Neuroscientists discover roles of gene linked to Alzheimer's – Alzheimer’s Society comments

People with a gene variant called APOE4 have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. However, little is known about why this version of the APOE gene increases our risk of Alzheimer’s.

This study of APOE4 and the more common form of the gene, APOE3 found that APOE4 promotes the accumulation of the beta amyloid proteins that cause the characteristic hallmark plaques seen in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

The researchers also found that they could eliminate the signs of Alzheimer's in brain cells with APOE4 by editing the gene to turn it into the APOE3 variant.

Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

'We know that our genes can affect our risk of developing dementia, though it’s very rare for our genes to be the sole cause of dementia.

'This study revealed a number of changes in brain cells linked to APOE4, a variant of the gene that could contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. By editing the gene from APOE4 to another form, APOE3, the researchers were able to reduce the signs of Alzheimer’s.

'Of the top ten causes of death dementia is the only one we can’t cure, prevent or even slow down. These new insights could help develop new targets for dementia, and while it’s not possible to change these genes in people currently, gene therapy is a promising area of research for the future.'