SASKATOON -- Van Isman has seen three generations of his family suffer from Alzheimer’s – including his mother in the 1990s.

“My mom’s behaviour began to become a little bit unusual. She was always my mom, I loved her dearly and that was never an issue, but all of a sudden she began to do unusual things.”

Isman then went through the process one more time when around 2010 his sister was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Isman said he was never a primary caregiver in any of the cases, but he was still around enough to see how the disease affects a person and their family.

Now he is working with the Alzheimer’s Society of Saskatchewan to help others affected.

In addition to his time, Isman has also supported the cause financially.

He says he has seen first hand how the medical industry has changed when it comes to treating Alzheimer’s.

“From when mom was initially diagnosed around 1990, to when my sister started exhibiting symptoms 20 or so years later there were a lot of advancements, there was a lot more that was known it terms of how to deal with this.”

Isman is a big supporter of research done in the field of Alzheimer’s and the Alzheimer’s Society of Saskatchewan has had a big hand with one researcher at the University of Saskatchewan.

The project was lead by Darrell Mousseau, a researcher at the U of S, and involved collaborations with researchers at the University of Regina and at Memorial University in Newfoundland and was published in the journal Scientific Reports in early January.

After working on a protein found in the brain that was often disregarded and thought to be connected with Alzheimer’s disease, Mousseau said he found the opposite of what many have believed for years.

“Beta-amyloid has attracted a lot of attention over the years because it is found in particularly high levels in the Alzheimer’s brain,” said Mousseau.

“It tends to be quite sticky, and if you get too much of it, it tends to form deposits, it aggregates and it forms plaques. The plaques are just deposits of this beta-amyloid in the brain that is used to confirm Alzheimer’s disease.”

Research over the years has been conducted on the longer beta-amyloid (Aβ) 42, which is a chain of amino acids that disrupts the mechanism that is used by brain cells to learn and form memories.

Mousseau said the shorter version of Aβ-42, Aβ-38 which is the focus of his study, hasn’t had a lot of attention in the scientific community and has oftentimes been associated with Aβ-42 and the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Mousseau said his research has found that Aβ-38 is not responsible for progressing Alzheimer’s, and it potentially does the opposite and can help fight the disease.

“Our study not only shows that it’s good in terms of stopping the neurotoxic effects of the longer Aβ-42, but we show in animal modes and a variety of different models that it actually helps maintain the processes in the brain important for memory.”

“I don’t try to show it, otherwise I would be jumping around doing cartwheels, but certainly I’m very, very excited. This is leading to more work within our lab, we have other extensions to this project going on,” Mousseau told CTV.

“We’re showing that it does apply to different models, different platforms so it’s not just a one-off ‘gee this is interesting, let someone else deal with it.’ We are interested, and excited and will carry on with the work.”

The work was co-funded by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Society of Saskatchewan.

Joanne Bracken, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society of Saskatchewan said they are thrilled to be a part of work like this and are optimistic about the outlook of Mousseau’s research.

“It provides a lot of hope for people for a different future for their family members not to be so effected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”

Bracken said that at this point there are still a lot of unknowns about the disease, and all research being conducted is crucial to learn more.

“When you fund research part of it is another piece to the puzzle, it’s a clue. We don’t fully understand how the brain works, so any research, whether you find out what you were intending to or not, it just provides a little more information that other researchers can build on.”

“I would say the research that Mousseau is doing is quite novel and innovative research. Often that’s cutting edge, and a different thought process, it can really lend to the knowledge and be a stepping stone to build on that.”