Colombian and Argentine scientists are conducting a groundbreaking study to identify genetic mutations in Alzheimer's disease prevalent in Colombia's northern Atlántico region
Latin American Post Staff and EFE
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Unraveling Alzheimer's Mysteries in Colombia: A Pioneering Study
In the northern Atlántico department of Colombia, known for its high prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia, a groundbreaking study is underway. Led by a collaborative team of Colombian and Argentine scientists, this research aims to identify genetic mutations linked to Alzheimer's, employing cutting-edge genomic predictive techniques and precision medicine.
The interdisciplinary group, comprising professionals from the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, the Colombian Institute of Neuropedagogy, and Argentina's Instituto Fleni, integrates experts from the health and engineering fields. They are developing diagnostic tools using advanced genomic methods.
Jorge Vélez Valbuena, a doctor of medical sciences, a faculty member in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the Universidad del Norte, and the project leader shared with EFE that the four-year study commenced in October of the previous year and is currently in the participant recruitment phase.
"We have extensive knowledge about Alzheimer's, but mostly in populations not similar to ours. Conducting regional research and becoming national references is the outcome of such innovative ideas," Vélez stated, highlighting that no other part of the Colombian Caribbean is undertaking research of this magnitude.
The study's goal, as Vélez outlined, is to establish a system using genetic and clinical data to predict the disease's progression in the population. Thus, volunteers are being recruited to identify genetic variants to enhance patient diagnosis and find genes determining the rate of deterioration.
"We anticipate the involvement of 400 people without an Alzheimer's diagnosis and 400 diagnosed individuals, all above 65 years of age. We continue to invite potential participants to join our study," Vélez added.
DNA will be obtained from participants for sequencing as part of the study. "Subsequently, we'll use state-of-the-art genetic analysis techniques to identify variants that increase susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease," he explained. These variants, when present, increase the risk of a person being diagnosed with the disease.
Furthermore, Vélez hopes to identify genetic variants in Alzheimer's patients that are linked to the age of onset and those playing a role in the disease's progression.
Region of High Prevalence
According to the Mental Health Dementia Bulletin by Colombia's Ministry of Health, Atlántico has the highest prevalence of such diseases in the country, approximately 12%. In Colombia, Alzheimer's is recognized as a public health issue, incurring significant costs to the healthcare system.
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that over 55 million people worldwide (8.1% of women and 5.4% of men over 65) live with dementia, with 10.3 million residing in the Americas.
Late or sporadic Alzheimer's typically begins after the age of 65 and is the most common form of the disease. In contrast, early-onset Alzheimer's is not usually associated with evident hereditary genetic mutations.
Global Impact and Local Relevance
The exact cause of Alzheimer's remains largely unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role.
This ambitious study in the Atlántico region represents a significant stride in understanding Alzheimer's. It contributes to global research efforts and addresses a local need by focusing on a population with distinct genetic backgrounds. The outcomes of this study could pave the way for more targeted and effective treatments for Alzheimer's, potentially benefiting millions worldwide.