Projects

Identifying correlates of immune dysfunction in older adults and elderly long term care residents.

The trajectory of aging for older adults is complex, and is determined by a myriad of biological, pathological and psychosocial factors. We have developed a comprehensive research program studying these factors and understanding how they change with age, institutionalization, and disease. Current studies are focusing on genome-wide DNA methylation patterns of white blood cells, the activation and inflammatory potential of monocytes, and the response to vaccination.

Examining the relationship between blood biomarkers and frailty in older adults.

Frail individuals are at a much greater risk of illness, injury and mortality. For this reason frailty is one of the most significant burdens on quality of life for older adults and the Canadian health care system. Although it is well known that frailty tends to increase as we get older, even in healthy individuals, why this occurs is still a mystery. The ability to identify individuals at risk of frailty before symptoms occur would be a powerful tool to help us decide whether therapeutic intervention is needed. The main goal of our proposal is to determine whether cells and molecules in blood (biomarkers) can be used as sensitive detectors for signs of frailty in middle aged and senior adults. Since these biomarkers are routinely measured at hospitals and easily accessed by primary health care providers, using them for the early diagnosis of frailty is both feasible and practical.

Development of tools to measure cellular and molecular markers of age-related disease and immune dysfunction in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging comprehensive cohort. 

A major strength of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) is the broad panel of biospecimens it collects and stores on the 30,000 participants in its comprehensive cohort. These samples, including serum, plasma, whole blood, PBMCs and urine represent a significant resource for the Canadian health sciences community as the data generated from them has the potential to answer important questions regarding the pathogenesis of age-related disease and immune dysfunction. In order to produce precise, reliable data, optimized assays are required. We are currently developing multi-colour flow cytometry assays for the immunophenotyping of leukocyte subsets, bioassays for the measurement of small molecules (ie. endotoxin), and seurm/plasma ELISAs that can be used on CLSA biospecimens. These assays will also be modified for use on our Tecan Freedom Evo automated liquid handler, allowing for consistent analysis in a high-throughput manner.