Michigan State University Scientists Awarded $5.67M to Study Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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A new study from Michigan State University which aims to pinpoint the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease among Latinos and Hispanics, recently received a 5-year research grant from the National Institute on Aging worth $5.67 million.

“Current thinking is it takes decades for Alzheimer’s disease to develop, so we are turning the clock back,” said Hector M. González, the principal investigator of the Study of Latinos – Investigation of Neurocognitive Aging. “The goal is to find signs in your 50s or 60s. We want to know why some people do (develop Alzheimer’s) and some don’t in the hope that we can ultimately prevent or at least push back disease onset.”

González, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the university’s College of Human Medicine, and his team of fellow researchers, will be gathering patient information from approximately 7,000 middle-aged and older adults in the Bronx, Chicago, Miami and San Diego. These participants will be selected from the 16,000 patients already enrolled in an ongoing HCHS/SOL study, which will allow the team to base their next study on extensive patient data containing genomic and cardiovascular risk factors. The targeted population includes Hispanics and Latinos aged 50 to 80 years old, who have been assessed to show mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that is increasingly being thought of as an early hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Estimates show that a third of the population of the United States will soon be comprised of Hispanics and Latinos. The steady growth of this population underscores the need to quickly establish a better understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease affects this particular demographic and how best to address it as a public health concern in the future.

González team’s primary goal is to distinguish MCI from the normal signs of an aging mind. It is important to note that not all patients diagnosed with MCI develop Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing the reason behind this fact may reveal groundbreaking information on the disease, which can contribute to future and ongoing research for a preventive treatment.

“The economic cost will be unsustainable and the personal costs extremely difficult and potentially devastating,” he said. “We hope that our work will help prevent or reduce the burden of Alzheimer’s disease among Latinos and ultimately all Americans.”

Voyko Kavcic, Ph.D., a Research Assistant Professor in the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University received a grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The grant consists of $420,000 over two years to support research on whether electroencephalograms (EEGs) and cognitive tests can detect early signs of AD.