Genetic Variant Causes Twice The Brain Tissue Loss in Alzheimer’s Patients
A specific genetic mutation may explain those who suffer significantly worse impairment from Alzheimer’s disease, as a new study finds the mutation associated with the disease causes double the rate of brain-tissue loss. People with the mutation, called the TREM2 gene variant, may also be likely to develop the disease three years earlier than expected.
“Our lab studies the rate of brain-tissue loss in elderly people, trying to discover factors that protect you as you age. We have never seen such a dramatic effect as with this genetic variant,” study lead author Paul Thompson, a professor of neurology at the University of Southern California, said in a press release.
“If you carry this genetic mutation, we’ve found that there is this wildfire of tissue loss in the brain,” he said.
According to HealthDay, the researchers mapped the effects of the gene mutation on the living brain using MRI scans for the first time over two years. The study, published in the October 17 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine showed that people with the TREM2 variant lost their brain tissue much more quickly than other Alzheimer’s patients.
“This gene speeds up brain loss at a terrific pace,” Thompson said. “Carriers of this genetic mutation, who comprise about 1 percent of the population, lose about 3 percent of their brain tissue per year. This is a silent time bomb in 1 percent of the world.”