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Faculty & Staff Honors

BU: Researchers Awarded $10.8 Million to Study Genetics of Alzheimer’s

A team led byDr. Anita DeStefano, professor of biostatistics at the Boston University School of Public Health, has been awarded a five-year, $10,857,059 grant from the National Institutes of Aging to search for genes related to Alzheimer’s disease.

The research will analyze over 20,000 whole genomes being sequenced as part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP) Follow-Up Study. Previous ADSP research by Dr. DeStefano and colleagues identified three new genes not previously linked to Alzheimer’s, as well as several new variants in genes that had been associated with the disease.

“Clinical trials focused on treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have not been successful,” says Dr. DeStefano, who is also professor of neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine. “By identifying genes and the specific variants in these genes that are influencing risk for Alzheimer’s disease, we can identify new biological pathways to target, and potentially identify subgroups of Alzheimer’s patients that may respond to a particular treatment.”

Genetic Alzheimer’s research has largely focused on populations of European ancestry. The ADSP Follow Up Study includes notably diverse ethnic populations, Dr. DeStefano says, noting that African Americans have been particularly underrepresented in genetic studies of Alzheimer’s despite having a higher prevalence of the disease than their white counterparts. “Including data from African Americans and carefully modeling the complexity of the data are important in order to learn what may be driving the difference in prevalence.”

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