Investment in Canadian research on aging renewed

A major study that will provide in-depth understanding of aging for decades has received a shot in the arm. The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) has received a $41.6 million grant through the Government of Canada to continue its work for the next five years.

The most comprehensive study of aging ever undertaken in Canada began in 2010 and is led by researchers at McMaster, McGill and Dalhousie universities. The Vancouver data collection site is located at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH).

Across the country, a total of 50,000 Canadians are being followed over 20 years to provide information which can be used to improve understanding on subjects ranging from disease development to how social habits may affect how someone ages, and ultimately promote healthy aging. The funding is from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).

The CLSA was launched through $50 million in grants from CIHR, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, several provinces and universities, as well as other partners to set up the research platform, recruit participants and collect data from participants.

So far, hour-long telephone interviews have been done with more than 21,000 individuals aged 45 to 85 randomly selected from across the country. An additional 26,000 have taken part in extensive home interviews plus visited one of 11 data collection sites throughout Canada to undergo a range of physical tests such as hearing, heart function, bone density, mobility and many other measures related to overall health. The final participants required to reach 50,000 are now being recruited, and all participants will be followed for 20 years, with interviews and data collection repeated once every three years.

The CLSA has operations in several cities across the country. The National Coordinating Centre and the Biorepository and Bioanalysis Centre are based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., the Statistical Analysis Centre is at the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Que., and the Genetics and Epigenetics Centre is at the University of British Columbia. Telephone interview centres and data collection sites are spread across the country.

The study is being led by Parminder Raina, a McMaster professor and holder of both the Canada Research Chair in Geroscience, and the Raymond and Margaret Labarge Chair in Research and Knowledge Application for Optimal Aging, along with co-principal investigators Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University in Halifax, and Christina Wolfson of McGill University in Montreal. At DMCBH, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose and Dr. Max Cynader are co-lead investigators for the Vancouver arm of the study.

 “This funding is a strong vote of confidence in the importance of improving Canadians’ health through a better understanding of the aging process,” said Raina. “We are gathering a broad range of information on biological, medical, psychological, social, lifestyle and economic aspects of people’s lives.”

"The data collected throughout this study will greatly improve our understanding of the factors that either increase or decrease one’s risk of dementia," says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose. "In order to fully appreciate the 20- to 30-year course of the disease, we really do need to have data collected from individuals starting from midlife."

A key feature of the CLSA is that its data will be used by researchers from many disciplines across the country. Data from more than 21,000 participants who took part in telephone interviews are now available. Already researchers have made requests for data to further research on topics such as hearing loss, neurological conditions, injuries and the health of older veterans.

To learn more about the study, visit www.clsa-elcv.ca.