Despite years of intensive research, the reasons why people get Alzheimer’s dementia in their old age are still largely unknown. Doctors suspect that a combination of lifestyle, external factors, and genetic risks are likely causes. The most significant genetic risk factor is attributable to hereditary mutations affecting the APOE gene that “Apolipoprotein E” (APOE) needs to function. The latter is a protein that is critical for fat metabolism and nerve cells. Three variants of this APOE gene are known to exist. According to scientists, the most common form is an indication of average risk for Alzheimer’s disease. One of the two rarer variants indicates increased risk, while the other, a reduced risk.
Researchers from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and the Ruhr University Bochum have shown the extent to which the gene influences memory in young adults. They did this in their study of 82 young adults. “We were interested in finding out if and how the different gene variations affect brain function. That’s why we examined the brains of young adults in a brain scanner while they had to solve a task that tested their memory,” explains Dr. Hweeling Lee. She heads the current study at the DZNE in Bonn, Germany.
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