Study: There is a Way to Tell if Your Baby Has a Genetic Risk for Alzheimer's


Cerebral_lobesTrue story: I once had a friend who refused to wear deodorant because she was afraid of getting Alzheimer’s. It was an interesting excuse and she apparently did not get the memo that the link between antiperspirants that contain aluminum was proven NOT to cause Alzheimer’s. This person had quite a phobia about the debilitating disease that attacks the brain. I’ve since lost touch with this particular person, but I bet her ears would completely perk up if she heard of this new study.

Researchers at the Brown University and Banner Alzheimer’s Institute “have found that infants who carry a gene associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease tend to have differences in brain development compared to children without the gene.” For those keeping track at home, the gene in question is a variant called APOE-E4.

The researchers studied 162 healthy children to see if they could discover if risks for Alzheimer’s could be found early on. They did DNA test and MRIs and made an important discovery.

“They found that children who carry the APOE-E4 gene tended to have increased brain growth in areas in the frontal lobe, and decreased growth in areas in several areas in the middle and rear of the brain,” the Science Daily reports. “The decreased growth was found in areas that tend to be affected in elderly patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.”

This APOE-E4 variant is present in about 25% of the U.S. population. But before you start to freak out, not everyone who has the APOE-E4 variant will develop Alzheimer’s. They did note that “60 percent of people who develop the disease have at least one copy of the E4 gene.”

This is an important step for researchers to see how Alzheimer’s develops. “It may sound scary that we could detect these brain differences in infants,” said Dr. Eric Reiman, the executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Arizona. “But it is our sincere hope that an understanding of the earliest brain changes involved in the predisposition to Alzheimer’s will help researchers find treatments to prevent the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease — and do so long before these children become senior citizens.”

One thing is for sure: the more that researchers know about this disease, the better.

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