University of Kentucky Researchers Recruit Blacks for Alzheimer’s Study
LEXINGTON, Ky. University of Kentucky researchers performing a study on Alzheimer’s disease are recruiting members of Lexington’s Black community to join the program. The school’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has recruited more than 400 volunteers for the study over the past 12 years but, until recently, had no Black participants. Scientists admit that is a problem as they investigate a disease that is two to four times more likely to strike Blacks than Whites. Members of the BRAINS (Biologically Resilient Adults in Neurological Studies) program are asked to submit periodic neurological and medical testing and, at death, to donate their brains to the university for study. Participants must be at least 60 and in good health. Researchers now acknowledge that the group must reflect a more diverse cross-section of the population than it does now. “We’re going to be letting the minority community know more about Alzheimers’ about the fact that there are high rates of Alzheimer’s among African-Americans and that research is something that they should be involved in,” says Kelly Woodall, a Sanders-Brown research assistant who heads the recruiting drive. Sanders-Brown formed the BRAINS group in 1989, attracting more than 400 Caucasian men and women from Lexington and central Kentucky. It is one of the nation’s oldest Alzheimer’s research groups. The idea was to provide a pool of patients for tracking the disease, and a supply of healthy brains to compare with the diseased brains of Alzheimer’s victims. Woodall, who is Black, recently recruited her own mother, Gladys Hayes-Moore, as the first Black BRAINS member. Woodall said earlier efforts to recruit Black volunteers may have been unsuccessful because of a lingering feeling among some Blacks that they were not welcome at UK. That suspicion dates back to segregation at the school in the 1940s and 1950s, she said. Finally, Woodall said, many Blacks might not realize that Alzheimer’s research should be important to them. In addition, two experts at the 10th National Alzheimer’s Disease Education Conference last month said that racial bias, covert racism and cultural insensitivity in the Alzheimer care and research communities put African Americans with Alzheimer’s disease at risk.
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