UNT Health Science Center is conducting “one of the largest and most comprehensive” studies to determine the link between Mexican-Americans and Alzheimer’s disease. The study is being funded by a $12 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The study began in September in Fort Worth and will work with 1,000 non-Hispanic whites and 1,000 Mexican-Americans to understand why the latter develop cognitive loss and Alzheimer’s disease almost a decade earlier than other ethnic groups. In addition to UNT scientists, researchers from the University of Southern California, University of California-San Francisco, and other institutions are working on the project.
The study will last for five years. Participants, required to be age 50 or older, will be seen twice a year to receive advanced brain imaging, answer interview questions, complete cognitive testing, and blood work. UNTHSC will work with its robotic equipment, Fort Worth’s Midtown Medical Imaging, and the Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the University of Southern California Laboratory to collect data and results.
The findings, researchers hope, will offer earlier insight into Alzheimer’s and lead to treatments “specifically tailored for Mexican-Americans,” said Dr. Sid O’Bryant, professor for UNTHSC’s center for Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative disease research.
“This is the first project to specifically attempt to understand how different biological causes relate to Alzheimer’s disease across ethnicities,” he said in a statement. “By looking at different potential causes related to memory loss, we may be able to target the right pathway at the right time with the right intervention.”
UNTHSC’s ultimate goal is to be able to tailor treatments to a patient’s biology, rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach in treating Alzheimer’s disease. “We hope to keep this study going for 20-plus years, so we are better able to predict who is at risk,” O’Bryant said. “Then we can start designing preventions specifically tailored for Mexican-American older adults.”