Bioscience

Experts get $6.6 mil for Alzheimer’s work

April 22, 2008

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic] – Scientists at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona have secured a $6.6 million federal grant to study the brains of people who carry a genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The National Institute on Aging grant will allow researchers to use brain-scanning technology to monitor the brains of 200 healthy people who either carry or lack APOE4, a critical gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease found in one of four people.

If local researchers can track brain changes before participants get Alzheimer’s, it may yield valuable clues to develop a vaccine for a disease that afflicts 5.2 million Americans.

“We want to detect early brain changes in relation to different levels of risk for Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, executive director of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and the study’s principal investigator. “We believe the data and findings will become increasingly important over time.”

The grant is the latest federal-funding coup for Arizona scientists studying Alzheimer’s.

The Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, a group of seven Arizona research groups including Banner and Mayo Clinic, has secured more than $75 million in research grants over the past decade.

Other Arizona consortium members aiding the brain-scanning study include Arizona State University, University of Arizona and the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

Reiman and Dr. Richard Caselli, chairman of Mayo Arizona’s department of neurology, had already secured more than $6 million in federal grants over the past nine years for the study.

The new grant will allow researchers to increase the study size from 160 people to 200. A majority of the 40 new recruits will likely be of Latino descent, giving the study a more robust mix of ethnicities.

Researchers will use positron-emission tomography and magnetic-resonance-imaging scans to track and predict the loss of memory and thinking ability of its patients.