Marie Pigeyre

PHRI Scientist Marie Pigeyre has been awarded the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) Operating Grant for the “Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds (CAHHM): A Biomarker Study of Cognitive Decline.” 

Excess body weight, particularly around the abdomen (visceral fat), may impair cognitive abilities like memory and multitasking, potentially leading to brain fog and increasing the risk of developing the progressive condition known as dementia. The study aims to explore the impact of certain biomarkers associated with visceral fat inflammation on cognitive decline, vascular risk factors, silent cerebrovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Marie, the principal investigator (PI) of the study, emphasizes the significance of discovering new biomarkers associated with visceral adiposity that could forecast potential risks. “This may establish a foundation for new dementia-focused clinical programs and treatment approaches.” 

This grant of $750,000 spanning three years will facilitate comprehensive biomarker analyses at the Clinical Research Laboratory and Biobank-Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory (CRLB-GMEL). 

Raed Joundi

In 2013, more than 8,000 Canadian adults of diverse ancestries from five provinces participated in the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds study led by PHRI Senior Scientist Sonia Anand. The participants provided blood samples and underwent MRI scans of the brain, heart, and abdomen for fat tissue analysis, along with health and cognitive assessments. 

Raed Joundi, PHRI Scientist and co-PI of the study, notes that the study plans to reassess participants’ cognitive abilities after six years. “Participants will undergo follow-up assessments, including food intake, physical activity, body fat measurements, additional brain MRI scans, and cognitive testing.” 

“These assessments are critical to understanding the links between adiposity-related biomarkers, brain changes, and cognitive decline.”  

Michael Chong

The research team aims to analyze hundreds of blood biomarkers collected initially to test if these can predict participants’ cognition ability. “This study will offer deeper insights into the connections between lifestyles, excess body fat and dementia, and identified biomarkers could represent novel therapeutic targets for preserving cognitive ability in those with metabolic risk factors” says Michael Chong, PHRI investigator and co-PI of the study. 

Marie highlights the multidisciplinary nature of the study team, which brings together unique expertise in advanced statistical methods applied to biomarkers, cognition, and adiposity. 

“Beyond its scientific impact, this study presents a special opportunity for those interested in studying ‘brain aging,’ and nurtures the next-generation of prevention-focused clinician scientists, particularly focusing on the intersection of clinical research and biomarkers.” 

Another PHRI project secured funding from CIHR, receiving a grant of CAD 749,558 for the “Mechanisms and prediction of perioperative brain injury and its long-term impact: the NeuroVISION-2 biobank initiative” led by scientist Maura Marcucci.

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