Description of the TARCC Longitudinal Study and Corresponding Database
The Texas Alzheimer's Research and Care Consortium received its first funding in November of 2005. After 13 months of planning and the development of a standardized research protocol for use at all sites, longitudinal data collection began in January of 2007, with patients being followed annually at the following institutions:
Texas Tech University Health Science Center, Lubbock (TX-TECH)
University of North Texas Health Science Center, Ft Worth (UNTHSC)
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (UTSW)
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston (BCM)
University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio (UTHSC-SA)
Each site recruits individuals into the Harris Alzheimer's Research Study who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD), Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), or who are normal controls (NC). Over 2000 participants have been enrolled and more than 1500 of these are currently active and returning for annual follow-up visits.
In 2010, TARCC researchers, led by Dr. Sid O'Bryant, created a serum-protein blood test for Alzheimer's disease. In an important and exciting development, the accuracy of this blood test was confirmed in an independent set of individuals from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). This was a momentous achievement, as no other blood test has been independently validated as being effective at diagnosing AD. Although further validation is required, the blood test, as part of a multi-tiered screening tool, holds the potential to change geriatric medicine globally. This test could be affordably given on an annual basis to all individuals over 65 years of age, who are at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.
As it strives to make Texas a global leader in Alzheimer's disease research, TARCC researchers have analyzed almost two million genetic markers in 800 participants using state-of-the-art genetic technology. Preliminary analyses have discovered genes that affect blood proteins that are related to Alzheimer's disease. These discoveries may lead to the development of new drugs and therapies to improve the quality of life of Alzheimer's patients. In addition, TARCC's collaboration with the Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Consortium in the largest study of Alzheimer's genetics to date, will provide Texas researchers with more than $100,000 worth of additional genetics data at no cost.
The data and biological samples collected by clinical and medical personnel and stored in the TARCC data system include psychometric and demographic information, as well as blood protein, metabolic and genetics data. The resulting relational database of clinical and biological data is vitally important for three major reasons. First, the detailed and robust collection of clinical data and samples are made annually, thus allowing a detailed analysis at the molecular level of disease progression within each participant. Second, the Consortium has taken advantage of the fact that Texas has the largest rural population of any state in the nation. Roughly one half of the Harris Alzheimer's Research Study is comprised of rural elders. Third, TARCC has enrolled a much larger number of Mexican American participants than any other ongoing study of Alzheimer's disease. This final point is particularly impressive, as TARCC began targeted enrollment of Hispanic participants only two years ago. The enrollment and long-term follow-up of a large number of Hispanic and rural participants is of key importance with regard to the acquisition of external funding. Both the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer's Association have recently identified the study of under-represented minorities and rural populations as a critical focus of their research funding portfolio.
Although blood samples and as many as 1000 data points are being collected from each participant on an annual basis, only now, after 5 years of patient enrollment and study, have enough samples and information been collected to enable substantive scientific discovery. While a number of significant developments have already been reported, realization of the full potential of the TARCC resource will require utilization of the database and tissue bank by the diverse group of Alzheimer's researchers across the state of Texas.
TARCC Studying Impact of Alzheimer's on Hispanics
The TARCC has embarked on a new research focus on the impact of Alzheimer's disease on Hispanics. Beginning in 2009, with the addition of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio to the Consortium's membership, TARCC extended its research reach to South Texas and began targeted enrollment of Hispanic individuals into the Harris Alzheimer's Research Study. This expansion of the TARCC was important for a number of reasons. First, Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in Texas and are projected to represent a majority of the state's population by 2020. Second, this ethnic group is underrepresented in the medical literature in general as well as Alzheimer's research. Finally, the data which does exist suggests that Hispanics develop Alzheimer's disease at an earlier age than Caucasians and that disease progression may be altered as well. The inclusion of Hispanic individuals combined with a longitudinal study of disease progression, DNA and biomarkers makes the TARCC unique among the many currently active Alzheimer's research efforts. To date, TARCC has enrolled over 500 Hispanic individuals, who return annually for follow up visits. Data have been generated from these participants on the specific genetic variants and blood protein biomarkers that are related to Alzheimer's disease risk among Hispanics.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Praised Leadership of Texas Legislature for Funding Alzheimer's Research
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired from the U.S. Supreme Court to care for her husband with Alzheimer's disease, praised Texas' leadership in Alzheimer's research during a state Capitol visit in 2009. Honored with a special Senate resolution, Justice O'Connor challenged the State and nation to pursue Alzheimer's breakthroughs with the same intensity that succeeded in curtailing polio and TB in the 1950s. Read More
Breakthrough Research: December 12, 2011 - A team of researchers from the Texas Alzheimer's Research and Care Consortium (TARCC) has created and validated a new blood test that could detect Alzheimer's disease, facilitating earlier detection and treatment of this devastating disease affecting millions of people worldwide. A report cross-validating the test has been published in the December issue of the international scientific journal PLoS ONE. (read more)
How to Volunteer for TARCC Research
Dr. Sid O'Bryant, UNT Health Science Center
Listen to Dr. O'Bryant as he comments on his blood test that could help millions confirm & fight Alzheimer's disease - the topic of Scott Crowder's national broadcast on NewsRadio 740-KTRH, Houston. To read the full story, please click here.
Time is Key in Alzheimer's Research
Dr. Rachelle Doody with Baylor College of Medicine describes how the Texas Alzheimer's Research Consortium intends to meet the AD challenge.