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Dementia Leaders Gather for Launch of Latin American Research Initiative

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — On January 27, leaders in dementia from Latin America joined community members from the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), Alzheimer’s Association, the Tau Consortium, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and more at UCSF Mission Bay for the US-Latin American Networking on Dementia Symposium. Cohosted by GBHI and the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, the symposium initiated a new multinational consortium to expand dementia research in Latin America called  Research Dementia Latin America, or ReDLat.

“Our goal is to identity the unique genetic and socioeconomic/social determinants of health that drive Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in Latin America,” said Agustin Ibanez, PhD, Director, Institute for Cognitive and Translational Neuroscience, Argentina; Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at GBHI; and the study’s director.

ReDLat was launched with support of a $2.5 million grant from the NIH, and it has gained new support from the Alzheimer's Association, the Tau Consortium (part of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation), and GBHI to triple the original award.

The five-year project offers a unique opportunity to develop regional and multidisciplinary collaboration to treat and prevent dementia in diverse and underserved populations in Latin America. ReDLat investigators will collect neuroimaging, genetic, and behavioral data on over 4,000 individuals from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and the US, broadening our understanding of the genetic and environmental determinants of dementia.

Emerging Dementia Challenges in Latin America

The prevalence of dementia is generally declining or stable in the United States and other high-income countries; however, Latin American countries face the opposite trend, likely due to unique genetic factors and unfavorable socioeconomic conditions, like poverty and limited access to health care, in addition to a more rapidly aging population demographic.

“Latin America is on the cusp of exponential growth in numbers of people with dementia,” said Victor Valcour, MD, PhD, Executive Director of GBHI. “GBHI is committed to fostering networks of collaboration to tackle dementia and has a dedicated focus on Latin America.”

Globally, dementia prevalence is expected to increase to 152 million by 2050, yet seventy-five percent of cases are expected in Latin America and Africa, where only three percent of dementia research takes place. Thus, more research to develop effective treatments for dementia are needed, particularly in understudied and diverse populations.

A Multidisciplinary Approach

More than half of the risk factors for dementia, including hearing loss, hypertension, and obesity, are potentially modifiable. A better understanding of the genetics and cognitive foundation of dementia in Latin America—and how economic and social conditions affect its clinical presentations—is critical to identifying new interventions. This type of information is currently less available in Latin American countries.

“In order to use genetic information to make predictions of disease risk, we need representation of all populations,” said Jennifer Yokoyama, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology at UCSF Memory and Aging Center and GBHI.

This multidisciplinary collaboration brings together experts in the fields of neurology, neuropsychology, geriatrics, psychiatry, neuroscience, and genetics from across Latin America, promoting harmonization of global strategies to treat and, ultimately, prevent dementia.

“I am thrilled for this extraordinary study,” said Bruce Miller, MD, director of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and co-director of GBHI. “Through this bold project, we will make novel discoveries in Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia, opening up new opportunities and creating a new agenda for large scale collaboration.”

Partners

ReDLat will collaborate with the Latin American and Caribbean Consortium for Dementia and includes partners from the Alzheimers’ Association; Institute for Cognitive and Translational Neuroscience, CONICET- INECO Foundation (Argentina); Hospital das Clinicas da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Sao Paulo (Brazil); Geroscience FONDAP; Hospital Clinico, Universidad de Chile; Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile); Pontificia Universidad Javeriana - Hospital Universitario San Ignacio; Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia); Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutrición; Instituto Nacional de Neurología y Neurocirugía (Mexico); Instituto Peruano de Neurociencias (Peru); HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Alabama; and University of California San Francisco (UCSF)-Memory and Aging Center (MAC), and Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), and University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) (USA). 

The Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) is a leader in the global community dedicated to protecting the world’s aging populations from threats to brain health. GBHI works to reduce the scale and impact of dementia around the world by training and connecting the next generation of leaders in brain health through the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health program; by collaborating in expanding prevention and interventions; and by sharing knowledge and engaging in advocacy. The Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health program, based at GBHI, provides innovative training, networking and support to emerging leaders who are focused on bringing transformative change to improve brain health and reduce the impact of dementia worldwide. It is one of seven Atlantic Fellows programs to advance fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies. GBHI is based at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Trinity College Dublin (Trinity). Visit www.gbhi.org or find us on Twitter @GBHI_Fellows.