A new Alzheimer’s disease research project has just been funded, as a team of researchers from the University of Arizona Health Sciences’ Center for Innovation in Brain Science recently received a $10.3 million grant from the U.S. government.
According to a report from AZ Big Media, the five-year Program Project Grant from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health will fund a study to be led by University of Arizona neuroscientist Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, in hopes of discovering why women are more prone to Alzheimer’s disease than men are.
About 60 percent of the 5 million-plus Americans with the disease as of this year are female, and women also have a one-in-six chance of developing Alzheimer’s by the time they reach 65, as to one-in-11 for men. Another statistic pointed out in the report was how women 60 and above have twice the chance of developing Alzheimer’s than they do of developing breast cancer.
The deadly nature of the condition — Alzheimer’s is America’s fifth-leading killer, according to government statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – is the reason why Dr. Brinton wants to push forward with her Alzheimer’s disease research. She has over two decades of experience studying the condition, and also serves as the UA Center for Innovation in Brain Science’s first-ever director.
“The greatest risk factors for Alzheimer’s are age, the female sex and genetics, specifically the APOE4 gene,” said Dr. Brinton. “Women constitute more than 60 percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease, and more than 50 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s are positive for the APOE4 gene. If positive for a single copy of the APOE4 gene, women are at greater risk than men who have two copies of the APOE4 gene.”
Dr. Brinton added more information on her study, which will be known as “Perimenopause in Brain Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease.” The research project, she says, will further examine the brain features that take place during perimenopause, and are likely to put the brain at risk for developing the illness. She added that her team’s goal is to “discover the mechanisms underlying the heightened risks” of the disease in women who are positive for the APOE4 gene, and eventually come up with some tools and medication to reduce the chances of women suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Commenting in a separate statement quoted by AZ Big Media, UA Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Joe Garcia stressed that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just affect sufferers, but also the families who care for these patients, who suffer emotionally and financially as a result. If not controlled or cured, Alzheimer’s incidence may likely triple by the year 2050; this is backed up by statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, which projects a rise in incidence from about 5.2 million at the present to 13.8 million by 2050.
“Dr. Brinton and her team are at the cutting edge of Alzheimer’s research, the aging female brain and regenerative therapeutics. The impact of their exciting work will result in a better understanding of the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the development of novel new therapies, and—potentially—a cure for women and men patients with this debilitating disease.”
Another key take-home thought from the AZ Big Media report was the conundrum a lot of women face if they come down with Alzheimer’s disease. As they are usually the ones who care for family members suffering from the illness, their greater odds of developing Alzheimer’s further compounds matters. Sufferers typically go through a long period of dependence and cognitive deterioration before succumbing to the disease.
In addition to her fellow University of Arizona researchers, Dr. Brinton will also be working on her Alzheimer’s disease research with specialists from the University of Southern California. No timeline was specified for the project’s start date.
[Featured Image by David Ramos/Getty Images]