Gene variant linked to Alzheimer’s disease is a triple threat | Science News

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Gene variant linked to Alzheimer’s disease is a triple threat

APOE4 spurs brain plaques, tau tangles and inflammation

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9:00am, September 22, 2017
PET scans

TANGLED The brain of a person with Alzheimer’s disease symptoms (right) is laden with tau protein (red), while a person with no symptoms (left) has little tau.

A genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is a double, make that triple, whammy.

In addition to speeding up the development of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, a gene variant known as APOE4 also makes tau tangles — another signature of the disease — worse, researchers report online September 20 in Nature. APOE4 protein also ramps up brain inflammation that kills brain cells, neuroscientist David Holtzman of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and colleagues have discovered.

“This paper is a tour de force,” says Robert Vassar, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “It’s a seminal study that’s going to be a landmark in the field” of Alzheimer’s research, Vassar predicts.

For more than 20 years, researchers have known that

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