USC News – September 21, 2016
Supported by a new grant from the Alzheimer’s Association, USC researcher explores a key Alzheimer’s gene and how it disproportionately impacts women.
Among the 5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, nearly two-thirds are women.
While the reason for this striking discrepancy isn’t yet known, proposed theories range from differences in health care usage and lifestyle factors to life span and other biological variations. USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology Professor Christian Pike studies this disparity at the deepest level, examining key genes involved in Alzheimer’s and how their effects differ in males and females.
“Men and women are affected by Alzheimer’s disease differently, both in terms of disease development and progression,” he said. “Understanding the underlying bases of these differences should be useful in determining whether we need to view prevention and treatment differently depending upon gender.”
Pike’s newest project will specifically examine the gene for apolipoprotein E-4 (APOE4), a primary genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s. The presence of the APOE4 gene disproportionately increases the risk for the disease in women versus men, Pike said.
“In women, Alzheimer’s disease risk is increased approximately four times with one copy of the gene and 10 times with two copies of the APOE4 gene, whereas men show essentially no increased risk with one APOE4 gene and only a fourfold increase in risk with two copies of APOE4,” he said. “Even in the absence of dementia, APOE4 is associated with significantly increased atrophy and dysfunction of the brain and that affects women much more strongly than men.”
The full article is available on the USC Website.