September 14, 2021
2 min read

NIA grant to ‘diversify and broaden’ Alzheimer’s research

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NIH’s National Institute on Aging announced a $55.6 million grant for Alzheimer’s disease research conducted by the University of Washington, Kaiser Permanente Washington and the University of California San Diego.

The institute aims to “diversify and broaden” participation in the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study with this grant.

“We have become a dynamic ‘living laboratory’ of aging,” co-principal investigator Eric Larson, senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, who founded the ACT study, said in a press release. “Thanks to the generosity of the ACT volunteers, we can investigate years of detailed medical records for study participants — often dating back decades before the study began because of their membership in Kaiser Permanente Washington — and do state-of-the-art studies of the brains from those who consent to autopsy.”

ACT study personnel will expand to include 41 investigators at 10 research institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Thus far, the study has enrolled more than 5,800 older adults who received care from Kaiser Permanente Washington.

Investigators follow participants to investigate who remains healthy as they age, who develops dementia, and how it manifests. Across 5 years, the grant funding will help the current study group grow from 2,000 to 3,000 members, with the enrollment effort focusing on new strategies for recruiting a more diverse population. The grant will also allow for the digitization and worldwide sharing of brain bank and other data.

Researchers’ projects related to the new funding include evaluating association between device-measured physical activity and sleep over the 24-hour day and brain aging and dementia; characterization of subtypes of AD to determine whether they have different brain imaging or neuropathology findings and whether people with these different subtypes have different dementia experiences; and a study on the effects of commonly used drugs that the ACT study has shown can affect dementia risk.

“As both an epidemiologist and the daughter of a mom now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, I have a deep commitment to finding ways to improve brain aging,” co-principal investigator Andrea LaCroix, PhD, professor and chief of epidemiology at University of California, San Diego, said in the release. “We are all indebted to the ACT community participants past, current and future who will be working with us on these discoveries over the next 5 years and beyond.”