A family history of Alzheimer's disease significantly increases your risk for developing the disorder, but which of your parents has the disease determines your risk, suggests new research just published in Biological Psychiatry.
Although individuals with a parental history of Alzheimer's are at increased risk for developing the disease, the specific biological and genetic mechanisms involved are not completely understood. The researchers speculate that an important consideration may be a phenomenon called genomic imprinting, where the pattern of the inherited disease differs based on whether the risk genes are inherited from the mother or the father.
In this new study, researchers set out to evaluate Alzheimer's risk in healthy, cognitively normal individuals by measuring their cerebrospinal fluid proteins, which are known to be altered in Alzheimer's. They compared individuals with a maternal or paternal history of Alzheimer's to individuals with no family history.
The researchers found that only individuals whose mothers had Alzheimer's showed altered levels of a protein called amyloid, a major hallmark of Alzheimer's pathology, as well as proteins involved with oxidative stress. In contrast, individuals whose fathers had Alzheimer's and those with no family history had protein levels within normal range.
"Our data indicate that adult children of mothers with Alzheimer's may be at increased risk for developing the disease," explained Dr. Lisa Mosconi, the author of the study. "It is therefore extremely important to understand the genetic mechanisms involved in maternal transmission of Alzheimer's disease, which are currently unknown. Identifying a genetic predictor for the disease might lead to preventive treatments years before the onset of clinical symptoms."
Mosconi said that additional follow-up research is now needed to test the usefulness of these protein measures for predictive purposes and to investigate potential susceptibility genes for Alzheimer's disease.
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Source: Biological Psychiatry