Understanding the effects of Alzheimer’s risk genes on the brain
We know that certain genes have a role to play in Alzheimer’s – but what do they do? How are they involved?
Researchers at the University of Oxford aim to improve our understanding of the effects of Alzheimer’s risk genes. They will look at how one particular gene, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, affects brain function in healthy people. They aim to shed light on how this gene could increase dementia risk.
Why is this important?
The causes of dementia are still unknown, but some genes are linked with a higher risk of developing dementia later in life. The best known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is the e4 version of a gene called APOE. This gene has been known about for several years, but we don’t yet understand how it alters dementia risk. Previous research by the team in Oxford has shown that young healthy people with the e4 gene have normal memory, brain size and blood flow. However, the team found that young people with e4 had differences in brain activity compared to people without e4. The results suggest that the way the brain communicates may be affected by e4 long before any illness develops. This research will help establish why people with the e4 gene are at higher risk of developing dementia.
Research details and methods:
The researchers will use a state-of-the-art imaging technique, called magnetoencephalography (MEG), to investigate brain function. They will use these brain scans to investigate how and why brain function is affected by genetic changes. They will also find out if any measurements are useful for diagnosing different types of dementia.
Who, where, how much?
Dr Clare Mackay has been awarded £91,500 over three years from April 2010. The money will support PhD student Ms Verena Heise for three years at the University of Oxford. This money will cover her fees, a stipend and research costs.
Full project title: Understanding the effect of APOE on the brain