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2024 Alzheimer's Association Clinical Scientist Fellowship to Promote Diversity (AACSF-D)

Epidemiology and deep phenotyping of Argentinian patients with tauopathies

Are there unique factors that might protect South Americans from Alzheimer’s and related diseases?

Blas Couto, Ph.D.
Institute of Translational and Cognitive Neuroscience
Buenos Aires, Argentina


Over the past several years, many large databases have emerged to support Alzheimer’s research. These include expansive collections of biological samples, clinical data, brain scans and more, from people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. However, the majority of these databases contain limited information from people who belong to racial and ethnic minority groups. As a result, most of the research to date investigating risk factors for Alzheimer’s has studied White individuals. It’s important to develop research tools to support other populations, who may have distinct environmental, genetic, or behavioral factors that might affect their risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Research Plan

Dr. Blas Couto is developing a research database of people from Argentina to support studies of certain tauopathies – a group of diseases that result from abnormal changes of the tau protein in the brain. In addition to Alzheimer’s, tauopathies include two rarer conditions known as corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Dr. Couto’s team will monitor Argentinians with CBD or PSP over the course of three years. Every six months, the study participants will complete neurological exams and a series of surveys related to their cognitive symptoms, which Dr. Couto will use to build the research database.

In a second part of the study, Dr. Couto’s team will add healthy people to the study, and ask all participants to complete a series of surveys about their lifestyle, environmental exposures (including their residential history, hobbies, and job history), and for female participants, age of first menses (to support studies into the role of estrogen in tauopathy risk). The surveys will also include questions about participants’ consumption of a common South American drink called yerba-mate, which some studies have shown may protect against certain cognitive diseases. Finally, all study participants will contribute biological samples, including blood, skin, and cerebral spinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord). Together, the data and samples will provide a wealth of information to support research into specific factors relevant to tauopathies that are unique to South Americans.


This study will generate a research-ready database and biobank to facilitate investigations into tauopathy risk among South Americans, a population that is not currently represented strongly in Alzheimer’s research. This could lead to identification of population-specific factors that might protect against disease progression.

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