A new study has claimed that a gene, found only in women, may put them at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than men. Alzheimer’s is a neurological disorder that severely impacts the brain’s thinking skills to the point where a person is not even able to carry out the simplest of tasks. Usually, Alzheimer’s begins to show its symptoms after the age of 60. The researchers at the University of Chicago and Boston University School of Medicine discovered a gene called MGMT, O6-Methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase, which could be the reason behind a greater number of women Alzheimer’s patients. The study has also suggested possible ways of stopping or delaying the progression of the disease.
The findings are based on a genome-wide association study for Alzheimer’s using two independent datasets and methods. The first approach focused on an extended family of Hutterites, a founder population of European ancestry, who researchers say are commonly used for studies given their small gene pool and isolated culture. The sample in this dataset were women dealing with Alzheimer’s.
In the second method, researchers analyzed genetic data from a generic group of 10,340 women who lacked APOE ε4, a genetic variant known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. The analysis showed that 60 percent of people of European ancestry with Alzheimer’s carry this genetic variant, compared to 26% of the general population.
“This finding is particularly robust because it was discovered independently in two distinct populations using different approaches,” said Lindsay Farrer, chief of biomedical genetics at BUSM and a senior author of the study.
The study comes after a recent survey by the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement at the Cleveland Clinic pointed out that 82 percent of women were unaware of their elevated risk for Alzheimer’s. The study also pointed woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 5.
Factors like untreated depression, smoking, previous traumatic brain injury, and cardiovascular disease also play a key role in determining the risk level of Alzhiehmer’s.