Student from HSC’s School of Biomedical Sciences is lead author of paper published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Ann Abraham Daniel
Ann Abraham Daniel

A team from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, in partnership with the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium, recently published key study results in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Ann Abraham Daniel, a student in HSC’s School of Biomedical Sciences, was the lead author of the article, “Hypermethylation at CREBBP Is Associated with Cognitive Impairment in a Mexican-American Cohort,” which was published in the April issue of the journal.

“Like all researchers, we were hoping for the best, but the very fact that there were some significant results that we saw was very exciting,” Abraham Daniel said. “Our whole hypothesis is that environmental factors play a role in cognitive findings in different groups.”

Working directly with Dr. Robert Barber, a professor in HSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Dr. Nicole Phillips, an assistant professor in HSC’s SBS, the team used

DNA methylation patterns among about 300 Mexican-American and about 250 non-Hispanic white participants enrolled in the consortium. These participants had a clinical diagnosis of normal cognition or cognitive impairment — mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. The study showed a strong association between cognitive impairment and DNA methylation in the CREB Binding Protein gene among Mexican-American participants.

The CREBBP gene provides instructions for making CREB binding protein, which regulates the activity of many genes in tissues throughout the body. Mutations in CREBBP are known to cause Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, the symptoms of which include cognitive dysfunction.

“We are hoping in the future that we can give ethnic risk profiles that can help Mexican-Americans know their risk for Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment,” Barber said. “They are the fastest-aging segment of the U.S. population that develops Alzheimer’s disease at a younger age, and if we don’t have any more knowledge or treatments, we are going to be in trouble.”

These results are currently being expanded and replicated in samples collected from participants enrolled in Dr. Sid O’Bryant’s Health & Aging Brain Study — Health Disparities. O’Bryant, the executive director of HSC’s Institute for Translational Research and a TCOM professor, received in October a five-year, $148.78 million grant to conduct the first-ever large-scale study of the biology of Alzheimer’s disease within a health disparities framework across the three largest racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. – African-American, Hispanic and non-Hispanic white.

“We are excited about the potential of the ongoing work because the Healthy Aging Brain Study — Health Disparities cohort has several significant advantages,” Barber said. “These include a larger and more diverse sample, and the collection of a much wider array of data that include amyloid and tau PET scans, whole genome sequencing and DNA methylation profiles. With these additional data types and broader participant diversity, the potential for additional discoveries is great.”

“This is really exciting and a big honor for Ann,” he added.

The paper is the first first-author publication for Abraham Daniel, who is slated to graduate from HSC in May and used data from Phillips’ lab for the paper.

Approximately 5.8 million people in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s disease – the sixth-leading cause of death in the country, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is estimated that 500,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the U.S. annually.

To request the full text of the article or more information, contact Diana Murray, IOS Press, 718-640-5678 or To learn more about the Healthy Aging Brain Study — Health Disparities study, call 817-735-2963.

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