Cheek swab event helps identify Alzheimer’s risk for Barrie seniors

The same cheek swap to determine a person’s genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease can also be used to further research into the prevention.

At a sold-out event at Barrie’s Grace United Church, more than 100 people participated in the cheek swab.

“It’s a testament to how involved people want to be in Alzheimer’s prevention,” Dr. Sharon Cohen, medical director of the Toronto Memory Program, said.

The swab is used to look for the risk factor gene, ApoE-4 (Apolipoprotein E), linked to the disease. Anyone with the identified gene is invited to join a prevention study.

Once swabbed along the inside of a person’s cheek, the swab can be run through a DNA analyzer. At the Toronto Memory Program’s clinic, it’s a Spartan Cube. Cohen said it’s the smallest device in the world able to analyze DNA. Other samples are sent off to a medical lab. The results of the Barrie event from June 26, are available in early July.

“A few years ago we didn’t have anything like this or a means to do the cheek swab,” Cohen said.

“People are always interested in learning about what’s going on in the field,” Cohen said. “And we’re in the era of trying to prevent the disease, not just play catch-up.”

By identifying the ApoE-4 gene, Cohen said, doctors can identify people who qualify for a prevention study.

“ApoE tells us how rapidly one’s symptoms evolve,” Cohen said. “Genetics play a role in many ways including response to treatment and progression of the disease.”

In Canada, about 25,000 new cases are identified annually.

While genetics play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, preventive measures such as proper diet, getting enough sleep, and maintaining physical and social activity are a factor.

“As far as lifestyle goes,” Cohen said. “The earlier one starts the better.”

While prevention studies focus on people over 60, baseline memory testing is available at any age.

Dr. Cohen will hold another cheek swab event at Grace United Church () on July 18, at 3:30 p.m.

Province to ‘start from scratch’ as it moves forward with Angus seed plant review

The future of the Angus seed plant is still up in the air, but the PC government has promised to halt the Liberal government’s plan to close the facility until conducts a comprehensive review and consultation process.

Local residents, including members of AWARE Essa, lauded the announcement made July 18 by Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Jeff Yurek.

Anne Learne Sharpe said this gives “hope” for the future of forests in the province.

“With the September closure deadline approaching, we are relieved and thankful that our representatives in this new government are giving the Ontario Tree Seed Plant the consideration it deserves,” she said.

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson, who promised the closure would be reviewed during his re-election campaign, said the government will be seeking advice from growers, forestry companies and tree associations.

“We will be doing a consultation with them, which the Liberals didn’t do,” he said. “They didn’t consult with anyone, so we are going to start from scratch to figure out what this thing should look like and what the future of the property will be.”

OPSEU president Smokey Thomas said two employees are working part-time at the facility, while four others were redeployed elsewhere in the ministry.

He said nothing has been moved or sold from the facility since the closure was made public last September.

Thomas never bought the former government’s line about the private sector being able to step in to replace the seeds grown at the plant.

“You couldn’t replicate this in the private sector, it would take you years,” he said. “They do 50 native species and there are a billion seeds a year that go around the word. It’s very efficient and I’ve never heard anything but good stuff about it. And it just makes no financial sense to close it.”

Wilson said the Liberals didn’t have all the facts.

“The ministry was convinced that 95 to 98 per cent of growers and nurseries that rely on the plant have found private sector sources, but that is exactly the opposite,” he said.

One possible solution has already been presented. Wilson said Forests Ontario, the nonprofit charity that oversees the 50 Million Tree Program, has proposed to take over the facility with a “slight” grant from the province.

If the facility cannot be saved, Wilson said steps have to be taken to ensure Ontario’s seed archive is maintained in some other capacity. He would also oppose any attempt to sell the land to developers.

While the Liberal government said it was building a modern seed archive, Wilson said there is no evidence one actually exists.

Fred Sommerville, owner of Sommerville Nurseries in Everett, also fought against the closure.

“It’s really forward thinking, because forestry is a legacy in Ontario, and that would have pretty much knocked it out, because that’s the genesis of it, the seed,” he said.

Meanwhile, AWARE Essa continues to ask residents to sign their petition to keep the facility open.

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