Two Recent Developments in Alzheimer’s Research

November 12, 2015

There is a huge rush for scientists to develop some treatment for Alzheimer’s disease before the  baby boomer generation moves into old age. Since age is one of the main risk factors, health officials are concerned that this fatal disease can become epidemic among the elderly. Scientists have recently discovered new information that may involve two different genes.


Researchers at Indiana University have identified an immune system gene that causes excess amyloid plaque buildup in the brains of Alzheimer patients. This plaque is thought to be a primary cause of the disease because it does not allow cell-to-cell synapses and may activate immune system cells that trigger inflammation and devour disabled cells. The gene is called IL1RAP and produces even more plaque build-up than a previously discovered gene called APOEe4. Those patients carrying the this particular gene have faster memory loss and more cognitive memory decline. Targeting this immune pathway may be a way to reduce the progression and fight Alzheimer’s disease.


Scientists at the State University of NY have found that women with the APOEe4 gene have a steeper decline in their BMI after age 70 than those without the gene. This adds to the growing evidence that excessive body weight may provide another link to Alzheimer’s disease. Most women gain weight from middle age until they reach their 70’s which is the norm. Once women reach 70, weight decreases on average due to aging, changes in body composition, energy metabolism, sensory changes, and changes in the brain that regulate body processes. However, those patients developing dementia have altered patterns. They may be overweight during mid-life and may lose weight more rapidly compared to those who do not have dementia.


Carrying a little extra weight as you age is protective against dementia and death. However, those carrying the APOEe4 gene experience steeper declines in BMI after age 70 even if they don’t develop dementia. This gives doctors a tool to intervene among those at risk for dementia. There is currently no therapy to reverse or stop the symptoms of dementia. Researchers are continuing their quest to solve the mystery and treat the disease.



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