The Power of Diversity and Expanding the Genetic Landscape in Alzheimer Disease Research: Adam Naj, PhD


The genetic epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania talked about a collaboration of sites and analysis groups across the US to create a vast collection of genetic data on patients living with Alzheimer disease. [WATCH TIME: 5 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 5 minutes

“Our mixed ancestry data set was able to identify the signal which shows that genetic diversity in data sets can boost the ability to see novel genetic risk factors.”

The limited expansion of diversity in previous genomic studies has obstructed the discovery of late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) risk variants that might be more common in non-European ancestry for AD. Despite this limitation, recent research shows that conducting a large multi-ancestry study could significantly improve the understanding of the genomics underlying LOAD. This is evident from findings in a study that used data sets from the Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC).

Lead author Adam Naj, PhD, genetic epidemiologist and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, presented these findings at the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, July 16-20, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in a featured research session. Naj and colleagues noted that including patients with diverse ancestry was important for the detection of signals that would otherwise have been unseen. Over 56,000 genomes, using genome-wide association studies, and DNA sequencing technologies were used that included individuals with non-Hispanic white, African American, Hispanic, and East Asian ancestry.

Naj recently sat down in an interview with NeurologyLive®to provide an overview of the presentation. He talked about how the inclusion of diverse data sets helps to improve the detection of genetic associations in the study. Naj also talked about the potential benefits of understanding genetic variations in non-European ancestry groups in AD research. Additionally, he spoke about the next steps for the research team in further exploring the identified genetic risk factors in AD.

Click here for more coverage of AAIC 2023.

1. 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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