UC Davis awarded $14 million to study Alzheimer’s disease in Latino population

BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE FILE

Study to address disease in California’s fastest-growing demographic

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded UC Davis a $14 million grant to study dementia and possible causes of the disease within the American Latino community. UC Davis is one of nine facilities nationwide working collaboratively on this project.

At UC Davis, Dr. Charles DeCarli is a professor of neurology and one of the leading investigators in this upcoming study. Along with his team, DeCarli said he hopes to uncover any existing genetic links between the unusually high rate of dementia in Latinos.

In an email interview, DeCarli cited existing studies surrounding health disparities within African-American populations and other more specific groups as partially influencing his decision to study dementia within the Latino community.

“There are no similar studies in Latinos,” DeCarli said. “Leveraging the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) cohort affords an efficient and unique opportunity to examine the impact of disparities in vascular risk factors on brain health within a large, understudied population of diverse Latinos spanning the age range of risk for stroke and dementia.”

UC Davis’ Alzheimer’s Disease Center is looking forward to seeing the results that this test might bring.

DeCarli hopes to be able to identify “modifiable risk and protective factors with the ultimate goal of developing novel interventions to improve cognitive health and prevent dementia.”

The UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center staff also hopes to develop “novel treatments to prevent cognitive decline including behavioral and lifestyle changes” which may influence the risk of Alzheimer’s development, according to Sarah Farias via an email interview.

Farias is a clinical core co-leader at the university’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Farias said she is looking forward to working with DeCarli and others on the study.

Working alongside both Farias and DeCarli is Laurel A. Becket, a distinguished professor at UC Davis who studies biostatistics. She has been working at UC Davis’ Alzheimer’s Disease Center for the last 17 years and is also a core leader and mentor for the Latino Aging Research Resource Center.

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, California’s total population is 38.9 percent Hispanic/Latino –– in 2015, Census data stated that California’s Hispanic/Latino population is the state’s predominant ethnic group.

“Dementia is such a devastating problem that we just can’t neglect anymore, let alone 40 [percent] of California’s people,” Becket said.

Becket said she believes it is important that students recognize how common the disease is.

“Many students will encounter Alzheimer’s in older family members or friends or neighbors –– if not now, then in the future,” Becket said.

UC Davis’ highly-skilled team will collaborate with individuals from the University of Michigan, University of Illinois, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, University of Texas Science Center, Wayne State University, University of Washington, University of Miami, San Diego State University and University of North Carolina on the project.

 

Written by: Ally Russell –– campus@theaggie.org