by the brain.

Research has shown brains that are prone to dementia tend to have a buildup of dysfunctional proteins and have a harder time clearing the excess proteins away compared to brains of healthy patients. While it’s not a cure, this discovery could lead to new hope for patients and their families.

“Usually we can only diagnose patients later in the disease process, when brain function already is diminished,” according to senior author Beau M. Ances, MD, PhD, an associate professor of neurology.  “We want to develop ways to make an earlier diagnosis and then design trials to test drugs against amyloid buildup and against tau buildup. While we currently cannot prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease, delaying the onset of symptoms by 10-15 years would make a huge difference to our patients, to their families and caregivers, and to the global economy.”

In addition to their work on tau proteins, the school was recently awarded $4.3 million dollars from the Alzheimer’s Association to expand an international clinical trial which will attempt to identify drugs that can slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s in patients who are genetically predisposed but are symptom free. Working towards a cure and improving the lives of patients around the world, thanks in part to nuclear science.

CNA2017

A Nuclear Ride

An atom and a 3D printer may drive the next generation of vehicles. That’s the idea behind Russian automobile designer Grigory Gorin and his concept for a nuclear fusion powered car.

The AUDI Mesarthim F-Tron Quattro concept car was inspired in part by Michel Laberge.  Dr. Laberge founded General Fusion in 2002 with a goal of creating a future powered by energy from nuclear fusion.

This past spring, the work of General Fusion was acknowledged by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) with a grant of just over 12 million dollars to further the research into fusion power.

“I think it’s a really terrific idea. I love it,” exclaims Gorin. “I’m very inspired when I see people that are involved in finding solutions to issues related to clean and secure energy.”

Gorin’s fascination with cars dates back to his childhood. The AUDI Mesarthim, named after one of the Aries star constellations, would transform automobile production, producing minimal environmental impact while providing virtually unlimited power.

The stars in our solar system are energized by nuclear fusion. In the center of the star, the fusion process takes place. When two atoms come together to form a heavier atom they release a tremendous amount of energy.

The concept of the car is quite simple. As the electric car speeds up and generates energy, the reactor would be activated. Four Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), systems which recover excess energy and store it in a battery, which would serve as back-up support. A small amount of hydrogen would fuel the reactor almost indefinitely.

Gorin was inspired by the changing state of ecology in his region of Russia.

“I’ve observed completely abnormal temperatures. (As an example), 2010 was so hot that forests began to burn,” states Gorin. “Winters have (also become) very warm, this year there was no snow in December and February and it was raining,” he says.

Concern for Russia’s environment has reached the Kremlin. President Putin, looking to raise public attention to environmental problems has made 2017 the Year of Ecology in Russia.

While Gorin’s invention is still years away from becoming a reality, he believes that the cars of the future will be able to carry an on-board device to produce energy such as a fusion reactor.

“The reactor can be installed on any chassis with any body so it can provide energy where needed,” he states. “It could also probably be used in conjunction with non-motile (stationary) reactors,” according to Gorin.

His proposed car would rarely, if ever, need refueling and wouldn’t produce harmful emissions like current fossil fuel powered vehicles.