An Early Test For Genetic Alzheimer's Just Jumped Its First Hurdle

ApoE4 is a mutant gene known to be a risk factor for Alzheimer's Disease. A new study conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London has discovered that ApoE4 is responsible for hyperactivity in the hippocampus area of the brain in younger persons, as young as 20.

The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for forming memories and for spatial orientation. In Alzheimer's disease, the hippocampus is one of the first areas of the brain to be damaged, and its effects are seen early in Alzheimer's by disorientation of the patient... an inability to retrace one's steps or no awareness of how they came to a particular place.

The brain scans of the subjects in the Oxford/Imperial study show that the same mutant gene, the ApoE4, is present in the hippocampus and hyperactive long before Alzheimer's would be anticipated.  This is the first study to make the observation and an important one, as one-fourth of persons who carry one ApoE4 gene are four times more likely to get Alzheimer's disease; if two ApoE4 genes are present, the chances of developing Alzheimer's are 10 times more likely.

Oxford University researcher, Dr Clare Mackay said: "These are exciting first steps towards a tantalising prospect: a simple test that will be able to distinguish who will go on to develop Alzheimer's."

In actuality, not all persons with the ApoE4 gene will develop Alzheimer's; no one can predict who.  But identifying the presence of the "rogue" gene early can help persons with the gene to obtain early treatment, when it becomes available, and to make immediate lifestyle changes, if they so choose.

BBC News; image Wikipedia

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