Exploring dementia in the South Asian community

Research project: Dementia in South Asians – addressing inequalities and investigating mechanisms 

Lead Investigator: Dr Naaheed Mukadam

  • Institution: University College London 
  • Grant type: Senior Fellowship
  • Duration: 48 months
  • Amount: £396,435

Why did we fund this research?

Comments from our Research Network volunteers:

'I think it is important to fully understand the differences ethnicity and community has on the dementia.'

'I feel this study will not only allow us to implement strategies, targeted to those communities, but also to analyse sufficient data to compare and contrast between the groups and identify common trends.'

Project summary    

Despite the fact that South Asia holds a quarter of the world’s population, most of our understanding of dementia is based on studies in European populations.  We already know that the factors which increase our risk of developing dementia vary between ethnic groups.

Dr Mukadam will be identifying and comparing environmental risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and the genetic risk factor, the APOE4 gene variant, to understand more about the risk factors that affect the prevalence of dementia in this ethnic group. 

The background 

The number of people with dementia is increasing worldwide, particularly in low and middle income countries where 58% of all people with dementia are living. However, historically research into the causes of dementia has been studied in European populations  whose risk factors differ from other populations. 

We know that heart and circulatory diseases effect ethnic groups differently and comparing these groups has helped researchers to understand more about how these diseases develop and the genes that play a role in them.

With a distinct lack of research done in this rapidly growing population, Dr Mukadam believes this approach could be useful to further strengthen dementia research. 

What does this project involve?

The research team will use information collected during routine doctors’ visits and research studies from people with dementia in both the UK and South Asia. 

Our researchers will analyse this invaluable data to answer questions like:

  • How common dementia is in different ethnic groups
  • Whether the effect of environmental risk factors on dementia varies between them
  • And how common the top genetic risk factors for dementia are in these groups.       

How will this project help people with dementia?

Investigating the effects of environmental and genetic risk factors between ethnic groups provides us with an opportunity to gain greater insight into why and how dementia develops in different groups of people.

Ultimately this could help us to identify new potential targets to treat and prevent dementia.

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