Researchers May Identify An Alzheimer’s-Inducing Gene in Infants

A new suggests that genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease could be detected quite effectively as early as infancy. Researchers examined 162 healthy babies and found the APOE-e4, a type of inherited gene, in the brain of 60 of them. This could increase the risk of suffering Alzheimer’s disease after age 65. Compared to other babies, those with the APOE-e4 gene have slower brain growth in specific areas, including the back and middle of the brain. These are the same regions that are affected on elderly with Alzheimer’s disease. The research team said that this finding is preliminary and the presence of APOE-e4 gene doesn’t have to be indicated as an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. This means, brain growth difference don’t mean that specific babies will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

While there’s an indication that the APOE-e4 gene is linked with unusual brain changes; there are still questions on how this gene could affect the overall brain development. It is also not yet concluded how these brain changes could relate to the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease development and whether early treatments that are aimed specifically to address these changes could prevent the disease. With more studies, researchers could have a better insight on how the APOE-e4 could contribute to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The APOE-e4 gene is found on approximately a quarter of the United States population and not all of them will have Alzheimer’s disease. But a higher presence of the gene could indicate a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

It is not yet known how APOE-e4 could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but it includes other factors like exposure in the environment and the involvement of other genes. They may work together to trigger changes in the brain that eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no sign that kids with APOE-e4 gene experience issues with their cognitive ability.

Researchers are still not sure what the APOE-e4 gene does, but it is hypothesized that the gene has an involvement in the condition of myelin sheath, which insulates the nerves in the spinal cord and brain. Neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s typically damage the myelin sheath and it’s quite likely that people with E4 allele are affected reduced maintenance of myelin sheath. Once impaired, it’s difficult for the myelin sheath to heal completely. In essence, it is theorized that the APOE-e4 gene could have an involvement in the development of myelin sheath earlier in life.