Hepatocyte Growth Factor and
Cognitive Impairment Risk
Growing up in North Carolina, Avery Campbell knew people affected by stroke and cognitive impairment. The southeastern U.S. is known as the “stroke belt” because of the high incidence stroke, related
cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment. For Campbell, this is personal: His maternal grandmother suffered a stroke, and both paternal grandparents had severe dementia.
“It was devastating to our family,” Campbell
said, “and stories like mine will only become more common. The prevalence of cognitive impairment is expected to balloon with increasing life expectancy, and it disproportionately affects minoritized communities.”
For his project, Campbell investigated cognitive impairment among Black versus White adults, among pre- versus postmenopausal women, and among men younger than versus older than age 55. He focused on the biomarker hepatocyte growth
factor (HGF), which plays a role in organ and vascular repair after injury. HGF level correlates with inflammatory conditions like vascular disease, and higher HGF levels are associated with stroke risk.
Campbell examined data from
an ongoing national study, Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS), which follows more than 30,000 Americans to understand why Black Americans and southerners have higher rates of cardiovascular diseases affecting brain
health. Campbell used HGF measurements in a nested case-control study of 1000 REGARDS participants, half with cognitive impairments and half without. He hypothesized that the association of HGF with cognitive impairment is greater in Black than
White adults, greater among younger than older men, and greater in premenopausal than postmenopausal women. Using the REGARDS data, he created regression models to test each hypothesis.
“Identifying and characterizing the relationship
between HGF and cognitive impairment is the first step towards exploring its utility in prevention, prognostication, and treatment,” Campbell said.
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