(RxWiki News) Scientists may have discovered the earliest brain changes associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
According to a report in the October issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Arizona researchers looked at tissue from the brains of 40 deceased young adults and found 15 of the donors carried a common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (the gene APOE4), though none of the deceased displayed the microscopic abnormalities or elevated amyloid protein levels that have long been associated with Alzheimer's. In these adults, however, the energy-making enzyme known as cytochrome oxidase, which is found in the mitochondria (the "power packs" inside brain cells), was slightly reduced.
"Our findings suggest that mitochondrial brain changes contribute to the risk of Alzheimer's disease," said Jon Valla, lead author of the study and assistant professor of biochemistry at Midwestern University. "While our findings do not suggest ways in which to predict or reduce a person's risk at this time, they provide a foundation for studies seeking to do just that."
About 5.3 million people in the United States suffer with Alzheimer's disease, the 7th leading cause of death in the country. About 411,000 cases are diagnosed each year. Symptoms of the disease, the most prevalent form of dementia, include memory changes that disrupt daily life, vision changes, challenges in planning or solving problems and confusion with time or place.