Earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and sleep apnea
Every five minutes, a new case of Alzheimer’s disease is reported in Canada, and rates are expected to double over the next 20 years. Contrast this with the reporting rates of another serious health condition: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Temporarily cutting off airflow, and associated with a significant drop in blood oxygen levels, OSA affects about 10 per cent of Canadians, yet is massively underdiagnosed.
Dr. Zahra Kazem-Moussavi, Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Manitoba, is searching for new early detection techniques for both Alzheimer’s disease and OSA. As she sees it, diseases like these can be treated with a greater likelihood of success—and at lower cost—if they are detected early.
To help detect the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Moussavi is using virtual reality testing to assess navigational skills and spatial memory in patients. She also hopes to develop innovative treatment approaches to improve patients’ functioning or slow the progression of the disease.
In the case of OSA—which can currently only be diagnosed through full-night sleep studies—Moussavi aims to develop a diagnostic technique that analyzes a patient’s breathing while they are awake. This would allow doctors to assess patients’ risks for severe OSA without expensive and time-consuming sleep studies.
This research will ultimately lead to new methods for early diagnosis, rehabilitation and monitoring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and OSA.