Sept 2, 2021
During the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), which was held from July 26-30, researchers presented findings at the forefront of the field. Several Brain Health Registry researchers had opportunities to showcase their work!
Dr. Weiner Wins a Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Michael Weiner, the Principal Investigator of the Brain Health Registry, was presented with the Henry Wisniewski Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alzheimer’s Association. The award recognizes significant contributions to the Alzheimer’s disease field, either through a single discovery or through a body of work.
Read more about this honor here.
Brain Health Registry Research at AAIC
Brain Health Registry (BHR) researchers presented their work on diversity in Alzheimer’s disease research, including an exciting new initiative to increase research participation of Latino older adults, on the usefulness of participant’s own assessments of their memory and thinking in BHR, and on the importance of incorporating the perspectives of caregivers and family members into Alzheimer’s disease research. Other important topics discussed at the conference include:
Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s
In Alzheimer’s disease, subtle changes in the brain can happen before noticeable shifts in thinking and memory. Biomarkers — or measurable evidence of a disease in the body — can help clinicians identify and treat Alzheimer’s symptoms early on.
At AAIC, researchers discussed the numerous biomarkers for Alzheimer’s, which include proteins called amyloid-beta and tau. During Alzheimer’s and some other brain diseases, these proteins can harm brain cells, resulting in cognitive issues. Increased levels of these proteins in a person’s blood or cerebrospinal fluid can be early signs of disease. Researchers at AAIC also presented evidence of biomarkers beyond amyloid and tau, including those that indicate changes in vascular proteins, which regulate blood flow to the brain.
Social determinants of health
Social determinants of health, such as access to health care and education, and resources available in one’s neighborhood of residence can impact a person’s disease risk and health outcomes. For example, research has tied air pollution to increased dementia risk. These determinants highlight the interconnectedness of lifestyle, environment, and disease, and demonstrate the need for equity in Alzheimer’s and dementia research and care.
Numerous presentations focused on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on individuals with dementia and their loved ones. For example, social isolation and loneliness during lockdowns has been linked to heightened risk of cognitive decline. Researchers are also examining the virus’s mystifying neurological effects, such as brain fog, and whether Covid-19 can accelerate symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Researchers discussed the FDA’s controversial, June 2021 decision to approve aducanumab for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and how the decision will impact future drug development.
Some researchers have expressed hope that aducanumab’s approval will lead to more innovation and research into drug therapies. Others worry that, due to a lack of evidence for aducanumab’s efficacy, the FDA’s decision could set a bad precedent. Because of this uncertainty, and because the drug costs $56,000 per year, many clinicians are still trying to figure out how and when to prescribe the drug to patients.
For more on aducanumab, please see our June 2021 newsletter.
The Brain Health Registry team was excited to learn about and share research at AAIC. None of our research would be possible without the continuing support and dedication of all our participants! We are extremely grateful for your ongoing involvement in our study.