The National Institutes of Health awarded a $26.5 million grant to Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) to create the Framingham Heart Study Brain Aging Program (FHS-BAP). The program will continue the surveillance and evaluation of Framingham Heart Study (FHS) participants for dementia, and will provide cognitive assessments and brain imaging. The program will also establish a platform to promote data sharing intended to accelerate Alzheimer’s disease research using FHS data, and will conduct three interrelated projects The program builds on the FHS, a longitudinal, multi-generational study of cardiovascular health in the United States that began in 1948. Since 1976, the FHS has collected data on incidence of dementia among the participants.
The FHS is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health and BUSM. The principal investigators for the FHS-BAP are Lindsay Farrer, Ph.D., chief of biomedical genetics at BUSM, and Rhoda Au, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology, neurology, and epidemiology at BUSM and BU School of Public Health.
The FHS launched in 1948 with a cohort of 5,209 men and women between the ages of 30 and 62 from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, who had not yet developed overt symptoms of cardiovascular disease or experienced a heart attack or stroke. Over time, the FHS grew to include descendants of the original participants. The FHS brain aging data collected since 1976 has helped researchers to analyze the differences between normal, age-related changes in thinking and disease-related pathological alterations. In addition, the inclusion of many of the original participants’ children and grandchildren has provided an opportunity to explore genetic factors related to Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
The FHS-BAP will feature three inter-related projects that focus on vascular and inflammatory contributors to Alzheimer’s disease. One project will identify factors that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk and resilience using longitudinal analyses of FHS data including various genetic, clinical, imaging, lifestyle and other traits. The second project will investigate the link between Alzheimer’s disease genetic vulnerabilities and chronic inflammation. The third project will study the impact of variants in genes affecting immune function on Alzheimer’s disease-related brain changes and cognitive performance. All of the projects will leverage the unique features of this family-based cohort and up to 70 years of follow-up data collected from study participants.
This was reported by Boston University School of Medicine and Framingham Heart Study on September 14, 2020.