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MSU investigating Alzheimer's disease in Latino & Hispanic populations

What are the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease? Michigan State University researchers are focusing on Latino and Hispanic populations, both with a higher rate of the disease than other groups, looking for clues in individuals in their 50’s and 60’s. The hope is to discover a way to prevent or slow the onset of the disease.

“I’m really optimistic and hopeful that we will find clues and cues for mitigating, preventing Alzheimer’s disease. I think we have a good chance and I want to do it.”

Hector M. González is the principal investigator behind the Study of Latinos – Investigation of Neurocognitive Aging. Over the next five years, Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine will receive a near $5.7 million grant from the National Institute on Aging.

“Among some of our Latinos we see a really high risk of Alzheimer’s disease, risks that are four times that of what has been reported generally among Anglos, white population.”

The research will focus on data collected from nearly 7,000 Latinos and Hispanics between the ages of 50 and 80 who may be showing signs of mild cognitive impairment.

For clues, Gonzalez says his team will be investigating functions of the heart and the vascular system of the brain.

“Twenty percent of our blood flow is committed to our brain. On a day to day basis, minute by minute, you don’t want any disruptions, trust me. Similarly, the brain consumes about 25 percent of our oxygen. Any disruption to that is going to hurt nourishing and maintaining the brain and also eliminating waste. So we’re looking at vascular systems as possible ways to modify the disease early.”

An associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, Gonzalez is concerned about the cost of Alzheimer’s disease care. In particular, when it comes to disadvantaged families. MSU points out, “it’s estimated that nearly one-third of the U.S. population will be of Hispanic or Latino origin by 2050, the implications of the study, could prove to be an important factor to the nation’s public health in the future.”

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.