Gene alteration could hasten memory loss in Alzheimer's: study

Researchers say an alteration or change in the genes might hasten the process of memory loss and affect the thinking ability in people who were already at risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's, a type of dementia, is a progressive disease that affects a person's memory and other important functions which get destroyed over time. The condition mostly affected people over the age of 65 and memory loss was among the most characteristic symptoms of the disease.

The team of researchers had discovered that people with the gene mutation called the BDNF Val66Met allele, or the Met allele might experience a rapid decline in memory and thinking skills than the others. Also, if the same category of people had more of a particular protein called beta-amyloid, which could turn into plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, their rate of memory decline could be faster.

The team examined 1,023 people with an average age of 55 for up to 13 years who were at risk of Alzheimer's but continued to be healthy during the onset of the study.

The researchers conducted a few tests on verbal learning and memory, and found that those without gene mutation were able to improve their score by 0.002 units every year, while the scores of people with the mutation declined by 0.021 units per year.

Ozioma Okonkwo, from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, US said, "Because this gene can be detected before the symptoms of Alzheimer's start, and because this presymptomatic phase is thought to be a critical period for treatments that could delay or prevent the disease, it could be a great target for early treatments," Zee News reported.

This could be because, "when there is no mutation, it is possible the BDNF gene and the protein it produces are better able to be protective, thereby preserving memory and thinking skills", Okonkwo said.