Ryan Powell, PhD, MA, leads UW study linking past military service to Alzheimer's disease

Ryan Powell, MD, PhD

A new study led by Ryan Powell, PhD, MA, assistant professor, Geriatrics and Gerontology, demonstrates a higher prevalence of two abnormal proteins—amyloid plaques and tau tangles—in the brains of deceased military veterans, suggesting a connection between past military service and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, looked at brain biopsy data from 597 males who died between 1987 and 2018 and donated their brains to Alzheimer’s disease research. Levels of both proteins were higher in the brains of the 358 males with records of military service.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to link a history of military service to Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology, the gold standard for diagnosing Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Powell, who is also data science director of the UW Center for Health Disparities Research. “This has important implications for the Veterans Health Administration since it indicates an urgent need to screen veterans and to target therapies to those at greatest risk.”

Read the full story from UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Banner: Ryan Powell, PhD, MA, assistant professor, Geriatrics and Gerontology, and lead author on the new study. Credit: Department of Medicine.