NC A&T University seeks participants for Alzheimers study

As the principal investigator of the African American Alzheimers Study, North Carolina A&T State University professor Goldie S. Byrd has expanded her public awareness role to launch a kickoff gala dinner at the University on Friday, November 19.

Called the “Keeping Memories Alive Project” (KMAP), the gala will be a model for future endeavors in ten cities across the country. Byrd collaborated with Dr. Margaret Pericak-Vance of the University of Miami, who was part of a team that identified the major susceptibility gene for Alzheimers Disease (AD).

Byrd seeks to recruit clinicians as well as unrepresented groups to participate in research studies and clinical trials. Born out of earlier research, the KMAP project hopes to publicize that African Americans are twice as likely to develop AD, and Hispanics are one and a half times as likely to be susceptible than the general population.

“We found out that there were so many of all colors and ethnicities who didn’t know how to get resources and [who] needed help in managing care for their loved ones,” Byrd said.

The KMAP is an outgrowth of the community work study that A&T began in 2003, and still is ongoing. The researchers now are looking for 2,000 participants, half with AD and half without, to continue the research.

Byrd has found that the largest base for publicizing her work are the members of congregations in the “faith-based communities” who are eager to participate.

One of the reasons that African Americans have been reluctant to participate in this AD research, she said, are cognitive reasons and also blood draws. “We need to do a better job, as scientists, to inform people about Alzheimer’s, but also [about] participating,” Byrd added.

She pointed out that A&T wasn’t the only university entity working on this research project “but it was the only one without a medical school.” Stating that the A&T group has a “very high retention rate among African Americans participating. “In past studies,” she added, “we do not diagnose. If a person feels there are some issues with memory loss and cognitive skills, we ensure that they get referred to a doctor or a health care provider.”

The KMAP national campaign will focus on “modifiable” AD environmental influences such as diseases and conditions of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol. Launching locally with the gala at the A&T Alumni Event Center, KMAP will begin in March, 2011 and hopes to provide education to “twelve million individuals,” according to Byrd.

This project “takes Alzheimers on the road” the organizer stressed.

Using “new media” such as Web sites, blogs, videos, public service announcements, media outlets, viral networks, infomercials and print media, KMAP will “translate science for lay individuals” as the university press release details.

With AD being the most common form of dementia among the elderly, affecting more than 5.3 million Americans, KMAP intends also to enhance the education of Americans across social and ethnic groups, as well as among socioeconomic and geographic lines.

“And that’s the hope…to reach the Caucasian population [as well]. It all transcends race…because this disease does not discriminate. Everyone will be affected,” Byrd summarized.

“We are excited and feel an obligation to raise awareness and to assist millions of Americans [who] struggle with this disease,” Byrd re-iterated.

For more information on KMAP and the gala call, (336) 285-2165 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (336) 285-2165      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

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