SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – While Alzheimer’s has mainly been thought of as a disease of the old, new research out of California has found that a gene may actually damage a person’s brain 50 years prior to being diagnosed with the disease.

Scientists already know that one of the things that causes Alzheimer’s Disease is the accumulation of deposits in the brain called amyloid plaques, which seem to damage your brain’s wiring, preventing different parts of your brain from communicating with each other.

“We know that there’s a slow erosion of the brain from an army of culprits. There’s a lot of genes that we have that slightly increase your risk or slightly reduce your risk,” said Paul Thompson, a professor of neurology at UCLA.

KCBS’ Rebecca Corral Reports:

He said two years ago, a gene was discovered called clusterin, or CLU, that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s by about 20 percent.

“We really didn’t know what this gene does. This is the first study to see what this gene does to the brain,” said Thompson. “One of the big surprises is that it actually damages your brain when you’re young. So you’ll see deficits in brain scans as young as the age of 20 or so.”

And Thompson said this gene does its work silently, without any outside symptoms.

“When you think about what your genes are doing, this slow battle going on in your brain is eroding brain tissue,” he said. “But you wouldn’t begin to see any signs of memory loss or impairment mentally until your 60s or 70s. By that time, a lot of the brain tissue would actually have been irreversibly removed.”

Thompson said it would be helpful to know if you have the gene that makes you vulnerable to Alzheimer’s because you can start taking steps to either slow down or ward off the disease.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (4)
  1. JaneQPublic says:

    If you have the gene, it seems to be hocus-pocus thinking that you can “ward off the disease”.

    This so-called news is really NOT. Amyloid plaques have been known for some time. Although this article appears to say that it is those which cause the impairment, I have read more recent research which indicated that the plaque may actually be an attempt of the brain to protect itself by isolating or ‘surrounding’ the problem areas by walling them off from the unaffected areas.

    1. RedBaron says:

      Just to correct your misunderstandings:
      1. a risk gene is just that: it will not give you the disease, it increases your risk; and if you want to take action to oppose the risk, you can reduce your risk by improving your diet and increasing your cardiovascular exercise.
      2. This article shows that a newly discovered risk gene does its damage by impairing myelin sheaths on axons, even when you are very young. This is important to know as a potential drug target, and as a measure of whether countermeasures (drug treatment and/or diet/exercise) are working.
      Sorry you are so dismissive of progress, but you should also consider that you might just be too dumb to understand it. Same goes for the other person below – no good ideas, just criticism and disdain.

  2. JohnQPublic says:

    I agree with JaneQPublic. We desperately need some real “cutting-edge” news
    right now. Come one & all: researchers, scientists, chemists, physicists, neurologists, and all dedicated professors. Where are your collective brains? Just get it all together and solve the damn problem! Quit keeping the public
    guessing. And that also goes for the Alzheimer’s Association. You need to
    really ramp things up, immediately!

  3. Thank you for posting this. I enjoyed reading today’s article very much. Checking up on my health is something I do often. I try to keep up with today’s trends so I’m more active and healthier. Thanks again for sharing your article.

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