Alzheimer's study aimed at eliminating brain disease in need of participants of color, expert says

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Friday, February 16, 2024
Black History Month 2024: Research shows African Americans at risk for brain diseases than white counterparts, expert says
Communities of color are impacted by Alzheimer's disease, but innovative treatments are gaining progress. ABC13 spoke with an expert to find out why scientists are urging African Americans to take steps to improve their brain health.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the nation marks Black History Month, experts are working to spread a message about how Black people, in particular, can help get ahead of Alzheimer's disease.

The brain disease disproportionally impacts communities of color, but there's been progress in new treatments. Now, researchers are encouraging African Americans to take action to boost their brain health.

Dr. Doris Molina-Henry with the Alzheimer's Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California is working to eliminate Alzheimer's, beginning with the AHEAD study, by testing out treatment aimed at delaying memory loss before noticeable signs of Alzheimer's disease begin.

"I've always been a proponent that if we can prevent it, we should prevent it. It's very exciting that the field is moving to earlier and earlier stage of the disease. We know Alzheimer's and other dementias are neurodegenerative and have no cure. Once we see damage to the brain, it's impossible to undo. Being able to tackle the disease at earlier stages really enhances the probability of better outcomes," Dr. Molina-Henry said.

A number of factors lead to Black people being twice as likely than their white counterparts to develop brain diseases, but Dr. Molina-Henry says social inequalities likely play a role. Black people are also less likely to sign up for clinical studies due to a distrust of medical systems, stemming from unethical and racist experiments like the Tuskegee Study.

The AHEAD study is currently enrolling. The ideal participant is someone middle-aged with a certain level of a brain protein linked with the development of Alzheimer's disease, which a simple blood test can reveal.

Dr. Molina-Henry says everyone can boost their brain health by remaining social, active, and eating a healthy diet.

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