OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Sarah Ocañas received a $248,000 grant from the Alzheimer’s Association for research. She’s set to look into whether an estrogen boost can delay or possibly prevent the disease in post-menopausal women.

“The focus of my lab is trying to understand what causes those sex differences in Alzheimer’s disease,” Ocañas said. “Females tend to get Alzheimer’s disease more often. They have worse presentation. But males with the disease tend to die more quickly.”

It’s a bit of a deeper dive for Ocañas. She said recent research points to menopausal hormone decline as a reason why women get the disease more often and have worse symptoms. So, her research is looking into the relationship between Alzheimer’s and estrogen depletion. Current drugs for treatment also appear to show some promise, but they may not be as effective in women as they are for men.

“What may be driving this difference in efficacy and can we create some preclinical models that take into account the hormonal changes that occur during menopause so that we can predict who treatment may work on?” she said.

She’s the first scientist in Oklahoma to receive this type of grant and it’s only given to a few promising scientists across the country, according to officials with the foundation. With that, Ocañas is looking to take advantage of it.

“I want to see more personalized medicine approaches where somebody who may have genetic risk factors goes into a clinic and they’re able to get tested for their genes,” she said. “They can have their hormone level changes assessed and then they can really tailor the treatment approach to that individual.”

Ocañas said most people living with the disease are post-menopausal women. The lab is also looking into whether hormone replacement therapy is beneficial for women with genetic risk factors linked to Alzheimer’s. KFOR’s own Galen Culver did a story in November of 2022 on Ocañas’s unique path to leading her own Alzheimer’s research team.

You can find more on that here.