The Alzheimer’s Association has awarded Florin Despa, associate professor at the University of Kentucky, a 2015 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant entitled Role of Vascular Metabolic Factors in the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia.

The grant is $250,000 over three years.

Despa, who has a Ph.D. in Molecular Physics from the Institute of Physics in Bucharest, Romania, was a Research Instructor and Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Medicine. He came to Lexington in 2013 to teach and research the pathological effects of amylin hypersecretion, common in pre-diabetic insulin resistance. Research has shown diabetics are at higher-risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. He is determined to find more links between the two diseases.

“I am honored to be awarded this important research grant from the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Despa. “Our work focuses on Amylin, a peptide hormone, which is found not only in the pancreas, but in the brain. Those with higher Amylin levels in the blood are prone to Alzheimer’s disease and the accelerating rate is higher. This is important research because it shows the interactions between the two and that other risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease can happen outside the brain.”

The Alzheimer’s Association International Grants Program seeks to improve quality of life for everyone affected by Alzheimer’s disease. This includes generating new insights about the basic biology of Alzheimer’s and other dementias and using these findings to create new approaches to risk assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention, plus enhancements to care and support for those now living with the disease.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It kills more Americans than diabetes and more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report. Nearly 70,000 of those affected are living in the state of Kentucky

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, having awarded more than $340 million to nearly 2,300 projects since 1982. Alzheimer’s Association research grants are intended to advance the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, help identify new treatment strategies, provide information to improve care for people with dementia and further knowledge of brain health and disease prevention.