Alzheimer’s Gene Helps Memory | Science and life


Alzheimer’s gene is APOE4, the apolipoprotein E gene. It has three main forms (or variants), one of them is denoted by the number 4. All apolipoproteins are engaged in transferring lipids from cell to cell, from tissue to tissue. However, about APOE4 (or APOE ε4) it has long been known that it is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It is still not entirely clear how exactly the lipid transporter APOE and Alzheimer’s disease are related – although not so long ago we wrote about one work where they were connected through auxiliary (glial) cells of the nervous system.

Recent article in Nature Aging adds intrigue here – it turns out that people with APOE4 memory works better. Researchers from University College London asked several hundred people aged 69 to 71 and without Alzheimer’s to take a visual working memory test. Working memory retains what the brain is literally working with at the moment; its capacity is small, but with the help of working memory, we quickly notice everything that is happening around us and where our attention is directed. The test was to remember some of the objects that were shown to you and their location relative to each other. Those participants in the experiment who got APOE4, 14% better remembered the objects themselves (that is, distinguished them from other objects) and 7% better remembered their location.

Memory depends on many factors, but the participants in the experiments were chosen so as to assess exactly the effect APOE4… It turned out that the gene APOE4, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (for which the most famous symptom is memory loss), at the same time helps memory to work. It also helps when beta-amyloid deposits begin to appear in the brain. Beta-amyloid is a famous alzheimer’s protein that, under certain circumstances, accumulates in neurons, destroying nerve tissue. Clusters of amyloid beta can be seen on brain scans. It turned out that if a person began to appear toxic protein deposits, but at the same time he has APOE4, his memory will still work better than the one who has protein deposits, but APOE got in some other version.

This is not the first work that says that APOE4 has something to do with good memory. A similar study came out, for example, last year, it involved more than a thousand people, but the variation in age was also greater – from 20 to 80 years old. APOE4 study more than actively, so perhaps we will soon learn about whether it improves other types of memory, whether we can talk about a direct connection between it and memory and what mechanism works here.


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