Chapman University has been awarded an additional $2.9 million to study Alzheimer’s disease, adding an existing $4 million in grant funding for the ongoing project. Now totaling $6.9 million awarded by The National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging, this grant will continue to support Professor Hillard Kaplan’s work with the Tsimane people in Bolivia, as part of a larger project called The Tsimane Health and Life History Project.
The Tsimane tribe in Bolivia are of interest to the scientific community due to their status in the world of leading a relatively isolated existence, speaking their own language, only reproducing within the tribe, and living an active lifestyle due to the lack of modern conveniences. The Tsimane people have a low prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and artery disease, yet have high levels of infection and inflammation. Dr. Kaplan’s particular interest is in brain aging, with an emphasis on dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“It is wonderful to see an anthropologist take a leadership role in an epidemiologic study of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dallas Anderson, Ph.D., program officer at the National Institute on Aging. “In a relatively short period, Professor Kaplan has obtained a major grant and three grant supplements from the National Institute on Aging. I think this clearly demonstrates the potential significance that we at the NIA see in this research. In particular, we are excited about the possibility of separating off cardiovascular disease and focusing on inflammation as a potential contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.”
During this second phase of the project, the neighboring Moseten tribe will also be studied. They are a similar population with low cardiovascular disease risks, but they have both higher rates of cardiovascular disease than Tsimane and more variation in lifestyle and metabolic risk factors.
“This new funding will allow us to compare rates of Alzheimer’s disease in two Native American populations and to better assess the impacts of exercise and diet on dementia risk,” Dr. Kaplan said. “We are very excited to move forward. It is one of our last chances to study the natural history of Alzeimer’s disease and cognitive impairment with a large sample across multiple populations. These findings will have important implications for our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.”
Dr. Kaplan is a member of Chapman University’s Economic Science Institute.