PTSD Research Helps Track Down a Cause of Alzheimer’s

September 1, 2017 in LifeCare Health Services

New Research involving PTSD may be uncovering a genetic cause of Alzheimer’s.Researchers from the University Medical Center Goettingen in Germany studied mice to see if there were any molecular connections between fear conditioning and early onset dementia. They came to this hypothesis after examining studies that have shown links between PTSD and Alzheimer’s before. Those older studies had shown that soldiers who had PTSD in their youth were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s by age 65. However, these studies did not discover why there was a correlation between the two disorders. The current study from Germany has uncovered a potential lead on a molecular level to explain the relationship.

It comes down to the Formin 2 gene. It’s a gene that is involved in cytoskeleton organization in the brain. Mutations of this gene cause intellectual disability. The researchers studied mice who had mutations that caused this gene to be dormant and compared them to a control group that had regular gene development. The results were that the mice who had a deficiency in this gene had greater showings of PTSD-like symptoms and had earlier cognitive decline.

The researchers state that people need to be careful when relating the brain processes of mice to the more complex processes of humans. They believe that their findings lay down a groundwork for further exploration of this gene in humans to see if the effects are the same. There is already some evidence to support the connection, as post-mortem brain samples of humans with Alzheimer’s show less Formin 2 expression compared to those that did not have the disorder. If further study confirms a connection, then this can open doors to new potential treatment options.

Source: Robert Carlos Agis-Balboa et al. “Formin 2 Links Neuropsychiatric Phenotypes at Young Age to an Increased Risk for Dementia.” The EMBO Journal. Vol. 32, No. 16, 2017, pp. 2311-2465

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