Emory Healthy Brain Study launches to learn more about Alzheimer's disease

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Nov. 3, 2016

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Robin Reese
404-727-9371
robin.j.reese@emory.edu

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“Alzheimer’s disease will likely become the leading cause of death among seniors, so it’s important that we get as many people, from as many different backgrounds, to participate in this research,” adds Monica Parker, MD.

Emory researchers are embarking on a new study focused on identifying factors that will predict who is at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD). The goal of the Emory Healthy Brain Study is earlier detection of AD and someday prevention.

Alzheimer's disease affects 5.4 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Over the next 20 years, Alzheimer's is expected to be the leading health problem among older adults. Currently there is no cure for AD and treatment involves only managing the symptoms.

"Our goal is to learn as much as we can about who is most likely to get Alzheimer's so that we can develop new treatments that may prevent them from ever getting the disease," says James Lah, MD, PhD, the study's principal investigator and associate professor and vice-chair of the Department of Neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine. 

The Emory Healthy Brain Study is a sub-study of the Emory Healthy Aging Study, the largest-ever clinical research study in Atlanta that seeks to better understand aging and age-related diseases. While the Emory Healthy Aging Study is an online study, participants in the Emory Healthy Brain Study will come to Emory for collection of biological specimens.

To participate in the Emory Healthy Brain Study, individuals will complete a series of tests, including blood draws, a lumbar puncture to collect spinal fluid, an eye scan, and a heart and vascular assessment. Participants will also take memory tests and have a gait analysis done, which involves walking on a special mat to examine the mechanics of how they move. Those who complete the tests, typically done in a single day, will receive compensation. The study is open to generally healthy individuals ages 45-75 years old and participation is completely voluntary.

"Alzheimer's disease will likely become the leading cause of death among seniors, so it's important that we get as many people, from as many different backgrounds, to participate in this research in order to have ample data for comparisons across demographics," adds Monica Parker, MD, assistant professor of neurology and education core member of the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

African Americans are two times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than whites.  Parker says the disparity makes it clear there is an urgent need for research participation, particularly among African Americans. 

This advanced research is supported by a generous donation from the Goizueta Foundation. By taking a longitudinal approach, following participants for at least 3 years or more, researchers hope to fundamentally change the way Alzheimer's disease is detected and treated.

For more information on the Emory Healthy Brain Study, visit http://healthyaging.emory.edu/brain-study/.