Getting Serious About Curbing Rural Disparities in Dementia Care and Research

NIA grant helps establish Nevada exploratory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has awarded a grant expected to total $3.3 million to Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health to establish the Nevada exploratory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

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The three-year award — the first of its kind to be presented as part of the NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers program — will help build the infrastructure and initiate statewide collaborative activities needed to establish an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) focused on reducing disparities faced by individuals with dementia in rural settings.

Marwan Sabbagh, MD, Director of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas and Elko, will serve as director of the Nevada exploratory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

A new wrinkle in the ADRC network

The ADRC program is a national network of researchers and clinicians at major medical institutions. Staff at these centers work to translate research advances into improved diagnosis and care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias as well as pursue ways to treat and possibly prevent the diseases.

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The Nevada exploratory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center is among the first cohort of centers nationally to receive the new “exploratory center” designation. Exploratory ADRCs are designed to expand and diversify research and education opportunities to new areas of the country, new populations, and new areas of science and approaches to research.

Health disparities in rural areas have long been recognized and can particularly impact individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Those living with dementia in rural communities often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed due to lack of access to dementia specialists. These challenges are compounded by data scarcity in rural areas, with data often confined to a small number of individuals with limited sets of biomedical data.

What the new center will do

The Nevada exploratory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center will develop novel methodologies and technology to enroll research volunteers into a rural Nevada cohort. Data collected will provide resources that can be used by the broader scientific community and contribute to the ADRC network’s overall mission to improve the diagnosis and care of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

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“Nevada is a state with historically low federal funding,” notes Dr. Sabbagh. “The Nevada exploratory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center marks an important milestone for the state, allowing us to elevate the science we contribute to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and effectively expand our research footprint. Alzheimer’s disease is a looming public health crisis, and this grant will play an important role in advancing the science of this disease by contributing critical data from a massively understudied, underserved and under-supported rural population.”

The grant establishing the center builds on a successful collaboration since 2015 between the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which share a five-year NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant. The Nevada exploratory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center is the next step in establishing an ADRC and is the latest collaborative effort between the two institutions to specifically address rural disparities among populations with dementia throughout Nevada.