University of Iowa lands almost half-a-million dollars for Alzheimer’s research

IOWA CITY — The Alzheimer’s Association is celebrating the major landmark of seeing $100-million invested in research initiatives nationwide during the past year, including nearly $500,000 that targets studies solely at the University of Iowa.

UI researcher Juliana Talarico says the work they’re doing is vital in examining risk factors — like the impact of sleep and stress — on the development of Alzheimer’s. Talarico says, “One of our major research projects where I serve as a principal investigator explores the interaction of stress-related biological markers, brain damage and the associated Alzheimer’s disease risk.”

Talarico is considered a leading researcher in the field of psycho-social stress and cognitive decline within aging populations. Her work identifies opportunities for early prevention that may bring resilience against cognitive health issues that stem from sustained stressors.

“We know that families facing Alzheimer’s now and in the future will benefit from early detection,” Talarico says, “especially because it allows them important care and planning.”

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, recent advances have produced medications that can slow the disease’s progress when identified early. Talarico says the UI’s College of Nursing is in the midst of two key Alzheimer’s research studies.

“One that is enhancing the everyday lives of individuals and their caregivers, especially addressing pain management in Alzheimer’s disease patients,” Talarico says, “and the other one is to develop strategies to improve mealtime experiences for these patients.”

UI researcher Wen Liu is focused on how dementia patients act and how they’re helped at mealtime. Liu has been studying countless patients in hospitals, nursing homes and memory care settings both in the U.S. and China.

“Older people were struggling during mealtime and they were not able to get good care or assistance that allowed them to enjoy the meal, as well as to have enough nutritional intake,” Liu says. “One resident had their meal in front of them for like a whole hour, but they did not really get any bite or liquid. Sometimes the staff don’t really have enough skills to help out.”

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. In Iowa, more than 66,000 people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and there are nearly 100,000 family and friends caring for their loved ones with the disease.

This year’s unparalleled $100-million commitment to research stands as the largest single-year investment since the organization’s founding in 1980.