What will sophisticated “-omics” methods reveal about Alzheimer’s in diverse populations?
Marco Antônio De Bastiani, Ph.D.
Federal University Of Rio Grande do Sul
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil
A complex mix of genetic and environmental factors influence the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, including race and socioeconomic status. However, most Alzheimer’s research is conducted in predominantly white, high-income populations. It is unclear if the results of this research are applicable to the nearly two-thirds of individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias who live in low- and middle-income countries.
Gene variations can have widespread impacts on biological pathways that may differ between populations. Researchers use advanced computational techniques known as “-omics” to study some of these factors. These may include genomics (the study of all the genes in an organism), proteomics (the study of the structure and functions of proteins made by cells), and transcriptomics (the study of how gene activity is turned “on” or “off” within a cell).
Dr. Marco Antônio De Bastiani and colleagues will use a multi-omics approach to characterize the genetic and molecular features of Alzheimer’s in cohorts from two Brazilian cities. The cohorts include cognitively unimpaired individuals as well as individuals with mild cognitive impairment (a subtle form of memory loss that may precede Alzheimer’s) and Alzheimer’s. Unlike most other studies, this one will include a substantial number of individuals with low education levels. In addition, the participants will reflect Brazil’s racial and ethnic diversity (which includes mixed European, African, Native American, Asian, and Middle Eastern ancestries).
Dr. De Bastiani and team will assess the cognitive status and collect blood samples from the older individuals. The researchers will then analyze the blood samples for biological markers (or biomarkers) associated with Alzheimer’s, including levels of beta-amyloid and tau proteins, which are hallmark brain changes in Alzheimer’s. Finally, they will perform genomic, proteomic, and transcriptomic analyses on the blood samples.
The results may shed light on novel genetic risks, functional genetic variations, gene regulatory networks, and blood biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s in a racially and socioeconomically diverse population.
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