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Alzheimer’s hits women harder than men, UA researcher studying why

Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton receives $5.9mil grant
Posted at 8:54 PM, Feb 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-08 12:23:08-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Millions of people are suffering with Alzheimer's disease - most of them are women. Nearly two-thirds of Americans who have the disease are women, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

World wide 47 million people are living with Alzheimer's disease. And nearly 6 million of them, are in the United States. But the comparison between how many women have the disease to how many men, is staggering.

"Women undergo an aging transition that changes the energy production in their brain. The brain is the most energetically demanding organ in the body. From here down, we're a Prius. From here up, we're a Hummer," said Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, the director of the University of Arizona's Center for Innovation in Brain Science.

Brinton received a $5.9 million grant to figure out: why women? And how to identify the early stages of Alzheimer's in women who are still healthy. She and her team hope to define what exactly leads to the sex difference in the disease, and how to combat it.

"Their biology is different, and so what we're really doing is developing a strategy to understand why is it that the male brain, what types of risks do men have, what types of risks do women have, and develop a precision medicine approach for Alzheimer's disease. We know that one-size therapeutic won't fit all, and won't fit all for Alzheimer's," said Brinton.

Once the sex-specific causes are found, the team hopes to learn how to prevent, delay, and possibly reverse Alzheimer's successfully in both sexes.

"We are at that tipping point. We are at that place where we will have strategies to work backwards from Alzheimer's disease, to reduce that risk, to change that risk profile and to also treat the disease," said Brinton.

The study, “Sex Differences in the Molecular Determinants of Alzheimer’s Disease Risk: Prodromal Endophenotype,” is supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under award No. R01-AG057931.

To learn more about the study, click here.