Our laboratory has recently discovered a new regulation system in neurons that is related to the pathology of Alzheimers and stroke. We have found that under certain kinds of stress, like those found in neurological disease, a whole group of proteins are destroyed. This protein degradation is controlled by the movement of calcium inside the neuron, which for many years has been known to play a part in the death of the cells, but nobody has ever been able to determine why. Working with Dr. Kathleen Binns and Keith Ashman at the University of Toronto, we have identified these proteins, and found them to be a collection of enzymes that are critical to the survival and normal functioning of the neurons. This work likely has major implications outside of neuroscience, since this pathway is seen in other cells as well.
This new breakthrough has attracted major international attention. Dr. Alexi Verkhratsky, a world-renowned professor and Head of Neuroscience at the University of Manchester, and editor of the journal Cell Calcium, has agreed to come to St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre for a month this spring to focus on this discovery. Dr. Verkhratsky and I will also be investigating how amyloid beta peptide, the major component of senile plaques in AD, causes movement of calcium in neurons, and whether this new protein degradation pathway is a key to neuronal death.
I have been invited to present these findings to two groups in Japan, the RIKEN Institute in Tokyo and the University of Ozaki, where I will be hosted this spring by leading scientists in the field of calcium regulation. In addition, I have been invited to be a speaker at the annual IBRO conference in Prague, Czech Republic in summer. I am in the process of forming an international research group focused on intracellular calcium and neuronal death. This group will be composed of select scientists from England, the US, Japan and Canada, and is planning to meet this fall to formalize research plans.
In the last 2 years, I have received two national awards and two provincial grants. Last year, my grant on the role of intracellular calcium and inherited Alzheimer disease was chosen as only one of two in the nation to be an AstraZenica/CIHR/Alzheimers award, and was ranked as the top biomedical grant in the nationwide competition, a first for Manitoba. For this, I was invited to be the Manitoba representative in the formation of a Canada-wide AD research group. In addition, I was awarded a CIHR operating grant to examine the role of intracellular calcium and ER-regulated transcription factors in peripheral neuropathy, a major complication in diabetes.
Also last year, I was awarded a $500,000 Canadian Foundation for Innovation grant to build a unique microscope which combines the power of lasers for imaging, and robotic control of the microscope itself. This is the first microscope of its kind in Canada, and one of only a handful in all of North America. Because of its distinctive qualities, this microscope has attracted international collaborations with leading scientists.
Shortly after I began working at UM, I secured venture capital from Keystone Investment of $1 million to form 2 biotechnology companies based upon a novel approach to treating cancer and HIV infection using inhibitors of cellular calcium movement. The compound being studied is currently under investigation has shown very potent killing effects on aggressive cancers, with very little toxicity to normal cells. This drug will soon be tested in animals for toxicity and the ability to kill currently untreatable tumors.
More information on Dr. Glazner is also available on the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders Website at http://www.sbrc.ca/dnd/faculty/dr-gordon-glazner/
Dr. Gordon Glazner
Area of research: Neuropharmacoloy, neurodegeneration
Dr. Gordon Glazner
Grant Amount: $150,000 from the Alzheimer Society Canada
Title: Testing secreted amyloid precursor protein as therapeutic agent in a murine model of diabetes-linked dementia