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Father and SonThe National Institutes of Health has launched a new initiative to identify biomarkers and track the progression of Alzheimer’s in people with Down syndrome. Many people with Down syndrome have Alzheimer’s-related brain changes in their 30s that can lead to dementia in their 50s and 60s. Little is known about how the disease progresses in this vulnerable group. The NIH Biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease in Adults with Down Syndrome Initiative will support teams of researchers using brain imaging, as well as fluid and tissue biomarkers in research that may one day lead to effective interventions for all people with dementia.

The National Institutes of Health committed $37 million to fund two multi-center research teams for a five-year study investigating Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in individuals with Down’s syndrome. Each research team will study distinct cohorts and focus on slightly different, but overlapping biomarkers:

The NIAD Research Group comes from an Alzheimer’s research background. It is led by Benjamin Handen and William Klunk with his research team at the University of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with Brad Christian with his research team at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marwan Sabbagh at Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, and Shahid Zaman and his research team at the Cambridge Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Research Group at University of Cambridge, U.K. Up to 200 individuals with Down syndrome will be participating in this part of the study.

The ADDS Research Group will be led by Nicole Schupf at Columbia University in New York along with Ira Lott at the University of California, Irvine, and Wayne Silverman at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. Additional clinical sites for this study will be led by Sharon Krinsky-McHale at the New York State Institute for Basic Research and Florence Lai and Diana Rosas at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. Up to 280 individuals with Down syndrome will be participating in this part of the study.

Through the combined efforts of these research sites and charting biomarker changes in adults with Down syndrome over time, we hope to identify some of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s and perhaps develop new screening methods or diagnostic tests for the disease. This study will be the largest and most comprehensive effort to do this type of analysis for individuals with Down’s syndrome.

Study funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Please visit the Alzheimer’s Biomarkers Consortium of Down Syndrome (ABC-DS) website for more information.