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Researchers at UC Davis Health and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston) are working on a new study to predict who is most at risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The study includes creating a health ‘scorecard’ for dementia risk.
Here’s what you need to know about the study and how you can participate.
UT Health San Antonio will be the clinical research site for the Diverse Vascular Contributions to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia (Diverse VCID) study.
Data will be collected through brain scans, genetics, and other key biomarkers.
“Putting these very different pieces of information together, our ultimate goal is to really come up with a risk profile,” Dr. Charles DeCarli, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at UC Davis, said in a video interview. “So, you walk into your doctor’s office, you get an examination, you get an MRI test, you get a blood test, and then hopefully the consequence of the study is we’ll be able to predict how your brain is going to do in four to six years later.”
The risk profile or “scorecard” for developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may identify ways to mitigate or delay these diseases.
For example, researchers hope to learn more about white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) in the brain, which are associated with an increased risk of dementia or cognitive impairment.
The Need for Diverse Study Participants
Data shows that by 2030, 40% of Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S. will be Latino/Black.
And according to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 13% of Latinos who are 65 or older have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Black Americans and Hispanic/Latinx Americans are at greater risk (1.5 times more likely) than White Americans for developing dementia, likely a reflection of historical and present-day systemic racism and social inequities that affect brain health, according to the study’s webpage.
Further, minority patients may not be able to get the care they need if diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. One-third of Latinos (33%) report that they have experienced discrimination when seeking health care, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Latinos are also underrepresented in clinical trials, making it harder for researchers to find treatments tailored for this group. Over half (51%) of Latinos say they are reluctant to engage in clinical trials because they don’t want to be “guinea pigs.”
These disparities have motivated researchers to prioritize a diverse participant pool in their study.
“Hopefully, we can be inclusive of a lot of people and have a broader picture and broader understanding of the disease for everybody,” Dr. Myriam Fornage, Professor at the Center of Human Genetics at UT Health, said in a press release.
How Can You Participate?
Researchers are recruiting 2,250 participants from diverse backgrounds between the ages of 65 and 90.
The study will take place throughout a six-year period in 13 national participating centers. The estimated time commitment for study participants consists of three clinic visits over three years.
Participant eligibility includes:
- Answering some questions about yourself
- Receiving a medical examination
- Reviewing your medical history and current care plan
- Completing a brain MRI
- Completing a blood draw
- Completing a neuropsychological test (fill out a questionnaire)
“I am most grateful to each and every participant that takes the time out of their life to contribute to this research, it is so important,” DeCarli said in a video interview.
“I hope that my participation will add to the knowledge and make a difference for the next generation,” said Antonia Lopez, a Latina study participant in a video interview.
For additional information or to join the study, visit the Diverse VCID webpage.
Volunteer For Other Clinical Trial Opportunities
Along with this new study, there are several other clinical trial opportunities that Latino families can participate in and help researchers learn more to help slow, manage, and treat Alzheimer’s for current and future family members.
“Latinos in clinical trials are not only helping themselves, but they’re also building a future with better treatments that can help their families in the future,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research and Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.
To find a clinical trial to participate in, visit the Salud America! clinical trials page.