For many years, Alzheimer’s Disease has been part of the Latino/e community. In fact, there’s about a 50 percent chance that Latino/es will be affected by Alzheimer’s more than non-Latino whites. Most of us can attest to this data since it isn’t uncommon to hear that someone’s family member is experiencing Alzheimer-related symptoms.
Now, researchers are trying to uncover what genetic factors are responsible for this disease.
Alzheimer’s genetic research pioneer Margaret Pericak-Vance has been stressing the importance of getting a closer look at the genetic component of the disease and how diverse populations react to it for decades. Thankfully, it is finally being carried out.
What about the Alzheimer’s variant affecting Puerto Ricans?
Historically, the studies around Alzheimer’s involved non-Hispanic whites who had strong European ancestry. However, Pericak-Vance is finally working on creating a genetic database, which will aid in uncovering how Alzheimer’s specifically manifests in populations with Hispanic and African ancestry. The esteemed scientist is working at the Hussman Institute.
Aiding her in her quest for a more diverse outlook on Alzheimer’s is the Venezuelan scientist, Dr. Katrina Celis, an associate scientist at the Hussman Institute. She has over 13 years of experience.
Dr. Celis is using her knowledge alongside Dr. Briseida Feliciano-Astacio’s knowledge, to carry out genetic research in Puerto Rico. Dr. Feliciano-Astacio is a neurologist and investigator from the Universidad Central del Caribe in Puerto Rico.
NBC reports that this group of researchers is the first to identify chromosome 14, a variant that occurs in African ancestry. Chromosome 14 is often present in those with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
“We identified that the particular region that harbors this variant that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk lies on the African ancestral background,” Dr. Celis told NBC.
“However, that particular variant has only been found in Caribbean Hispanic individuals, mainly of Puerto Rican descent, which is known in the genetic world as a founder mutation, meaning something happened on the island after the colonization that created this sort of variant within the genetic information of these individuals.”
Let’s hope new discoveries continue to be made for the sake of our families and for future generations.