School of Medicine

Major Alzheimer’s study to open 5 new Latin American sites

A major international Alzheimer's research study is opening five new sites in Latin America. The sites will increase the diversity of the study population and aid efforts to understand the development of Alzheimer's in Latino populations. (Getty Images)

A major international Alzheimer’s disease research initiative will open five new sites in Latin America to help researchers understand the development of early-onset Alzheimer’s in Latino populations.

For more than a decade, the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN) – funded in large part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis – has undertaken a multinational effort to better understand Alzheimer’s disease by studying people with rare genetic mutations that cause the disease to develop in their 50s, 40s or even 30s. Most DIAN sites are in the U.S., Europe, Australia or East Asia, with only one location in Latin America, in Argentina. With the opening of sites in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and an additional site in Argentina, DIAN researchers will be able to study how Alzheimer’s develops and progresses in a more diverse population.

The expansion is being funded with a $1 million grant from the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Most Alzheimer’s research historically has been conducted in white, non-Hispanic participants, and that has limited our understanding of the disease,” said Jorge Llibre-Guerra, MD, a DIAN Trials Unit research fellow who is leading the effort to add Latin American sites. “By having a more diverse population in DIAN studies, we may be able to identify new genetic factors that influence the disease, and learn more about how environmental and cultural factors influence how the disease develops and progresses.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Hispanic people in the U.S. are 1.5 times as likely as white, non-Hispanics to develop Alzheimer’s, and the disease seems to arise earlier and progress more rapidly in Hispanics. This is partly due to high rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the Hispanic population – both of which raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s – but other factors are likely at play as well…

…“The global DIAN study welcomes our colleagues and affected families in Latin America to help identify the causes and modifiers of Alzheimer’s disease so that one day, we will be able to prevent this disease,” said DIAN director Randall J. Bateman, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology. “These efforts will be bolstered by the world-class doctors, researchers and the many affected and at-risk family members in Mexico and South America.”

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