Rochester, MN  (KROC AM News) - The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $5.3 million grant to Mayo Clinic as part of a study to identify vascular risk factors in aging and dementia.

This is one of the first grants awarded as part of the ongoing National Alzheimer’s Project. The Mayo work will be done at the Florida campus but Rochester researchers will also be involved in the 5 year study. It’s estimated Alzheimer’s now affects 35 million people around the world.

Guojun Bu, Ph.D., molecular neuroscientist, and Nilüfer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist and neurogeneticist, are the principal investigators for the study. Both are based on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. Several additional investigators on Mayo’s Florida and Rochester, Minnesota, campuses, as well as Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, will be involved.

“Alzheimer’s disease is an epidemic affecting 35 million people worldwide,” says Dr. Ertekin-Taner. “It’s going to escalate unless we can stop it or slow it down. It’s going to take an army and an interdisciplinary approach for a cure because Alzheimer’s is not one disease; there is not one pathway to get to Alzheimer’s.”

The NIH grant will fund a five-year study of the association between vascular disease and Alzheimer’s and related dementias, pulling together Mayo’s teams in Florida and Minnesota working on laboratory studies, population studies, patient-provided data, and brain pathology.

The study capitalizes on Mayo Clinic’s strengths in both medical care and research to study:

  • How the strongest genetic risk factor – a variant of a protein all humans have, called apolipoprotein E (APOE) – confers risk for dementia
  • Reasons for the sex differences in the development of Alzheimer’s, for which women are at significantly greater risk
  • The relationship between vascular diseases and Alzheimer’s and related dementias

The study will include clinical data and biomedical samples from 400 living patients. It will leverage the data collected through the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, which follows patients in Olmsted County, Minnesota over time, providing valuable information in clinical behaviors and biomarker changes.

The study also will incorporate brain pathology data from 400 brains provided by the Mayo Clinic Brain Bank on the Florida campus, which holds one of the world’s largest collections of donated brains for medical study. The grant includes study of vascular outcomes, such as stroke or bleeding in the brain, as well as imaging studies of vascular signatures in the brain.

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