Weston Family Foundation funds $12M initiative to advance the science of healthy aging

Parminder Raina stands beside a MRI machine in a clinical space.

Parminder Raina, lead principal investigator of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), stands in front of an MRI at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Imaging Research Centre, one of eight research sites supporting the CLSA’s new Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative.

The Weston Family Foundation is awarding a $12-million research grant to the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), hosted at McMaster University, for a new initiative that will shed light on the many factors that influence brain health as we age, including lifestyle and the human microbiome.

The Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative will feature a cohort of 6,000 research participants who are currently enrolled in the CLSA. It marks the first time a national study of aging in Canada has introduced both brain imaging and microbiome analyses to investigate cognitive aging in the population over time.

The goal of the six-year Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative is to enhance the CLSA platform with longitudinal data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and microbiome analyses of the gut, to help researchers examine how diverse lifestyle, medical, psychosocial, economic, and environmental factors as well as changes in the microbiome correlate with healthy aging outcomes. This data will be critical to the future development of screening and prevention strategies that promote brain health for aging Canadians.

The Weston Family Foundation has set an ambitious goal of improving and maintaining brain health in its overall efforts to improve the well-being of Canadians. The Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative and the resulting datasets could prove pivotal in these efforts.

“The influence of lifestyle factors and the human microbiome on brain health is an emerging and important piece of the healthy aging puzzle, but there is a lack of existing baseline research at a large scale,” said Emma Adamo, chair, Weston Family Foundation.

“We’re motivated to launch this initiative with the CLSA and McMaster University to enable researchers around the country to conduct further study and ultimately increase Canadians’ quality of life as they age.”

With more than 50,000 participants, the CLSA follows Canadian men and women for 20 years to better understand why some people remain healthier than others as they age.

“These enhancements to the CLSA research platform will provide researchers with critical data to better understand the basis of successful cognitive aging,” said professor Parminder Raina, lead principal investigator of the CLSA and scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging.

“We thank the Weston Family Foundation for their generous support and commitment to this incredibly important area of study, which we hope will have an undeniable impact on the health of Canadians.”

Potential breakthroughs as a result of data gathered by the Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging Initiative will not only improve the health of Canadians as they age but will generate research evidence to inform policy and programs that increase the agency of Canadians on their own health outcomes.

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