A glitch in the brain’s barrier reduces Alzheimer’s odds by 71%

One of the reasons the idea of developing Alzheimer’s disease is so scary is that there aren’t very many treatments for it.

Those ones that exist may alleviate symptoms, but they don’t stop the disease from progressing or reverse the damage that’s already occurred. And some of the newest aren’t with serious risk.

That’s why researchers are always on the hunt for new ways to protect people from Alzheimer’s. And a team from Columbia University has made a discovery that could lead to just that…

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This genetic variant is the key

The Columbia researchers sequenced the genomes of several hundred people who carried the e4 form of the APOE gene (APOEe4), known for significantly raising the risk of Alzheimer’s. They were all over the age of 70, from various ethnic backgrounds and included those with and without Alzheimer’s disease.

When examining the sequences, the researchers found a genetic variant in people who, despite having APOEe4, had not developed the disease. They determined this variant could reduce the odds of developing Alzheimer’s by up to an astonishing 71 percent.

The protective variant occurs in a gene that makes fibronectin, a component of the blood-brain barrier — a lining surrounding the brain’s blood vessels to control the movement of substances in and out of the brain.

Fibronectin, also a protein connected with uterine fibroids, is usually present in the blood-brain barrier in very small amounts. However, the brains of people with Alzheimer’s contain much higher amounts.

The fibronectin gene variant found by the researchers appears to protect against Alzheimer’s development by preventing the excess buildup of fibronectin.

The researchers theorize that excess fibronectin could be preventing the clearance of amyloid deposits in the brain.

It may also prevent brain-supporting nutrients from reaching the brain, like omega-3s which have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier.

The discovery of this variant supports emerging evidence that the brain’s blood vessels play a large role in Alzheimer’s disease and could take therapeutic development in a new direction.

“Alzheimer’s disease may get started with amyloid deposits in the brain, but the disease manifestations are the result of changes that happen after the deposits appear,” says Dr. Caghan Kizil, a professor at Columbia and co-leader of the study that identified the variant.

“Our findings suggest that some of these changes occur in the brain’s vasculature and that we may be able to develop new types of therapies that mimic the gene’s protective effect to prevent or treat the disease,” Kizil adds.

The researchers confirmed their fibronectin theory in a zebrafish model of Alzheimer’s and have additional studies ongoing in mice. They found that reducing fibronectin in the animals increased amyloid clearance and improved other Alzheimer’s-related damage.

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More confirmation…

The Columbia study was replicated in a study from researchers at Stanford and Washington universities in an independent cohort of APOEe4 carriers, mostly of European origin.

“They found the same fibronectin variant, which confirmed our finding and gave us even more confidence in our result,” says study co-leader Dr. Badri N. Vardarajan, a professor at Columbia.

The two groups combined the data on their 11,000 participants. In addition to confirming the fibronectin variant reduces the chances of developing Alzheimer’s in APOE4 carriers, they also saw it delays the disease by roughly four years in those who eventually develop the disease.

While this is very exciting news, it will be years before it results in new Alzheimer’s therapies. Until then, it’s wise to continue to take steps to lower your Alzheimer’s odds. I wrote in an earlier article about ways to reduce inflammation and keep your blood pressure in check, both of which can go a long way toward protecting against Alzheimer’s.

One of these steps involves following a healthy diet. A good choice is the MIND diet, a combination of the Mediterranean diet and heart-healthy DASH diet that focuses on foods with proven brain benefits — and was recently found to slow aging as well.

It includes food groups linked to healthy lipid profiles such as nuts, healthy oils and fish and is loaded with brain-supporting nutrients like omega-3s, antioxidants and vitamin D — a nutrient with ever-growing ties to dementia.

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!


Newly found genetic variant defends against Alzheimer’s disease — ScienceDaily

Rare genetic variation in fibronectin 1 (FN1) protects against APOEε4 in Alzheimer’s disease — Acta Neuropathologica

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.