Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease in the African American Population

Black/African American (AA) individuals have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) than White non-Hispanic persons of European ancestry (EUR) for reasons that may include economic disparities, cardiovascular health, quality of education, and biases in the methods used to diagnose AD. AD is also heritable, and some of the differences in risk may be due to genetics. Many AD-associated variants have been identified by candidate gene studies, genome-wide association studies (GWAS), and genome-sequencing studies. However, most of these studies have been performed using EUR cohorts. In this paper, we review the genetics of AD and AD-related traits in AA individuals. Importantly, studies of genetic risk factors in AA cohorts can elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying AD risk in AA and other populations. In fact, such studies are essential to enable reliable precision medicine approaches in persons with considerable African ancestry. Furthermore, genetic studies of AA cohorts allow exploration of the ways the impact of genes can vary by ancestry, culture, and economic and environmental disparities. They have yielded important gains in our knowledge of AD genetics, and increasing AA individual representation within genetic studies should remain a priority for inclusive genetic study design.