New research suggests the closer a person gets to the age at which their parent exhibited the first signs of Alzheimer’s, the more likely they are to have amyloid plaques.
Brain region amyloid plaques are believed to cause the cognitive decline associated with the disease. The new study is published in JAMA Neurology.
Canadian researchers studied a cohort of 101 individuals and discovered the difference between a person’s age and the age of their parent at the onset of the disease is a more important risk factor than their actual age.
Researcher Dr. Sylvia Villeneuve of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute said a 60-year-old whose mother developed Alzheimer’s at age 63 would be more likely to have amyloid plaques in their brain than a 70-year-old whose mother developed the disease at age 85.
Villeneuve, an assistant professor at McGill University, and her team of scientists also found that the genetic impact of Alzheimer’s disease is much greater than previously thought.
“Upon examining changes in the amyloid biomarker in the cerebrospinal fluid samples from our subjects, we noticed that this link between parental age and amyloid deposits is stronger in women than in men. The link is also stronger in carriers of the ApoE4 gene, the so-called ‘Alzheimer’s gene’,” she said.
Villeneuve and her team successfully duplicated their results in two independent groups, one, consisting of 128 individuals from a University of Washington-St. Louis cohort, the other consisting of 135 individuals from a University of Wisconsin-Madison cohort.
They also reproduced their results using an imaging technique that enables one to see amyloid plaques directly in the brains of living persons.
Their study is paving the way for the development of inexpensive methods for the early identification of people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Alzheimer Societies in Canada and the United States, 564,000 Canadians and 5.5 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
Source: McGill University