Gene harms brain decades before Alzheimer`s outbreak

Updated: May 16, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: A gene that you carry may begin to damage your brain a full 50 years before Alzheimer`s disease shows up, scientists say.

In 1993, researchers discovered a gene known as ApoE4 -- carried by about a quarter of us -- that triples the risk for getting Alzheimer`s.

In 2009, three more risky genes were discovered, and one of them, called clusterin or CLU, was found to up the risk of getting Alzheimer`s by 16 percent.

Now, University of California Los Angeles researchers say that CLU begins to damage your brain a full 50 years before Alzheimer`s shows up, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.

Paul Thompson, professor of neurology and his colleagues at California report that the C-allele of the CLU gene (one of two or more forms of a gene), impairs the development of myelin, the protective covering around the neuron`s (brain cell) axons, making it more vulnerable to the onset of Alzheimer`s much later in life.

Researchers scanned the brains of 398 healthy adults ranging from 20 to 30 years using a newer type of MRI that maps the brain`s connections, according to a California statement.

They compared those carrying a C-allele variant of the CLU gene with those who had a different variant.

They found that young, healthy carriers of the CLU-C gene risk variant showed a distinct profile of a kind of white matter that may increase susceptibility to developing the Alzheimer`s disease later in life.