New research findings suggest how the ApoE4 Alzheimer’s gene leads to brain plaques. If you’re new to the topic, having one or two copies of the ApoE4 variant renders you magnitudes likelier to have Alzheimer’s. (You can get tested for the gene variant on a site like 23andme.com, as I did.)
The precise behavior of ApoE4, as opposed to the behavior of the non-threatening ApoE3 and E2, hasn’t been understood until now. In this week’s summary of the new research from the NIH website:
The researchers found that mice whose bodies made only ApoE4, or made no ApoE at all, had a leaky blood-brain barrier. With the barrier compromised, harmful proteins in the blood made their way into the mice’s brains, and after several weeks, the researchers were able to detect loss of small blood vessels, changes in brain function, and a loss of connections between brain cells.
Luckily, there are potential new drug targets indicated by their research that strengthen the blood vessels.
This is huge news.
The original research article appeared in Nature (and was picked up all over the science news and blogs this week). I only hope those mice really have brains like humans, because they’re our guinea pigs for all of this work. :-)