PSU math and stats professor's $500K grant to help in fight against Alzheimer's
Author: Cristina Rojas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Posted: November 21, 2018

A Portland State University math and statistics professor has been awarded nearly $500,000 to continue his work as part of the largest family history study of Alzheimer's disease in the world.

Bruno Jedynak's funding was a subaward of a larger $18 million National Institutes of Health renewal grant for the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention. The study involves more than 1,580 middle-aged participants, a majority of whom have had a parent with Alzheimer's and are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

Patients are tested for possible biomarkers, such as brain changes, and followed for years to see whether these markers signal the disease is already underway or if they are at risk of developing it — information that could allow for earlier treatment that might slow or stop the disease.

Jedynak, a researcher and computational mathematician in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has developed algorithms and statistical models to help scientists visualize the disease's progression.

"Alzheimer's is very puzzling because it seems that when people develop dementia, their brain is already extremely damaged to a point where it's too late for any treatment," Jedynak said. "The idea is to go back and understand what goes on clinically before they actually develop dementia."

He said Alzheimer's is believed to begin as many as 20 years before it's progressed far enough to produce the symptoms that lead to a diagnosis.

"I'm combining the measurements and drawing pictures that are statistically meaningful of what goes on in the progression of the disease from a healthy subject to a subject that is going to develop the disease," Jedynak said. "Because we observe these people at different time points, we are also able to assess their speed of progression."

The grant runs through 2023.

Photo caption: Bruno Jedynak uses algorithms and statistical models to help scientists visualize the disease's progression, as shown in the figure.