‘Bring some balance’ — Alzheimer’s study needs more Black participants

Black adults are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as white adults, but they make up fewer than 10% of clinical trial participants, so a new study of a treatment is recruiting diverse candidates of every race and ethnicity.

“Our goal is to enroll individuals who are younger, between the ages of 55 and 80, so that we can evaluate whether this investigational treatment can prevent them from ever developing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Doris Molina-Henry, an assistant professor of Research Neurology at the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California.

The AHEAD Study, largely funded by the National Institutes of Health, seeks to get ahead of the disease with treatments that work for everyone, including African American/Black, Latino/a, Asian American and Pacific Islander people, who are historically underrepresented in research.

“It is absolutely critical that we bring some balance so we don’t see this disproportionate impact because of lack of access, or because of lack of knowledge,” Molina-Henry said. “This is a huge contribution not just to science, but to anybody who in the future might be affected by Alzheimer’s disease.”

Right now, 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, an affliction which also affects their families and networks. Within the next few decades, it’s estimated that number will triple.

You can check to see whether you’re eligible to participate on the study’s website. You just need to answer a few questions.

One risk factor for Alzheimer’s is simply getting older, and there is no cure. But research from the AHEAD study seeks to change that.

“You might never have to experience the symptoms if we find a medication, if we find a treatment that could potentially prevent you from undergoing the changes that are a part of the Alzheimer’s disease changes in the brain,” Molina-Henry said.

Historic mistreatment and unethical medical research involving African Americans makes many people reluctant to participate in research.

“It’s important for any future participant — anybody that goes into the study — to know that they are the most important person in our research team,” Molina-Henry said. “You are the priority. Because it is only with you that we will actually make strides and change the course of this disease — for ourselves, for future generations, and for entire communities.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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