Study suggests earliest brain changes associated with the genetic risk of Alzheimer's disease

Nov 30, 2010

What are the earliest brain changes associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease? A scientific report published in the October Journal of Alzheimer's Disease finds reduced activity of an energy-generating enzyme in deceased young adult brain donors who carry a common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease—before the protein changes or microscopic abnormalities commonly associated with the disease and almost five decades before the age at which they might have developed memory and thinking problems.

Arizona researchers studied tissue from a vulnerable part of the brain in 40 young adults who had died and donated their brains for research. 15 of the brain donors carried a common factor for , known as APOE4, and 25 of the brain donors did not. With the exception of a person with two copies of the APOE4 gene, none of the deceased young adults had the microscopic abnormalities or elevated amyloid protein levels long associated with Alzheimer's disease. However, the activity of an enzyme known as cytochrome oxidase, an energy-making enzyme found in the power-packs of the brain cells, was slightly reduced in the group at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease.

A team of researchers from several institutions in the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium had previously used a brain imaging technique called PET to detect reduced brain activity in living young adults at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease. They had also shown reductions in cytochrome oxidase activity and the expression of energy-making genes in deceased brain donors with Alzheimer's symptoms. Based on these findings, they had proposed that individuals at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease might have alterations in energy utilization, or some other abnormality in the mitochondria (the power packs inside each cell) long before the progressive changes associated with Alzheimer's disease had even started.

"Our findings suggest that mitochondrial contribute to the risk of Alzheimer's disease," said Jon Valla, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Midwestern University and the study's lead author. He conducted the cytochrome oxidase activity analysis at the Barrow Neurological Institute. "While our findings do not suggest ways in which to predict or reduce a person's risk at this time, they provide a foundation for studies seeking to do just that."

Explore further: Ebola expert calls for European anti-virus 'corps'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gene tests and brain imaging reveal early dementia

Mar 06, 2007

Dementia diseases develop insidiously and are generally discovered when the memory has already started to deteriorate. New research form Karolinska Institutet shows, however, that approaching Alzheimer's can be detected several ...

Scientists find new cause of Alzheimer's

Apr 19, 2006

Belgium researchers say they are the first to demonstrate the quantity of amyloid protein in brain cells is a major factor of Alzheimer's disease.

Education protects against pre-Alzheimer's memory loss

Oct 20, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – People with more education and more mentally demanding occupations may have protection against the memory loss that precedes Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the October 21, 2008, ...

Recommended for you

Ebola expert calls for European anti-virus 'corps'

Dec 26, 2014

Europe will be "vulnerable" if it does not regard viruses as a "national security issue" like the United States, the microbiologist who discovered Ebola said in an interview published Friday.

In Liberia, Ebola steals Christmas

Dec 26, 2014

The Ebola epidemic has cast a dark shadow over Christmas this year in Liberia, where small businesses are especially feeling the pinch.

Firm recalls caramel apples amid listeria fears

Dec 25, 2014

A Missouri firm is recalling its Happy Apple brand caramel apples because of the potential that they could be contaminated with listeria. The recall comes after at least three deaths and at least 29 illnesses in 10 states ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.