Chair, Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Data Management and Statistics Core
Tell me about yourself and your role at the Cleveland Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (CADRC).
I am the Chair of the Department for Population & Quantitative Health Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. My work focuses primarily on the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease. My specific role in the CADRC is on the Data Management & Analysis Core.
What do you see as your core’s main activities and goals?
The Data Management & Analysis Core serves two purposes. The first is to help manage the data that is collected by all the clinicians, researchers, etc., standardize the data, and provide that information to the national database. In a way, we are acting as the glue that holds together various aspects of the data collection and analysis process. The second purpose is the analysis of all these data. As enough data gets collected over the coming years, we can help to design studies, consult on studies, and analyze the data.
What is the focus of your research currently, and where do you see your work going in the next two-five years?
I’ve been involved in my research for 35 years. I started out investigating the genetics of the early-onset, autosomal dominant forms of Alzheimer’s Disease, and I helped to identify some of the rare mutations within specific genes involved in this form of Alzheimer’s Disease. I was also one of the main individuals involved in identifying the variants, or polymorphisms, in the ApoE gene, which has a strong association with the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, I have been working to identify additional genetic variations. Currently, I am leading an effort to analyze the whole genome sequence of 30,000-60,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and healthy controls. Finally, I am involved in an effort to identify “protective variants” in Alzheimer’s Disease in the Amish communities of Ohio and Indiana. We are working to identify people who are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease, but who have not developed it, and thus figure out why they haven’t developed the disease.
How do you see research in brain health/AD/dementia evolving in the next 2-5 years?
What we are beginning to appreciate is that Alzheimer’s Disease is not a single process or disease. Moving forward, much of the focus of Alzheimer’s Disease, and brain health research, will be to identify subsets of the disease. In particular, this will include identifying the different genetic components, environmental factors, and biological processes involved in each subset of the disease.
Do you have any suggestion or recommendations for students or young researchers who wish to get more involved in brain health research?
The opportunities for research in this area are phenomenal. Figure out what is your passion. Go read the literature, talk to the researchers, students, and post-docs. and just dive into it. Additionally, there is plenty of funding, which is beneficial. There truly is a lot that can be done.