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Effects of APOE Gene May Be Apparent in Childhood

Findings may lead to earlier interventions, preventive measures for future brain injuries, dementia

THURSDAY, July 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Variations in the APOE gene may start to show effects on brain structure and mental acuity as early as preschool, according to a study published online July 13 in Neurology.

The findings were based on brain magnetic resonance imaging of 1,187 healthy children and teenagers. Overall, 62 percent carried two copies of ε3, while around one-quarter carried at least one copy of ε4. Less than 2 percent had two ε4 variants.

The investigators found that children with one or two copies of ε4 typically differed from other children in some measures of brain structure. Similarly, young children with two copies of ε4, or one ε4 and one ε2, tended to do worse on tests of memory, cognition, and attention, at least until age 8 or 10.

“Our findings validated and extended prior smaller studies that showed altered brain development in APOE ε4-carrier children. The ε4ε4 and ε2ε4 genotypes may negatively influence brain development and brain aging at the extremes of age,” the authors write. “Studying APOE ε polymorphisms in young children may provide the earliest indicators for individuals who might benefit from early interventions or preventive measures for future brain injuries and dementia.”

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