Understanding diseases in the brain
UWinnipeg prof Melanie Martin and her students publish findings in two prestigious journals
A team of researchers led by University of Winnipeg Physics professor Dr. Melanie Martin has found early signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
“We developed a method using MRI to isolate signals from parts of the brain that could not be accessed before,” said Dr. Martin. “It was exciting to apply the method and see these parts so clearly!” The research is now published online to be followed in print by the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
University of Winnipeg graduate Heather Whittaker (Bachelor of Science 2015), was the lead author on the work. “Hopefully these findings will help shed light on what is occurring in the brains of people who develop Alzheimer’s disease, and open a door to new ways to diagnose it earlier in life,” says Whittaker.
The team also includes researchers from University of Manitoba, University of Alberta, Western University and University College London. Worldwide, nearly 44 million people have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.
Dr. Martin, and her PhD student, Morgan Mercredi have also developed a method to determine the size of cells in the brain that are thinner than the silk of a spider’s web. Using computer simulations, Dr. Martin and Mercredi were able to shorten the time needed to collect the MRIs.
“Identifying subtle changes in the sizes of axons, part of cells in the brain, could be the key to unlocking the mysteries of diseases of the brain,” said Dr. Martin. “I am looking forward to this method being used in the clinic.”
“In June 2018, I will be going to the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine annual meeting in Paris to present our first measurements in the brain,” said Mercredi, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) from UWinnipeg in 2013.
Their work was published in the online version of the journal Magnetic Resonance Materials in Physics, Biology and Medicine earlier this month (March 7, 2018).