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Your support is advancing the health of the human brain, impacting mental and physical wellbeing for each of us.

Dr. Cindy Calkin understands the immense impact the brain plays in our lives; essentially, it’s the control center of the human body. With that in mind, Dr. Calkin has always been interested in exploring the many connections each part of our bodies play in our health and wellness. As we enter Brain Awareness Week—March 14-20—DMRF is eager to celebrate the outstanding work of the local health researchers we support who have dedicated their careers to the brain and how its health can be maintained, treated, and improved.

Collaborative Donor Giving with Impact

Cindy Janet Joanne Cheque
DMRF Board Chair, Janet MacMillan, DMRF CEO, Joanne Bath, & Dr. Cindy Calkin

In November of 2021, Dr. Cindy Calkin become the first recipient of the DMRF Influencers for Health Research grant: a $50,000 health research grant that Dr. Calkin competed against two other esteemed local scientists to win. 

Her project was a hit with DMRF Influencers, who were impressed with its trailblazing outcomes for pre-diabetic patients living with treatment resistent bipolar disorder depression. Dr. Calkin recently published the results of a quadruple-masked randomized placebo-controlled trial (the TRIO-BD study) in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. This study revealed that metformin—a type 2 diabetes treatment drug—can successfully treat patients living with treatment resistant bipolar depression, by reversing insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic state that is associated with poor outcomes. This finding could be life-changing for patients who have struggled, often for decades, to find effective treatments for their debilitating depression.

“The majority of the patients in our study had been very sick with bipolar disorder for more than 25 years, without any relief of their symptoms,” explains Dr. Calkin. “These patients had not responded to eight or nine different medication trials from at least three of four different classes of mood stabilizers. They also had moderate anxiety and were severely impaired in their functioning. As you can imagine, this was an extremely difficult way to live.”
Cindy presenting
Dr. Calkin presenting at the DMRF Influencers for Health Research event.

Dr Calkin and her team have since discovered that extensive leakage of the blood-brain barrier (BBB, meant to protect the brain from harmful molecules in the body’s blood stream), was found in patients with bipolar disorder, insulin resistance, and poor outcomes. In a case report published this month in the journal Bipolar Disorders, they showed that improvement in treatment resistant bipolar depression may involve repair of the leaky BBB via reversal of insulin resistance.

Dr. Calkin is using the $50,000 granted by the DMRF Influencers for Health Research grant toward another study that will further advance this critical health research outcome. The gift has allowed her to hire a research assistant and recruit three consented patients so far. The trial lasts 14-weeks, and involves a brain scan, treatment with the drug metformin, and then another brain scan. Thus far, all three patients who have received metformin, went from being insulin resistant to being insulin sensitive and, more importantly, went into remission from their bipolar depression for the first time in decades. Results from their before and after treatment brain scans are pending.

All Influencers with Cindy and Cheque
Dr. Calkin and the inaugural DMRF Influencers for Health Research.

The DMRF Infuencers Health Research grant was an accumulation of $25,000 from donors who joined the DMRF Influencers program, as well as a $25,000 match by DMRF.

“DMRF is committed to investing in research excellence, as are the donors that support their innovative work,” says DMRF CEO, Joanne Bath. “We were proud to introduce the inaugural DMRF Health Influencers Grant. This grant was supported by a group of individuals across the Maritimes who care deeply about the impacts of local health research. Each year, we will be supporting a research area voted on by this Influencer group.”

DMRF created the DMRF Influencers for Health Research program to help foster a culture shift when it comes to philanthropy. Influencer donors are committed to improving health outcomes on a local, national, and global scale and fuel important health research that brings us closer to improved treatments, better access to healthcare, and cures for diseases.

“Thank you so much to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation and the DMRF Influencers,” Dr. Calkin says. “The vision and support of this group means so much and allows us to expand the study and ultimately treat more patients. I’m so grateful to receive this funding and to continue this important work."

To become a part of Dr. Calkin's latest research study, please call or text Claire at: 902- 943-4753.