Researchers recently found a link between a protein that when mutated can increase the risk of breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Researchers have been aware that mutations in the BRCA gene can contribute to a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers since 1994. However, researchers now believe that the gene may also play a role in the nerve death that is responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have found that the BRCA1 gene not only affects the way cells can grow by promoting cancer, but can also interfere with nerve cells’ ability to repair their DNA>
BRCA1 can be mutated in different ways. In breast cancer, some changes can fuel the growth of tumors. BRCA1 is also responsible for repairing DNA. This is the reason why animals with low levels of BRCA1 tend to have memory problems.
Researchers analyzed the levels of BRCA1 in autopsy brains of humans who had died with Alzheimer’s. They found that in these brains, levels of BRCA1 were up to 75% lower than those in brains of people who had not died with the disease.
This finding does not necessarily mean that people with BRCA1 mutations are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. To date there have not been studies linking BRCA1 mutations to a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s. However, these findings show a connection between the two and further research may be worthwhile. It is possible that no link has emerged because people with cancer may have been excluded from Alzheimer’s studies.
Researchers believe that the accumulation of amyloid protein might speed the depletion of BRCA. The depletion in turn leads to the accumulation of DNA damage because they aren’t repaired properly.
Hopefully this theory will be tested and researchers will be able to pursue more widespread implications of the new link that have recently been discovered.
This finding could lead to new types of treatments for Alzheimer’s.