BACE gene leads to insight on Alzheimer's

Canadian scientists have found a specific gene which they believe may hold the key to the degenerative brain disorder Alzheimer's disease.

Lead researcher Weihong Song, a professor of psychiatry who holds a Canada Research Chair in Alzheimer's disease at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says the results of their study with mice found that lower oxygen levels (hypoxia) increased the activity of a specific gene.

The gene called BACE 1, encodes a protein that converts the precursor amyloid molecule to the more dangerous beta-amyloid form.

Professor Song says if blood to the brain is less oxygenated it may mean a build-up of the protein plaques that are so closely tied to Alzheimer's disease

In mice, hypoxia was found to increase amyloid plaque formation and memory loss.

The fact that lowered brain-oxygen levels, caused by reduced blood flow, increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease has been observed by other scientists along with greater propensity for stroke. It would seem that exercise would be the most effective preventative.

The study is published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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