Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating degenerative form of dementia which is traditionally diagnosed after symptoms begin, however a new discovery indicates that in some cases, doctors should be able to determine if children are at risk of developing the disease in the future. According to new research, a specific “dementia gene” related to Alzheimer’s disease can have a visible impact on the brains of children as young as 3-years-old, and can indicate to doctors the likelihood of the children in question suffering from Alzheimer’s in the future.
Study reveals association between physical function and Alzheimer’s disease https://t.co/0NysH5b8Yh— PsyPost.org (@PsyPost) August 12, 2016
As The Daily Mail reports, the findings regarding the potential of developing future Alzheimer’s disease were recently published in a renowned neurology journal.
Based on the new Alzheimer’s disease findings, physicians and scientists are hopeful that, in the future, they will be able to implement early intervention and treatments for those they believe are at an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the future.
The study regarding the potential of children developing Alzheimer’s disease in the distant future was originally published in the online journal Neurology. As part of the research, scientists conducted both brain scans and memory tests on children and young adults. According to reports, 1,187 people participated in the groundbreaking Alzheimer’s study, and their ages ranged from 3 to 20.
The parameters of the future Alzheimer’s disease research study required that participants be free of neurological problems or brain disorders that might adversely impact their brain development. As such, research subjects were pre-screened for such ailments, ailments that included intrauterine drug exposure. Unqualified Alzheimer’s study participants were weeded out.
After being screened for “brain development issues,” study participants were genetically tested to determine which variant of a particular gene they had. The gene, APOE, has several known versions, and one of those versions has been linked to an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s disease development.
The variant, known as APOE4, is passed down from generation to generation and can be inherited from one or both parents.
People do not realize that #Alzheimer's is not old age. It is a fatal disease and staggering amounts of people develop Alzheimer's every day— Alzheimer's STEP (@AlzheimersSTEP) August 14, 2016
@PsyPost That's good. Maybe someone can find a Cure.— Cheryl Lee Gravitt (@Birdonwing) August 11, 2016
Over the course of the Alzheimer’s disease study, researchers determined that (among the study participants), those with APOE4 demonstrated marked differences in their brain development compared to those with other variants. Furthermore, the impacted areas of the brain coincided directly to those areas of the brain most commonly impacted by the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
The visible physiological impact of carrying the APOE4 gene was incredibly profound among those studied in the Alzheimer’s research project. Reportedly, among the 3- to 20-year-old participants, the hippocampus was on average 5 percent smaller in those who tested positive for the APOE4 variant.
The hippocampus is the portion of the brain that controls and processes memory.
Child participants in the future Alzheimer’s disease study who were both younger than 8-years-old and who inherited the variant from both parents reportedly had even more hippocampus anomalies than other study participants. Intriguingly, children with the APOE4 gene who were 8-years-old or younger also did demonstrate marked impairments on cognitive tests when compared to those with other variants. On average, the small children who inherited the so-called Alzheimer’s gene from both parents did worse than their peers by half.
However, beyond the age of 8, the Alzheimer’s gene-related, observable cognitive impairments seemed to vanish entirely.
“Studying these genes in young children may ultimately give us early indications of who may be at risk for dementia in the future and possibly even help us develop ways to prevent the disease from occurring or to delay the start of the disease.”
While researchers and scientists alike are lauding the new future Alzheimer’s disease study, experts at the Alzheimer’s Society have urged a cautious response to the findings.
“We would need to see these results replicated in a larger group, as well as having longer term follow-ups to better understand how the changes in the brain progress with age. Everyone’s brain is slightly different and the trends found here could only be seen by taking the average across many people.”
Alzheimer’s researchers and geneticists alike have also been quick to point out that testing positive for the APOE4 gene doesn’t mean that a person will certainly develop the degenerative dementia. Because there is no 100 percent accurate way of predicting whether or not someone will or will not develop Alzheimer’s disease in the future, everyone is encouraged to try to stave off the disease through healthy living.
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