Alzheimer's Under Pressure

Emory team awarded $5.2 million to study vascular link

A team of Emory researchers was awarded a $5.2 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, to examine the connections between blood pressure regulation and Alzheimer's disease.

Lead investigators are Ihab Hajjar, associate professor of neurology and medicine at the School of Medicine and the Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and Arshed Quyyumi, professor of medicine and codirector of the Emory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute.

“It has been thought for many years that vascular disease and circulatory function contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but the way this happens is unknown,” Hajjar says. “This initiative will uncover these mechanisms on a molecular and clinical level, so that new drugs can be designed and targeted to the right groups of patients.”

The study builds on research suggesting that common blood pressure medications may reduce the risk that people with early signs of memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s. Scientists think the molecules that drive Alzheimer’s and vascular disease are intertwined.

The Emory study focuses on the roles of the renin-angiotensin system, the targets of common blood pressure medications; and endothelial cells, which line blood vessels, in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s.

The Emory team will examine the molecular and vascular traits of 200 participants older than 50, with either normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment and early biological signs of Alzheimer’s. During a two-year period, participants will have evaluations to assess memory and cognition, brain scans, vascular ultrasounds, spinal taps, blood tests, and blood pressure readings.

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