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2017 Grants - Swardfager
Neuroinflammatory Susceptibility to Vascular Disease as a Dementia Driver
Walter Swardfager, Ph.D.
Sunnybrook Research Institute
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
Do variations in genes related to inflammation affect how the brain responds to blood vessel damage?
Recent studies have shown that damage to the small blood vessels in the brain (cerebrovascular disease) may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s. However, not everyone with small vessel damage develops memory problems, suggesting there are other factors that mediate this risk. Since brain inflammation is a key characteristic of both cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, it could be a common link between the two diseases. Walter Swardfager, Ph.D., and colleagues hypothesize that variation in genes related to inflammation may affect how the brain responds to blood vessel damage.
Dr. Swardfager will study the relationship between brain blood vessel damage and Alzheimer’s disease in 644 individuals who are part of the ongoing Sunnybrook Dementia Study. About half of the participants have Alzheimer’s disease and about a third of them also have cerebrovascular disease. The researchers will use brain imaging to measure blood vessel damage and brain function. They will also do a genome-wide interaction study (GWIS) for each participant to determine which genetic variations relate to changes in brain structure and memory decline.
The results of this work could provide new information on why some people with cerebrovascular disease are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than others. Understanding how a person’s genetics can influence the way their brain responds to inflammation and blood vessel damage could allow scientists to develop individualized treatments that more effectively reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.