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2016 Grants - Raj
Functional Genomics of Alzheimer’s Disease in African Americans
Towfique Raj, Ph.D.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, New York
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
Can genetic changes detected in immune cells serve as blood-based biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease?
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) use datasets from large groups of people to identify genetic factors associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Using GWAS methods, scientists have identified several genetic variations related to immune cells that appear to increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Immune cells play an important role in modulating brain inflammation, a characteristic feature of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the majority of these genetic studies have focused mostly on individuals of western European ancestry. It is not clear if these genetic variations may modify Alzheimer’s risk in other populations, such as African-Americans. Additionally, the functional consequences of each genetic variation need to be further studied.
Towfique Raj, Ph.D. and colleagues plan to characterize genetic variations in immune cells called monocytes, which will be collected from the blood of African-Americans with and without Alzheimer’s disease. The research team hopes to link genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease to detectable changes in immune cells that may contribute to Alzheimer’s progression. They will also explore how modifiable risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension and depression may interact with genetic factors to increase Alzheimer’s disease risk in African-Americans.
Dr. Raj’s research may reveal novel blood-based biomarkers that could aid in the early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The results of this work could improve our understanding of the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s, and identify new therapeutic targets for the development of treatments to slow or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.