Yen-Ching Karen Chen, Associate Professor
Lab of Geriatric and Genomic Epidemiology Research
Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine,
College of Public Health, National Taiwan University
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  Our recent research includes epidemiologic studies on dementia, cognitive function, osteoporosis and prostate cancer, which are summarized below.
  •   By the end of 2013, the proportion of elderly population was greater than 12% in Taiwan and our aging rate ranks the 2nd in the world. Because of the elevation of living standard and the elongation of lifespan, dementia become an important health issue in the elderly. In the USA, dementia is the 6th leading cause of death among the elderly in 2013. In Taiwan, the number of demented persons has been greater than 170,000 in the elderly. Base on a recent large-scale survey in Taiwan (2011-2012), 8% of elders (people aged 65 or older) have all dementia (very mild dementia plus dementia with Clinical Dementia Rating ≧ 1); this number increased to 22% for elders aged 85 to 89. The early diagnosis of dementia is not easy and the effective treatment of this complex disease is currently unavailable. Alzheimer's disease is the most common neurodegeneration disease and subtype of dementia. Because the average survival time for patients with is about 8 to 10 years, taking care of demented people introduce a heavy burden to their families as well as the society and the medical system.
      Chronic inflammation is an innate immune response. Research has related chronic inflammation to the risk of dementia. However, genetic epidemiologic studies in dementia are incomplete and data are sparse in Asian populations. Because genetic markers in blood are useful tools to predict the risk of dementia, we have collaborated with 3 teaching hospitals to assess the association of polymorphisms of inflammatory genes and the risk of dementia. In addition to candidate-gene studies, we also have a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on Alzheimer’s disease in Taiwanese elders.
      Dementia is a complex disease, its occurrence related to clinical factors, genetic susceptibility, lifestyle (e.g. physical activities and diet) and environmental factors (e.g., air pollution). Therefore, we hope to integrate various factors for predicting the risk of dementia at an earlier stage, i.e., mild cognitive impairment or the preclinical stage.
  •    DART at National Taiwan University (NTU) is a multi-center case-control study in Taipei, Taiwan. A total of 938 participants aged 60 or older (n=292 Alzheimer’s disease (AD), n= 143 small-vessel vascular dementia (VaD), and n=503 healthy controls) were included from 2007 to 2011. This study has genome-wide (using array plates for CHB) and candidate-gene data (including APOE e4 status and 39 SNPs of 12 genes), information of demography, comorbidities, and leisure activities.
       GAAIN (The Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network) is funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, USA. It has developed the first operational online integrated research platform, which links scientists, shared data, and sophisticated analysis tools. Our Dementia and Aging Research of Taiwan (DART) has joint GAAIN in September in 2016. We are looking forward to more collaborations via data sharing. For those who are interested in collaboration or data sharing, please contact Dr. Yen-Ching Karen Chen at
  •   About 10 million and 34 million of Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, respectively. Among them, 80% are women who are at high risk of fracture. Osteoporosis is a common health issue among postmenopausal women and over 50% of this population has increased risk of fracture. World Health Organization reported that osteoporosis has been an important health issue secondary to coronary heart disease. Although osteoporosis is preventable and curable, no clear symptoms could be identified before the occurrence of fracture, which is associated with higher mortality. Family studies found that 30% to 80% of variations of bone mineral density were attributable to genetic factors. However, previous candidate-gene association studies observed inconsistent findings. Therefore, the etiology of osteoporosis remains unclear. Recently, GWASs found that some single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were associated with bone mineral density and osteoporosis. In addition to genetic markers, our lab also look into metabolome, various clinical factors and lifestyle in relation to the risk of low bone mineral density.
  •   Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most common non-skin cancer and the 2nd cancer cause of death among men in the USA. PCa is the 6th common cancer and its incidence remains elevated in Taiwan (Cancer Registry System, 2011). Since 2003, we have collaborated with Harvard School of Public Health and Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School on the prostate cancer project. Several articles have been published based on the data from Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) with a recent work on the interactions between TLR4 genetic polymorphisms and the infection of Trichomonas vaginalis. We also have papers for the Prostate Cohort Consortium Project, National Cancer Institute, USA. Recently, we had a PCa international collaborative project that was led by us, this meta-analysis assessed genetic polymorphisms of TLR4 and PCa has been published in 2014, which may help unraveling the etiology of PCa.
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