Sex and gender differences in dementia
Center for Alzheimer Research (CAR) has started a working group on sex and gender differences in dementia. The group is led by Assistant professors Shireen Sindi and Daniel Ferreira at the Division for Clinical Geriatrics. It's their first working group and they are excited to see how this group will evolve.
Why have you started this working group? How does it relate to CAR's goals and visions?
”We have started this working group as an attractive initiative to pursue some of CAR’s goals, for example to increase interactions among CAR affiliates; to improve our collective knowledge and scientific/social impact on specific topics; and to support researchers with their goals and provide a solid platform for dissemination and reach out of their work. We thought that starting working groups on specific topics would be a good vehicle to accomplish those goals. The vision of CAR is to serve as a reference center for Alzheimer's and dementia research at Karolinska Institutet. We hope that this working group will help to put this important topic on the front page, driving some work that can become reference in the field.”
How much knowledge do we have in this subject area today?
”For decades, it has been known that there are sex differences in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately two thirds of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are women. While the longer life expectancy among women may contribute to these differences, it does not entirely explain these observed numbers. Research has shown that men and women have different patterns of risk and protective factors across the lifespan. These include demographic factors such education, vascular and metabolic factors, and lifestyle and psychosocial factors including depression and alcohol consumption, but it is unclear how these factors or their interactions differentially contribute to increased dementia risk in both sexes. Similarly, gene-environment interaction may be manifested differently among men and women. Recent research has been using experimental animal models, neuroimaging and biomarkers to better understand the underlaying mechanisms. While there have been insightful advancements in the field, many important questions still remain. We also need more knowledge on how we can tailor prevention initiatives for both sexes, according to their risk profiles.”
What are the group's primary goals?
”The overall goal is to create a platform that promotes new research collaborations, networking and exchange of research ideas, which result in concrete novel outcomes. These can be for example joint research studies, grant applications, publications (e.g. review articles, original research, commentaries), seminars and conference symposiums, among others. The aim is also to engage in knowledge dissemination to relevant stakeholders such as researchers and funding agencies, and to translate clinically relevant findings. The group also aims to promote educational opportunities and support younger investigators through offering peer feedback, training opportunities and guidance.”
What do your upcoming activities look like?
”The group had its kick-off meeting on 10th May 2021. In total, 21 members participated with representation from several universities in Sweden and England. We started with welcoming remarks to provide a context for the work group, and had introductions to meet all members and learn about their research. We then had an inspiring brainstorming session, where members highlighted some research gaps and provided innovative research ideas. The group agreed to have monthly meetings, in addition to a platform for information sharing and communication between meetings. During the next meeting in June, we will have short presentations on sex-specific risk/protective hormonal factors (e.g. estrogen, testosterone, hormone replacement therapy, history of pregnancies), followed by discussions to identify specific research gaps and how they may investigated by this CAR working group. Interested researchers/clinicians can still join the group!”
Do you have a plan for how long the group will last?
”We do not have a limited time frame. As long as the group is willing to work together on collaborative initiatives, we are willing to continue leading and coordinating this working group. We truly believe that we have a unique platform to examine sex and gender in the context of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and we hope to maximise its potential.”
How have you selected the participants and who is part of the group today?
”We have announced the initiative through various channels (e.g. email, announcements at Wednesdays CAR morning coffees), and we have an open and welcoming approach to including members. Anyone who conducts research on sex and gender differences, or who is willing to engage in this research area is welcome to participate. We also extended the invitation to colleagues at other departments at KI, as well as to collaborators at other universities and research institutes. We are glad that we have a heterogenous group, including students, postdoctoral fellows, and more senior researchers and group leaders, providing important insights at different research levels. Our members also have diverse educational backgrounds and areas of research expertise, including animal research, epidemiology, psychology, clinical research, neuroimaging, among others. This offers the team valuable interdisciplinary perspectives.”
Center for Alzheimer Research (CAR)
”CAR is a Hub for all research on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias conducted at Karolinska Institutet. The way CAR works is quite dynamic and is always aimed to convey our affiliates’ work with regards to science, education and clinical aspects. The structure of CAR was updated last December 2020, with the start of the new director, Daniel Ferreira, and a new steering committee (Chengxuan Qiu, Dorota Religa and Per Nilsson). Since then, CAR has organised numerous activities. In a weekly basis we engage our affiliates to meet each other at morning coffees, every Wednesday. We also organise events and webinars, and much more. We have very exciting plans that we will reveal as the year advances. Please keep yourself posted by following our twitter (@CAR_Karolinska) or visiting our website. We are really putting a lot of focus on our affiliates - CAR is currently made for them.”