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Alzheimer's Association Commits $2.2M to Fund Research on How Disease Affects Genders Differently

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Alzheimer's Association announced yesterday that it has awarded $2.2 million in grant funding to support nine projects that will investigate why Alzheimer's disease disproportionately affects women versus men.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's disease are women. Among all individuals 71 years and older, about 16 percent of women have Alzheimer's disease or dementia, compared with 11 percent of men.

The funding comes as part of the non-profit organization's Sex and Gender in Alzheimer's (SAGA) program, which was launched to address three knowledge gaps in understand the effects of gender on Alzheimer's disease: genetics, hormones, and lifestyle.

"If we can better understand the disease processes and progression in men and women, we have an opportunity to tailor how we approach detection, diagnosis, and therapeutic approaches based on sex," Alzheimer's Association CSO Maria Carrillo said in a statement. "As a core part of this discussion, we must explore fundamental differences in biological characteristics and lifestyle factors between the sexes that may play a role to the disproportionate impact on women."

SAGA-funded projects will each receive about $250,000. They include a study led by University of Wisconsin, Madison researchers of how sex, estrogen levels, and genetics impact Alzheimer's disease-related brain changes and cognitive function; a study at the University of Southern California examining whether sex differences in brain structure and hormonal changes during aging interact to affect the development of Alzheimer's disease; and a study at the University of Southern California into whether natural variations of an Alzheimer's disease-linked gene affects brain inflammation and disease risk differently in male and female mice.

Other SAGA projects include a study at the University of Arizona Health Sciences into whether the hormone allopregnanolone can prevent the loss of myelin in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease; a Washington University study of how stress-response hormones contribute to dementia-related brain changes; a study at the Fondazion Telethon looking at whether the midlife loss of sex hormones and age-related brain damage is involved in Alzheimer's disease; a Texas Tech University study on the link between women's increased risk for depression and Alzheimer's disease; a Stanford University study of men and women looking at how multiple disease risk factors influence overall risk for the brain changes that characterize Alzheimer's disease; and a study at the University of Colorado, Denver investigating whether certain levels of testosterone can promote healthy brain function and reduce Alzheimer's disease risk as people age.