Megan Zuelsdorff, PhD, joined a discussion on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) about recent developments in research of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias on December 3, 2020. Zuelsdorff is assistant professor of nursing at UW Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and an Alzheimer’s disease researcher.
The MPR interview discussed new developments in Alzheimer’s disease research, including a potential blood test to help detect Alzheimer’s disease, factors like sleep in cognitive health, and the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease on Black Americans.
Zuelsdorff described a study she coauthored that found African Americans experience a higher rate of stressful life events, and that this can drastically increase likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in later life. African Americans face almost double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than whites. LatinX people are also more likely to face risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These disparities are unfortunately not well understood, potentially because people of color have not been well represented in research studies, Zuelsdorff said. Researchers have not recruited enough people of color for studies, and visits for Alzheimer’s disease studies can require multiple visits and brain scans which can take several hours, factors that may prohibit more participation in research, she said.
The interview discussed recent news about a blood test that can potentially diagnose levels of amyloid and tau in a person’s blood stream, which is an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. The blood test could be an important tool for researchers and could help expand participation of people of color in more Alzheimer’s disease studies, Zuelsdorff said.
“This is an area where the blood biomarker research is really exciting, and that’s because of the social conditions … and there are much more barriers to participating in biomarker studies at a population level for communities of color. But we know from current participants that they’re happy to give blood, they’re very interested in what’s going on in the brain, so in some ways we could learn a lot more about important mechanisms of dementia,” she said.
The interview included discussion about the impact of a diagnostic blood test, more details about socio-economic impacts on dementia, how sleep can impact brain health, and other cognitive factors of brain health. Listen to a recording here.