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2008 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant (IIRG)

Middle and Late-Life Predictors of Alzheimer’s Disease in Elderly Twins

Brenda L. Plassman, Ph.D.
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, NC - United States

Evidence suggests that Alzheimer's disease shares a number of risk factors with heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and chronic stress. However, none of these factors account for a high percentage of Alzheimer risk. Many investigators are searching for novel risk factors, including genetic factors, that can predict both heart disease and Alzheimer's disease more definitively.

The study of twins may prove a powerful method for determining genetic and other risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. Twins share many—or sometimes all—of their genes, and they share early life experiences that may contribute to later Alzheimer risk.

Brenda L. Plassman, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to determine whether various risk and protective factors for heart disease in twins are associated with the risk of acquiring Alzheimer's disease. The researchers will gather medical records and other information from a data bank of twins who served in World War II. This data was collected over a 40-year period and shows how the participants' heart health and cognitive abilities changed over time. The investigators will analyze the data using sophisticated statistical techniques.

Dr. Plassman's team hopes to identify Alzheimer risk factors that predict the disease more accurately than do currently identified factors. Ultimately, such work could make Alzheimer diagnosis and treatment more effective.

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