Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University recently announced they had identified a set of genes that are believed to play a role in the early development of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a press release announcing a forthcoming paper to be published in Human Molecular Genetics, lead researcher P. Hemachandra Reddy of the OHSU Neurological Sciences Institute said,
Through studying a mouse model of Alzheimer’s, the research team found that a series of genes related to mitochondrial metabolism in brain cells were more active than in normal mice. Mitochondria are structures located in the cytoplasm of cells that produce energy for the cell. Prior research has linked Alzheimer’s to mitochondrial function. However this is the first time genes that are responsible for early cellular change in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis have been identified.
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We studied gene expression levels at three distinct stages of disease progression in the genetically-altered mice relative to age-matched wild-type normal mice. We conducted gene expression analysis long before (2 months of age), immediately before (5 months) and after (18 months) the appearance of beta amyloid plaques. In doing this, we found that these mitochondrial genes were more active at 2 months of age when compared to normal mice, and in some cases their activity heightened as the disease progressed. We believe the abnormal gene expression comes in response to beta amyloid-induced mitochondrial dysfunction, even in its early stages. Based on prior research, it’s thought that energy metabolism in mitochondria is impaired by heightened levels of beta amyloid in the brain. We believe the genes identified in our study increase their activity to compensate for this damage, but unfortunately in the end they cannot keep up with the progression of Alzheimer’s.
A companion study published in NeuroMolecular Medicine finds similar gene expressions in human Alzheimer’s patients, demonstrating the value of using a mouse model to study Alzheimer’s and, using this new finding, hopefully one day developing a test to detect the onset of Alzheimer’s early in the disease’s development.
OHSU researchers uncover genes involved in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Press Release, Oregon Health & Science University, April 27, 2004.
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