The Cleveland Clinic has launched an initiative to determine early biomarkers of neurological disease before symptoms present and they’re looking for Black patients to participate. According to Caregiver.org, 1.2 million people nationwide are diagnosed with a brain disease or disorder each year. The Cleveland Clinic Brain Study aims to monitor 200,000 healthy adults for disease prevention and treatment over two decades.

Neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and stroke affect one in three people worldwide, but due to the nature of the disease and its late-onset symptoms, finding effective treatments and ultimately cures for these diseases has been a challenge. By taking a proactive approach, the Cleveland Clinic hopes to identify biomarkers that align with early-stage neurological disorders.

“I think the biggest challenge is to make the diagnosis before the disease has had time to affect the brain,” explained the study’s co-principal investigator, Dr. Imad Najm. “Once the clinical disease is diagnosed, critical numbers of neurons (brain cells) have been destroyed and made it an almost irreversible progression.”

Black Americans encouraged to enroll

Given the data and the overall lack of Black representation in clinical trial research, Black Americans are encouraged to enroll and inform friends and family members of the impact. Clinical trial representation from all communities, with a particular emphasis on Black Americans, is essential for leveling the playing field to address disparities in health care.

Taking part in the Cleveland Brain Study not only aids researchers in potentially reshaping the course of brain disease research and treatment but also benefits enrollees. Participants will receive yearly complimentary check-ups and health monitoring; which in our uncertain economic climate, could serve as a compelling incentive.

The importance of diversity in clinical trial research

In addition to the racial health disparities that include socioeconomic concerns like access to health care, environment, and racial bias, to name a few, ongoing research indicates additional factors at play related to the prevalence of brain disease in Black Americans.

A recent study published in Nature Neuroscience has revealed that genes linked to African ancestry may impact specific brain cells in a manner that heightens the susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Research also indicates that Alzheimer’s disproportionately affects older Black Americans; two to three times higher among older Black Americans than their older, non-Hispanic white counterparts.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, over 25,000 Black Americans are diagnosed with seizures or epilepsy annually, with a higher likelihood of diagnosis compared to white Americans. Black Americans also face an elevated risk of SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy), exemplified by the tragic death of mixed-race actor, Cameron Boyce. Boyce, who had epilepsy, died in his sleep in 2019 at the age of twenty. In interviews after his death, Boyces’ parents told the press they hadn’t even heard of SUDEP before his death; thus research and awareness are key.

The Cleveland Clinic Brain Study offers a glimmer of hope for future treatment and prevention of debilitating conditions. By focusing on enrolling Black participants, the study’s impact is amplified to ensure that the findings are relevant and helpful to all communities.

To learn more or apply for the study visit the Cleveland Clinic Brain Study sign-up page.

 

Source: blackdoctor.org, Marie Bentley

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