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Study Finds Gene Pair that Causes Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's concept | Image by atlascompany/Freepik

A recent study has identified a gene pair that is thought to cause certain types of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study from the Sant Pau Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, marks the first time researchers have determined a genetic cause for the disease that gradually destroys memory and thinking skills, reported the Associated Press. For years, a gene called APOE4 has been known to be a risk factor for the disease, but researchers now believe that people who carry a pair of these genes are at a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Juan Fortea, who led the study, said the findings have “profound implications,” according to AP.

Most people who develop Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65, but those with the gene pairing may begin showing symptoms 10 years earlier. Approximately 15% of Alzheimer’s sufferers have this dual gene pairing. It was previously thought that just 1% of early-onset Alzheimer’s patients had genetic causes, but the new revelations have changed that notion.

“This reconceptualization that we’re proposing affects not a small minority of people,” said Fortea, reported The New York Times. Fortea explained that the new finding would mean that about 15 to 20% of cases “can be tracked back to a cause, and the cause is in the genes.”

According to the study’s authors, not all people with the dual gene will develop Alzheimer’s. Fortea said that people with parents who both developed Alzheimer’s, particularly at a young age, are most at risk for developing the disease.

Researchers now need to find a suitable treatment for those who carry the dual genes. The drug Leqembi, which has been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, is generally not given to patients with dual APOE4 genes because of an increased risk of brain swelling and brain bleeding, reported AP.

Most of the 500 people who participated in the study were of European ancestry, a significant drawback that could limit the application of the findings. A separate study by Dr. Michael Greicius, a neurologist at Stanford University School of Medicine, found significant risk differences between white and black people regarding APOE4, per NYT.

While the new information means that physicians can accurately identify Alzheimer’s risks before symptoms appear, Greicus said that people should not get tested for the gene pairing unless they are showing symptoms, as the knowledge would “only cause grief at this point,” particularly as there are no treatments available and no current trials to find a solution to the increased risk factor.

Obesity — a chronic worldwide problem, as extensively reported on by The Dallas Express — is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

“Mid-life obesity is one of many health risks associated with increased risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, as does related health problems like diabetes. It is the most significant modifiable risk factor for dementia impacting the American population,” Dr. Glen Finney, board member of the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, told Healthline.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, “Obesity can also lower a person’s resilience to the damage in the brain that Alzheimer’s disease causes, leading to worse symptoms and faster disease progression. Obesity can also lead to chronic inflammation in the body, which can have knock-on effects on the brain.”

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