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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Alzheimer's Gene Accelerates Multiple Sclerosis
15 February 2001 7:00 pm
Two seemingly unrelated diseases---Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis---have been found to share a troublesome gene. APOE4, a gene that predisposes people to Alzheimer's, is now shown to predict how quickly and severely multiple sclerosis progresses. The connection could yield insights into how both diseases damage the brain, and possibly inspire new treatments.
Multiple sclerosis is caused by the destruction of myelin, a fatty substance that surrounds and insulates nerve fibers. The disease disrupts nerve signals and impairs movement, coordination, vision, and sometimes thinking. Although the ultimate cause of multiple sclerosis is a mystery, some studies have suggested a role for APOE genes. These genes produce proteins that transport fats and somehow help repair damaged neurons. APOE4, the form of the gene linked to Alzheimer's, appears to be less efficient than other APOE genes at enabling this repair.
The new study, headed by neurologist Amos Korczyn of Tel Aviv University, Israel, is the first to demonstrate that APOE4 determines the course of multiple sclerosis. The team studied 205 patients and assessed how their disabilities had progressed, in some cases over the past 40 years. When they sorted the patients according to which form of APOE they carried, they found that people with APOE4 on average got multiple sclerosis about 3 years earlier than usual, had a more precipitous decline in health, and had more severe cases of the disease, the researchers report in the 13 February issue of Neurology.
"This is a great advance for the field," says neurologist Hans Hartung of the University of Graz, Austria. "It's the most comprehensive study to date, with the lengthy follow-up adding much [credence] to the data." He also agrees with Korczyn, who says, "once we know more about what APOE does with respect to nerve regeneration, pharmaceutical companies can try to simulate these actions with drug therapy." But, as Korczyn points out, that may be far in the future.