INDIANAPOLIS - A team of researchers led by an Indiana University School of Medicine neuroscientist has received the university's largest single grant from the National Institutes of Health. The nearly $45 million grant will fund a five-year national research study on a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study is being led by IU neurologist Liana Apostolova. The Longitudinal Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease Study, or LEADS, aims to provide a foundation that may lead to new therapies for the disease, which has previously resisted effective treatment, according to IU.

The study will follow 400 participants with early-onset Alzheimer's, which occurs in people younger than 65, as well as 100 healthy "control" patients. The grant adds to $7.6 million in funding awarded last year for planning and other startup activities for the study.

"Early-onset Alzheimer's impacts people who are often gainfully employed and raising families," said Apostolova, a professor of Alzheimer's disease research at IU School of Medicine. "The patients' spouses may have to quit working to take care of them, or the children may end up being responsible for taking care of their affected parent instead of going to college. It can be a disastrous situation for the family."

Apostolova will partner with researchers from the Alzheimer's Association, Harvard Medical School, and the University of California San Francisco. Maria Carrillo, the chief science officer at the Alzheimer's Association says one possible result of the research could be whether early-onset and late-onset Alzheimer's are the same disease. 

"If true, that means we can effectively conduct Alzheimer's clinical trials in people younger than 65," said Carrillo. "That would increase the pool of potential research volunteers. And these younger individuals generally have fewer age-related health conditions that add variability to a trial and often make the results harder to interpret."

IU says a total of 20 institutions throughout the country will participate in the patient recruitment and scientific analysis of the study.