St-Boniface Hospital Research

About Us

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, ischemic stroke, traumatic brain injury and aging-related CNS degeneration. Additionally, we are particularly interested in the impact of diabetes on these neurodegenerative disorders.

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, and Dr. Benedict Albensi. Recruitment is currently under way for one additional member. All our members hold faculty appointments with the Departments of Pharmacology & Therapeutics and Physiology at the University of Manitoba.

A complete divisional staff listing is available for viewing.

Program Overview

Neurodegenerative Disease at St Boniface Research Centre

Dr. Paul Fernyhough
Director, Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders
Centre for Health Research on Aging

The Director’s background.

My PhD was performed in the Dept. of Biochemistry at the University Sheffield in England, the department was headed by Nobel Laureate Sir Hans Krebs. I have had staff positions in New York, Colorado, Kings College London, St Bartholomew’s Medical College and University of Manchester. During this period I have worked in two departments headed by Nobel Laureates of Medicine (Maurice Wilkins and Sir John Vane). I have come to St Boniface 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.

Research objective. The aim of our work in the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders at the St Boniface Research Centre is to identify novel targets for clinical intervention for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases associated with ageing and diabetes. Here in Manitoba, the 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, diabetes, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, multiple sclerosis, and traumatic brain injury.

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 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 signaling 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 a NF-kappaB, in the neuronal response to insult. Neuronal signalling pathways affected by amyloid-beta treatment are being investigated with a central element being affects on 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.