University of Arizona receives $10.3 million to solve the puzzle of Alzheimer’s in women

Alzheimer's disease
Projected Increases Between 2016 and 2025 in Alzheimer’s Disease Prevalence by State.

Why do more women than men get Alzheimer’s disease? To find the answer, neuroscientists from the University of Arizona have been awarded a $10.3 million from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health.

The number of women affected by Alzheimer’s disease that steals the mind is staggering.

Of the more than 5 million Americans of all ages who have Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, more than 3 million are women.

By age 65, women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s, compared to a 1 in 11 chance for men. Women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than to develop breast cancer.

Alzheimer’s also is deadly. It is the fifth-leading cause of death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And it is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed, notes the Alzheimer’s Association.

That is why researchers passionate about pursuing a medical breakthrough.

Previous studies have shown that the greatest risk factors for Alzheimer’s are age, the female sex and genetics, specifically the APOE4 gene.

Women constitute more than 60% of those with Alzheimer’s disease, and more than 50% of persons with Alzheimer’s are positive for the APOE4 gene.

If positive for a single copy of the APOE4 gene, women are at greater risk than men who have two copies of the APOE4 gene.

In the proposed project, researchers will focus on the biological transformations in the brain that occur during perimenopause, a neuroendocrine transition unique to women.

These transformations can lead to changes that can put the brain at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The goals are to discover the mechanisms underlying the heightened risk of Alzheimer’s in APOE4-positive females, and to translate these discoveries into strategies and therapeutics to alleviate a women’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that impacts everyone, from the patient to the families who care for them, at great cost emotionally and financially.

The incidence of Alzheimer’s is expected to nearly triple by 2050, if scientists don’t discover ways to prevent or cure this disease.

The work is expected to result in a better understanding of the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the development of novel new therapies, and–potentially–a cure for women and men patients with this debilitating disease.

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News source: University of Arizona Health Sciences.
Figure legend: This image is credited to Alzheimer’s Association.