Rudy Tanzi to Study Why Women Get Alzheimer’s More Than Men

Roughly two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are female.

Rudy Tanzi

Tanzi, right, with friend and fellow doctor Deepak Chopra/Photo courtesy of Rudolph Tanzi

Rudy Tanzi, one of the medical field’s leading authorities on Alzheimer’s, has been tapped to answer a big question: Why do women get the disease so much more frequently than men?

Rotary and Cure Alzheimer’s Fund announced the project, which they’ll fund with a $375,000 grant, on Tuesday. The two organizations have tasked Tanzi, director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, with looking for genetic and other risk factors that predispose women to Alzheimer’s.

The research can’t come soon enough. Estimates have shown that roughly two-thirds of senior Alzheimer’s patients are women, and that women in their 60s are actually twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they are breast cancer.

Despite those alarming numbers, however, little is known about why they’re as high as they are. This project hopes to change that, by looking at sex-related factors that influence who gets Alzheimer’s, when they get it, and how fast it progresses.

The Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has also taken an interest in women’s Alzheimer’s, and is studying how the condition affects male and female brains differently. Romney hosted Move for Minds, an event to raise awareness for women’s Alzheimer’s, this past May.

“There was this huge awareness with breast cancer,” Romney said in May. “I think it’s now time for there to be another awareness program, that Alzheimer’s is really a silent threat to women.”