The Alzheimer's Association and University College London (UCL) are partnering to study brain aging and dementia in 500 individuals whose health and health-related behaviors have been documented since birth. A $7 million grant from the Alzheimer's Association will allow researchers to more accurately detect the influence of both genetics and behaviors on dementia risk across the life course in this unique population.
"This is the only study of its kind in the world where we have a lifetime of health information recorded from people who are now at an age where dementia is a common health issue," said Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., chief science officer, Alzheimer's Association. "Through the additional data and analyses enabled by this grant from the Alzheimer's Association, we hope to learn more about brain aging, including the opportunity to pinpoint dementia risk factors that could potentially be modifiable."
The Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD), otherwise referred to as the "British 1946 birth cohort study" is a representative sample of 5,362 of individuals who were all born in one week in March 1946. Now the longest continually running birth cohort in the world, it is housed within the MRC Unit of Lifelong Health and Aging at UCL. These individuals have been assessed 28 times throughout their lives, allowing researchers to collect important health information.
In 2016, a sub-study of 502 individuals from the cohort - known as Insight 46 - was started specifically to address brain aging and dementia. However, this group only represented a small percentage of the original British 1946 birth cohort. Researchers at UCL will now be recruiting 500 further members from the cohort into a study of how their brains are changing, which will be exclusively funded by the Alzheimer's Association.
The 5-year study will include cognitive and neurological tests, brain scans and other health assessments in the 500 new participants. The grant also brings back 250 individuals from the Insight 46 study, who will receive the same assessments, as well as a brain scan that identifies a key Alzheimer's protein called tau.
"We are grateful to the Alzheimer's Association's commitment to funding the detailed assessments of even more individuals from this historic cohort," said the study's principal investigator, Professor Jonathan Schott, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology. "The funding is enabling us to advance our understanding of how risk factors throughout life can affect your eventual risk of dementia, to develop better preventative health strategies, identify people at risk of dementia, and improve clinical trials."
A recent finding from the Insight 46 study, published recently in JAMA Neurology and led by Professor Schott, found that cardiovascular health as early in life as age 36 can predict brain health at age 70.
The Alzheimer's Association has pledged up to an additional $3.1 million based on achievement of key milestones, potentially bringing the total grant funding to more than $10 million. The scientific community will be able to analyze the data collected in this study through a dedicated publicly available database, and apply for access to the data for their own analyses, including access through Global Alzheimer's Association Interactive Network (GAAIN).
Currently, the Alzheimer's Association is investing over $167 million in more than 500 active best-of-field projects in 27 countries.
About the Alzheimer's Association®
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's. Visit alz.org or call +1 800.272.3900.
About UCL - London's Global University
UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently. Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems. We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact. We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research - championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors. For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge. We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL.