Researchers are granted a 5-year grant renewal to validate and discover VCID biomarkers

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently renewed a grant of five years to the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky. The award amount exceeds $6 million.

The MarkVCID consortium was formed to discover cross-site valid biomarkers for vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID) with the ultimate goal of developing a toolbox of biomarkers useful in future clinical trials. The University of Kentucky was selected as one of the seven MarkVCID sites during its initial funding period in 2016. Greg Jicha, M.D., Ph.D., and Donna Wilcock, Ph.D., are co-leads of the program at UK.

My patients visit my clinic concerned about the big A, Alzheimer’s disease. But, it’s equally likely that they suffer from small vessel ischemic disease. It is vital to find new ways to treat this vascular issue in our brains to ensure for the health of the Commonwealth.

Greg Jicha M.D., Ph.D. University of Kentucky

The UK is a unique place for research in this field. It is a Center of Excellence for Stroke and Dementia and a designated Comprehensive Stroke Center. It also has a National Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

“The combination is great. Wilcock said that we have a an excellent clinical stroke program, in addition to the ADRC and our geographic position in the stroke belt which means that a significant part of the population in Kentucky is very at high risk for VCID due to their cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension and heart disease.

In the initial time frame, UK has been following 126 participants with varying levels of cardiovascular risk factors, and an overwhelming majority have defined subjective memory complaints (SMCs) as well as some classified as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). All participants went through the MarkVCID MRI battery, blood collection, and clinical and neuropsychological assessments. One quarter of participants contributed cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Additionally, researchers say all participants consented to autopsy, an obligation that was introduced at the start of their MarkVCID enrollment.

The program will now have 200 participants following the renewal. “A significant portion of the previous five years was getting standard operating procedures set up in order to harmonize sequences and techniques standardized and a few initial validations was done. Wilcock explained that this would be a solid clinical validation of a set of biomarkers for small vessel disease.

Jicha added, “Expanding our program to 200 participants will help us to make sure everyone is represented, whether they are from rural Appalachia or of Black/African-American descent or from other underserved populations. Inclusivity and diversity strengthens our research and ensures that our discoveries will be of the highest quality to help the people we serve.”

At the end of the next five years, researchers will have a suite of biomarkers that they feel is robust enough and has been confirmed by their consortium. The suite will then be utilized in clinical trials. “This is important since we don’t have biomarkers for dementia and vascular cognitive impairment. Yet, we know that many of our population aging has some of these brain changes. So being able to detect that in a sensitive fashion in the course of time will be crucial for the treatment as we develop these,” said Wilcock.

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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