The Texas A&M Health Science Center, an assembly of TAMU colleges devoted to education of health professionals and researchers, has been appointed administrator of the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC)’s recently announced new Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) investigator grant program.
The program will be able to leverage the TARCCs Texas Harris Alzheimer’s Study — a large standardized research database of well characterized subjects that tracks a diverse group of AD diagnosed patients with mild cognitive impairment, along with healthy controls. The study benefits from collaborative AD research projects among TARCC member institutions and helps promote novel, basic, and clinical research in developing new insights into the intricacies of AD. One of study’s highlights is in monitoring participants annually in the course of regular collection of standardized clinical, neuropsychiatric, genetic, and blood biomarker data and samples.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.2 million people in America are afflicted with AD, and of those more than 500,000 die annually from of this devastating and incurable disease. Texas ranks third in the U.S. in incidence of AD cases and deaths.
The Texas State legislature in 1999 authorized the the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders to establish a consortium of AD centers, which in turn led to the formation of the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC) — a collaboration among six of Texas’s top medical research institutions including the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) working in synergy to advance scientific initiatives to combat AD. The TACC’s mission is to work toward optimization of early diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of AD in the state.
One such initiative is a new grant program to be administered by TAMHSC that will encourage utilizing TARCCs extensive patient cohort in awarding five pilot grants of $50,000 respectively and two $125,000 awards of over two years. The objective of the TARCC Investigator Grant Program, specifically targeted to younger scientists, is to enhance awareness and application of TARCC’s unique patient database and sample resources to kick-start new advances in Alzheimer’s disease research related scientific discoveries.
The Texas Legislature has appropriated $9.23 million to the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders to fund TARCC research, which will enable TARCC to significantly expand its state-wide initiative to enhance AD research — one research focus being a study on AD’s impact in Mexican Americans. Starting in 2009, TARCC has been investigating that research focus, aided by The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio joining the Consortium’s membership.
UTHSCSA’s participation in the research effort has facilitated the TARCC extending its research reach into South Texas and to commence targeted enrollment of Mexican Americans into the Texas Harris Alzheimer’s Research Study.
Even though Mexican Americans are the state’s fastest-growing ethnic category and projected to become the majority among Texas’s population by 2020, they are underrepresented as a group in both medical literature and AD research.
A study led by UTHSC associate professor of Internal Medicine Dr. Sid O’Bryant and recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease investigated AD biomarkers among Mexican Americans and determined that AD biomarker profiles among that ethnic category differs significantly from findings among non-Hispanic cases in many previous large-scale studies. Dr. O’Bryant’s study is the first to explicitly examine and quantify blood-based AD biomarkers among Mexican Americans, highlighting a particular strength of TARCC’s enrolment database containing the largest number of Mexican American participants ever in an ongoing Alzheimer’s disease research study. In future the TARCC intends to expand this line of research through increasing Mexican American enrollment.
Also on the TARCC’s agenda is advancement of Texas AD research efforts by way of developing a state-wide investigator pool focused on AD and other forms of neurodegeneration in the aging brain. The TAMHSC developed and administered TARCC Investigator Outreach Grant Program’s objective is to increase awareness and utilization of TARCC cohort resources (ie: data and samples) combined with stimulation of novel discovery science that furthers scientific understanding of AD. It will be open to all faculty, but will especially target junior-level investigators with active solicitation of both clinical and basic research faculty with targeted mailings and program ad campaigns. The organizing objective is to kickstart collaborative research projects state-wide as well as full utilization of TARCC resources and data.
“Although open to all researchers within the state, the program will target junior-level investigators to provide up-and-coming researchers with financial support to advance studies that utilize this unparalleled resource and spur multi-institutional, collaborative research throughout Texas,” notes Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine professor and associate department chair Farida Sohrabji, Ph.D.,, who also serves on the TARCC’s Steering Committee and whose responsibilities will include coordinating the grant program’s launch and award administration in a TAMHSC release. “Given the comprehensive nature of the data collected, as well as the inclusion of Mexican-Americans, the Texas Harris Alzheimer’s Study is an invaluable asset to national AD research,” Dr. Sohrabji observes.
“The inclusion of Texas A&M Health Science Center lends even greater strength to TARCC and complements the breadth of expertise and research interests that other TARCC institutions represent,” adds research scientist with the Essentia Institute of Rural Health and TARCC External Advisory Committee member Stephen C. Waring, DVM, Ph.D.. “Under the leadership of Dr. Farida Sohrabji, the investigator grant program is an exciting new initiative designed to leverage TARCC resources and bring in a broad range of investigators across Texas engaged in basic and clinical research in Alzheimers disease.”
More information on the grant program, application deadlines, and more can be found at:
Texas A&M Health Science Center
Texas Alzheimers Research and Care Consortium (TARCC)
Texas Council on Alzheimers Disease and Related Disorders
Texas Harris Alzheimer’s Study
Texas A&M Health Science Center
Essentia Institute of Rural Health