National Institute on Aging awarded funds for Latino Alzheimer research

To meet the pressing need to better understand the prevalence, progression, and clinical impact of Alzheimer’s disease among Mexican Americans, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has added funding for more biomarker measures, including positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, to the ongoing Health and Aging Brain Among Latino Elders (HABLE) Study.

NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) awarded new support that is expected to total $45.5 million over five years to the University of North Texas Health Science Center (HSC) at Fort Worth for the Health and Aging Brain Among Latino Elders-Amyloid, Tau, and Neurodegeneration (HABLE-AT(N)) Study. This combined investment and effort will help researchers better understand the health disparities of brain aging and Alzheimer’s between Mexican Americans and non-Latino whites.

Launched in September 2017, the HABLE study has nearly completed recruitment of 1,000 Mexican Americans and 1,000 non-Latino whites, age 50 years and older, in the Fort Worth area. HABLE participants receive a functional exam, clinical labs, neuropsychological testing, bloodwork, and an MRI of the brain. The added funding for HABLE-AT(N) significantly expands the neuroimaging component of the study to include amyloid and tau PET. The researchers also plan to determine if traces of amyloid peptides (Aβ40 and Aβ42), tau, and neurofilament light (NfL) — as well as exosomes in the blood — can be used to screen across the spectrum of Alzheimer’s, from asymptomatic to mild cognitive impairment and advanced stages of the disease.

An additional benefit of HABLE and HABLE AT(N) will be the ability to better classify/categorize participants into groups by type of dementia and stage of the disease. This will help facilitate potential enrollment in future studies.

Projections from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the number of Latinos age 65 and older is expected to nearly quadruple by 2060, whereas, for the same age range, the number of non-Hispanic whites is expected to increase by about 23% and the number of Blacks will more than double. Because aging is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, this means Latinos will face the largest increase in Alzheimer’s cases of any racial/ethnic group nationwide — about 3.5 million by 2060. Mexican Americans are the largest segment of the U.S. Latino population.

The scope and urgency of HABLE and HABLE-AT(N) is crucial for this underserved population,” said Dallas Anderson, Ph.D., a program director in the Population Studies and Genetics Branch of NIA’s Division of Neuroscience. “Most importantly, it will help to clarify questions in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in Mexican Americans.”

NIA recently updated its website with a new Spanish-language health information landing page: Current information is available on subjects such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as clinical trials and other aging-related health topics.

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