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About the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders

Through a strong and close relationship with the University of Manitoba, our group has a thriving undergraduate and graduate student training program. We are dedicated to training highly qualified, adaptable undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows poised to meet the growing worldwide demand for pharmacologists and neuroscientists with basic and clinical research skills. We are all about creating opportunity, and that is why we are committed to excellence in research by actively teaching and encouraging innovation, technical diversity, collaboration and rigorous scientific integrity. All are aimed at driving the publication of high-impact neuroscience and pharmacological research and the generation of intellectual property.

2019 DND Activity Report
2020 DND Activity Report

Neurodegenerative diseases of the peripheral and central nervous systems devastate individuals and their families and endanger the fiscal solvency of health care organizations. These diseases, the incidence of which are increasing in proportion to our ageing population, are receiving priority status for available funds from government and other funding agencies.

Here in Manitoba, St. Boniface Hospital Research has developed an ‘in house’ neurodegenerative disorders research team – the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders (DND) to determine mechanisms underlying, and identify potential treatments for, neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease, neuropathy, retinopathy, psychiatric illness and ageing-related CNS degeneration. Additionally, we are particularly interested in the impact of diabetes on these neurodegenerative disorders and the impact of novel nutritional approaches to prevent or reverse disease.

The Division was established in the fall of 1999 under the supervision of Dr. John Foerster who built a strong research team that within the first two years of existence successfully attracted $3 million in grant funding from national and international funding agencies.

Our current members include Dr. Paul Fernyhough (Director), Dr. Gordon Glazner, Dr. Benedict Albensi, Dr. Miyoung Suh, Dr. Michel Aliani and Dr. Mandana Modirrousta.  All our members hold faculty appointments with the Departments of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Psychiatry, and Food and Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

Program Overview

Neurodegenerative Disease at St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre

Dr. Paul Fernyhough
Director, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders

The Director’s background.

My Ph.D. was performed in the Dept. of Biochemistry at the University of Sheffield in England. I have had staff positions in New York, Colorado, Kings College London, St Bartholomew’s Medical College and the University of Manchester. I chose to work at St Boniface Research Centre because it is a superb institute that compares favourably with my past places of work. In many respects, St. Boniface Hospital Research is superior in that it allows researchers to focus fully on what they do best – perform experiments to identify cures for disease.

Specific interests of the group.

Dr. Paul Fernyhough is focused on the impact of diabetes on neuron function in the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). Recent studies show that the severity of Alzheimer’s Disease is increased in patients with diabetes and animal studies support an interaction between the diabetic state and Alzheimer’s Disease at the intracellular level. We are particularly interested in the role of insulin signalling in neurons and its role in controlling neuronal metabolism.

Dr. Gordon Glazner is studying mechanisms of neuronal death in Alzheimer’s Disease. His group study the role of key transcription factors, such as NF-kappaB, in the neuronal response to insult. Neuronal signalling pathways affected by amyloid-beta treatment are being investigated with a central element affecting calcium homeostasis within the neuron.

Dr. Benedict C. Albensi is studying mechanisms of altered synaptic plasticity that lead to memory impairments. He is especially interested in the role that excitotoxicity and excessive levels of calcium play in memory deficits.

Dr. Miyoung Suh is studying the value of nutrition and degenerative eyes diseases;  nutrition and male reproductive dysfunction;  and nutrition and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.  

Dr. Michel Aliani is studying the effect of active compounds on metabolic pathways in animal and human models. Dr. Aliani’s research also focuses on the scientific and molecular basis for the development and successful marketing of functional foods targeted to patients as well as healthy populations in the world.

Dr. Mandana Modirrousta is studying how to optimally use brain stimulation techniques to treat neuropsychiatric disorders. Dr. Modirrousta’s team uses rTMS to treat major depressive disorder and other neuropsychiatric conditions.

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