-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Dec. 6, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- People with a high-risk
gene for Alzheimer's disease can begin to have brain changes as
early as childhood, according to a new study.
The SORL1 gene is one of several associated with an increased
risk of late-onset Alzheimer's, the most common form of the
disease. SORL1 carries the code for a specific type of receptor
that helps recycle certain molecules in the brain before they
develop into beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is a protein associated
The gene is also involved in fat metabolism, which is linked to
a different "pathway" for developing Alzheimer's, the study authors
For the study, the researchers conducted brain scans of healthy
people aged 8 to 86. Study participants with a specific copy of
SORL1 had reductions in white matter connections that are important
for memory and higher thinking. This was true even in the youngest
The investigators then examined brain tissue from 189 dead
people who had not had Alzheimer's, who ranged in age from less
than 1 year to 92 years. Those with the specific copy of the SORL1
gene showed disruption in the code "translation" process.
Finally, the team analyzed brain tissue from 710 dead people,
aged 66 to 108. Most of them had mild cognitive [thinking]
impairment or Alzheimer's. The results showed that the SORL1 risk
gene was associated with the presence of beta-amyloid.
The study was published online recently in the journal
"We need to understand where, when and how these Alzheimer's risk genes affect the brain, by studying the biological pathways through which they work. Through this knowledge, we can begin to design interventions at the right time, for the right people," study leader Dr. Aristotle Voineskos, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said in a center news release.
He noted that a combination of risk factors -- unhealthy diet,
lack of exercise, smoking and high blood pressure combined with a
person's genetic profile -- all contribute to Alzheimer's risk.
"The gene has a relatively small effect, but the changes are reliable, and may represent one 'hit', among a pathway of hits required to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life," Voineskos said.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about
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