Statewide multi-year Alzheimer’s study targets Hispanics

Study will expand state's existing Alzheimer's clearing house.

Dr. John Bertelson looking at a brain scan of an Alzheimer's patient. (KXAN Photo)
Dr. John Bertelson looking at a brain scan of an Alzheimer's patient. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN  (KXAN) — Austin doctors say an expanded study could reveal the cause of Alzheimer’s that’s stumped researchers for years. The answer to what causes it may come from one group of Texans: Mexican-Americans.

Over the last five years, Brent Bradshaw has watched his wife Shelley’s Alzheimer’s progress. They were on a trip to New Mexico when the family noticed something was wrong.

“Everybody was piling into the car to go see Nana and Granddad. And, it was Shelley’s turn to drive the car and she didn’t know which way to go.” Bradshaw said.

The family did an intervention and took her to a doctor. A clear diagnosis soon emerged. Since then, the 55-year-old, who helps run the family’s medical supplies business, shifted from independent wife and mom to someone who needs constant supervision.

“Our philosophy is to make the most out of today,” Bradshaw trailing off as his eyes welled up with tears.

Brent and Shelley Bradshaw
Brent and Shelley Bradshaw (KXAN Photo)

“Yeah, it’s not easy,” his wife said.

The progression of the disease is at the heart of a new study awarded to Dell Medical School and Seton Healthcare. State lawmakers granted the new multi-year, $800,000 statewide study.

Doctors are currently looking for a wide swath of people to study, from those who don’t have the disease to early-stage patients.

So how does the study lead to a cure? Doctors say their findings are really for researchers who are looking for a genetic link between patients who could have a specific gene they share. Once they find that, a cure could be in sight.

And, they want to focus on the Mexican-American community, because they have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.

“One question to ask: is the high Alzheimer’s risk due to high blood pressure and diabetes or is it due to different genetic factors we haven’t identified yet?” said Dr. John Bertelson, who is one of the doctors spearheading the study.

Bertelson said the study will expand the state’s existing Alzheimer’s database.

“Nowhere else in the world, at least to my knowledge, is looking at this large of a group over time,” said Bertelson.

If you’re interested in enrolling in the Alzheimer’s study, call 512-495-5236. You don’t have to have any memory loss symptoms to participate.

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