A genetic variant of apolipoprotein E (APOE), a protein involved in fat metabolism, is the strongest common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. However, many APOE-e4 carriers remain cognitively normal throughout life, suggesting there may be modifiers of APOE effects that protect the brain.
Using data from Vanderbilt Memory and Aging Project participants, Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center researchers used whole blood RNA sequencing to identify genes that change the association between APOE-e4 and cognitive performance. The researchers found that a higher expression of the RNASE6 gene, which plays a role in immunity, related to worse memory performances among APOE-e4 carriers. RNASE6 may be an important new inflammatory risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Study results add to existing findings that link neuroinflammation with cognitive decline. Results also suggest that blood samples can provide fascinating information about biological changes in the brain.
Read the full study here.