Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a progressive decline in memory and cognition, which eventually leads to disorientation and death. Research has typically focused on the brain abnormalities that we see in people with Alzheimer’s disease, but a new line of research indicates that the disease may be related to genetic changes that happen during the lifespan.
Researchers reporting May 23, 2016 in the American Journal of Human Genetics reported that men with blood samples showing a loss of chromosome Y developed Alzheimer’s as often as people born with other genes that make them high-risk for the disease.
You may remember that Chromosome Y is one of the chromosomes responsible for physical gender traits – a male will have one Y chromosome and one X chromosome (XY) and a female will have two X chromosomes (XX). There are other variants possible at birth, such as XXY or YY which can lead to physical differences in people with these variants.
What makes this study interesting; however, is that the males at higher risk for Alzheimer’s were born with XY chromosome but they have lost the Y chromosome over time during their lifespan. Why? Loss of the Y chromosome is found in up to 17% of males, is likely to be found in older males, and males who smoke. The authors of the paper speculated that the loss of Y chromosome may be related to reduced immune system performance which in turn could lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
As we learn more about the effect of environment on our genetics, it is becoming even more important that we pay attention to our physical and mental health. If you smoke cigarettes, it may have far-reaching implications past your lung function and the possibility of cancer. If you are depressed, you may have changes to your immune system which could impair your ability to fight infection. If you need help caring for your body and mind- please reach out!
Live Mentally Healthy,
Dr. Jennie Byrne