Collaborative Efforts for Health Equity in Alzheimer Disease Genetic Research: Adam Naj, PhD


The genetic epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania discussed a recent study that highlighted the importance of diverse samples in genetic research for Alzheimer disease in helping to uncover hidden genetic risk factors. [WATCH TIME: 2 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 2 minutes

"In order to get more diverse samples, we have to build bridges and connections to communities that may have not been involved in research before. This is a disease that individuals of all ancestry groups, backgrounds, and walks of life are potentially at risk for developing."

Over decades, experts in the field of Alzheimer disease (AD) have given warning about the lack of diversity in genetic research databases. In recent years, there has been an increased effort to recruit more participants from underrepresented subgroups into trials. In recent research, findings show that reported diversity has not changed over time but rather appears to have remained relatively constant.1 Therefore, the consistent lack of racial diversity in genetic databases for developing clinical therapies could potentially lead to disparities in the effectiveness of the treatments for underrepresented groups.

At the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, July 16-20, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Adam Naj, PhD, genetic epidemiologist and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, presented findings from a genetic diverse ancestry cohort in a featured research session. Using genome-wide association studies and DNA sequencing technologies the study identified over 56,000 genomes, utilized including patients of nonHispanic white, African American, Hispanic, and East Asian ancestry.2

Recently, Naj sat down in an interview with NeurologyLive® during the meeting to discuss how the increased diversity in sample collections has impacted our understanding of genetic risk factors for diseases. He also talked about the challenges that arise when trying to involve underrepresented communities in collaborative research efforts. In addition, Naj spoke about the reason for why it is important for all ancestry groups to benefit from genetic research, particularly in the context of diseases like AD.

Click here for more coverage of AAIC 2023.

1. Field RI, Orlando AW, Rosoff AJ. Demographic diversity of genetic databases used in Alzheimer's disease research. Hum Genet. 2023;142(8):1215-1220. doi:10.1007/s00439-023-02551-3
2. Naj AC, Rajabli F, Reitz C, et al. Multi-Ancestry Genome-wide Association Analysis of Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (LOAD) in 60,941 Individuals Identifies Multiple Novel Cross-Ancestry Associations and Implicates Amyloid and Complement Pathways. Presented at: 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference; July 16 to July 20; Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Abstract 79401.
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