Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It is a progressive disease that is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States (1). While there may be treatments to slow the dementia process, scientists continue to work hard to find a cure for the deadly disease. They also hope to determine causes for the development of the plaques and tangles that are the suspected killers of nerve cells in the brain, the death of which results in memory failure and other Alzheimer’s symptoms.
In recent news, scientists have found a genetic variant called APOE4 that makes tau tangles- aggregates and twisted tangles of the protein tau- worse. It was previously known that people who carry the E4 version of the APOE gene are at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease due to increased buildup of amyloid-beta proteins. However, the medical community recognized that this buildup alone could not cause the development of Alzheimer’s. Now scientists have found that the product of the E4 version of the APOE gene also increases brain inflammation and kills brain cells. This is a significant discovery in the field of Alzheimer’s research. These results suggest that the buildup must occur in conjunction with tangles of the protein tau for Alzheimer’s symptoms to manifest.
Much more work and experimentation need to be be done to fully understand the microbiology of APOE4 and how it functions in the brain. However, this new discovery was described by molecular neurobiologist Sangram Sisodia of the University of Chicago as “super tight” (1). Hopefully, this finding will lead to many more valuable insights to help researchers combat this deadly disease.
- Saey, Tina. (2017). Gene variant linked to Alzheimer’s disease is a triple threat. [online] Science News. Available at: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/gene-variant-linked-alzheimers-disease-triple-threat [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].