08 April 2009

The risk of Alzheimer's disease can be predicted at a young age

Scientists have seen the beginnings of dementia in the young
Hyperactivity of the part of the brain that is responsible for memory may be a warning signal about the risk of dementia several decades before the onset of the disease, the BBC reports.

Previously, it was found that the presence of a certain variant of the gene, known as ApoE4, increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The presence of one variant of the ApoE4 gene increases the likelihood of Alzheimer's disease by four times, and the presence of two such genes – by 10 times. However, not all people with this type of gene will necessarily develop dementia.

Now scientists from Oxford University and Imperial College London University have linked a gene mutation of the same type with increased activity in an area of the brain called the hippocampus in young people. The results of this study are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Scientists believe that hyperactivity in the hippocampus leads to its depletion, and this increases the risk of dementia in old age. The researchers hope that their work will be the first step towards developing a simple way to identify people with an increased risk of dementia. Doctors will be able to offer these people timely treatment and recommend how to keep their wits sharp.

In their study, the researchers compared brain activity in 36 volunteers aged 20 to 35 years. In those of them who had the "wrong" gene, activity in the hippocampus was constantly increased, even at rest.

According to scientists, the results of the study are encouraging. "These are fascinating first steps that open up very tempting prospects: a simple test will allow you to determine who may have Alzheimer's disease in the future," explains Claire McKay from Oxford University.

Peter Nestor, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, urges caution in evaluating these results. "These findings are of great interest. However, this does not mean that Alzheimer's disease necessarily begins to develop in a group of young and healthy volunteers who took part in the experiment. To understand whether differences in brain activity in people with a type of ApoE4 gene can really serve as an indicator of the development of Alzheimer's disease over time, only new research will help," he pointed out.

According to Rebecca Wood, an employee of the Alzheimer's Foundation, the study by British scientists is a "significant achievement." "It brings us one step closer to being able to accurately predict who will develop Alzheimer's disease before external signs appear," she said. "However, we have not yet reached this stage: for people with a variant of the ApoE4 gene, there is indeed a greater risk of getting sick than the rest, but in most cases, Alzheimer's disease will not start in them. The causes of this disease are very complex and diverse: these are both genetic factors and the external environment. When all this is studied more, we will be able to help people reduce the risk of illness."

Clive Ballard, a member of the Alzheimer's Society, agrees with Rebecca Wood. "This study sets the stage for continuing work aimed at better understanding how brain function in young people may be related to their development of Alzheimer's disease over time," he said.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru08.04.2009

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