Alzheimers Shares Genetic Link with Heart Attack
One of the risk factors for ultimately developing Alzheimer’s is having cardiovascular disease. Both not only share risk factors, including hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, but appear to have genetic connection as well. Researchers at the University of Bologna believe they have identified several common genes in the development of both Alzheimer’s disease and heart attack.
Implicated Genes of Alzheimer's are Responsible for Cholesterol and Inflammation
Frederico Licastro, an immunologist, and colleagues examined the DNA of 1800 people – 257 with Alzheimer’s Disease, 280 who had suffered a heart attack, and 1307 healthy controls. The participants were grouped into six groups, with varying levels of risk. The scientists used a controversial technique called “grade of membership analysis” to study the DNA of the participants.
The researchers found several common genetic factors between those who had had a heart attack and in those who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The genes involved are primarily used in synthesizing and transporting cholesterol and in the control of inflammation. Both factors appear to be at the root of both diseases, says Licastro.
While the technique used in the study is still being debated in scientific circles, the current study results appears to correlate positively with previous research that indicates a strong link between cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. Apolipoprotein E, or ApoE, for example, is a gene on chromosome 19 that has been cited in having a role in both conditions. ApoE modulates inflammation and oxidation.
The researchers hope that the study findings will lead to the development of a genetic test that can diagnose the risk of Alzheimer’s at an earlier stage. "Until now, we only knew about individual genes linked to both diseases and this was not sufficient to develop an individual test for the risk", explained Licastro. "We have now been able to identify a genetic profile of several genes partially common to both diseases. This is the leap in quality that now enables us to conduct a test and assess a profile partially specific to both diseases".
Licastro also hopes the findings will lead to the promotion of appropriate lifestyle changes that may help reduce the risk of the development of both Alzheimer’s and heart attack, such as blood pressure control and the normalization of cholesterol levels.