Grant Expands Research Program Aimed at Understanding Why Women More Likely Impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease and How to Reduce Risk

Jessica Caldwell, Ph.D., director of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic, has been awarded a grant expected to total $1.8 million from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the interactive effects of gender and sex on biological processes in Alzheimer’s disease.

The four-year grant will examine how gender-linked stress exposure and estrogen may interact to impact memory, inflammation in the body, and brain activation and connectivity in women at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“We know that gender and sex, indexed by stress exposures and estrogen, promote changes in the brain, which may facilitate Alzheimer’s pathology in women at risk for the disease,” said Dr. Caldwell. “This project is an opportunity to better understand these mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease risk and how we might implement the appropriate risk reduction approaches to benefit women.”

Dr. Caldwell anticipates data from this study will provide evidence linking greater lifetime gender-based stressor exposures to poorer verbal memory in women at risk for Alzheimer’s, as well as processes likely to contribute to sex and gender disparities in the disease. She hopes that findings will help to inform development of interventions targeting stress and inflammation to reduce Alzheimer’s risk.

The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement has helped fund Dr. Caldwell’s sex-based research since 2016, providing the seed money to build the data infrastructure to apply for this grant, as well as to establish The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic – the nation’s first prevention center designed specifically for women located inside the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Alzheimer’s research, particularly studies examining the role of a woman’s biology, genetic make-up and lifestyle in developing the disease, is critical in helping us understand why women are at the epicenter of this epidemic,” said Maria Shriver, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and the visionary behind The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center.

“We’ve only scratched the surface on investigating these connections, and more funding is needed to advance the effort,” continued Shriver. “This award from the NIH is a true testament to the importance of investing in clinical research, as it will position us one step closer to understanding the myriad gender-specific factors that contribute to Alzheimer’s and why the disease discriminates against women, especially women of color.”

Since opening its doors in summer 2020, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic has welcomed women from 40 states across the country and received honorable mention in Fast Company’s list of 2021 World Changing Ideas.

This project is supported by NIH grant award 1R01AG074392-01.

For more information about The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic visit WomenPreventAlz.org or email womenpreventalz@ccf.org

About The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic: 
The Women’s Alzheimer’sMovement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic is a one-of-a-kind, three-year pilot program specific to women for Alzheimer’s disease prevention located within Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada. Building on peer-reviewed science indicating that up to 40% of all Alzheimer’s cases might be preventable through risk-reduction strategies, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Center combines the latest science on prevention with a woman’s medical history, habits and biological risks to create a customized, sustainable plan for lifestyle modifications that can reduce her individual risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Maria Shriver, founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM), is the visionary behind The Women’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Center, which is a collaboration between WAM and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. For more information, visit womenpreventalz.org.  

About Cleveland Clinic: 
Cleveland Clinic – now in its centennial year – is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 70,800 employees worldwide are more than 4,660 salaried physicians and researchers, and 18,500 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,500-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 19 hospitals, more than 220 outpatient facilities, and locations in southeast Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2020, there were 8.7 million total outpatient visits, 273,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 217,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/ClevelandClinic. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org. 

About the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health: 
Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which opened in 2009, provides expert diagnosis and treatment for individuals and families living with Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body, frontotemporal and other dementias; Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, multiple system atrophy and other movement disorders; and multiple sclerosis. With locations in Cleveland, Ohio; Weston, Florida and headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada, the center offers a continuum of care with no-cost opportunities for the community to participate in education and research, including disease prevention studies and clinical trials of promising new medications. An integrated entity, Keep Memory Alive, raises funds exclusively in support of the Nevada location. Clevelandclinic.org/Nevada.

About Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM): 
Founded by Maria Shriver, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to raising awareness about women’s increased risk for Alzheimer’s and to educating the public — women and men — about lifestyle changes they can make to protect their brain health. Through annual campaigns and initiatives, WAM raises funds to support women-based Alzheimer’s research at leading scientific institutions around the country.WAM’s goal is to make this center the first of many clinics around the world that address the specific needs of women, including addressing the needs of women of color, to help reduce their risk for Alzheimer’s.