Genetic predisposition to telomeres longer periods could have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s. This has been detected by two studies carried out by the research center of the Pasqual Maragall Foundation, the BarcelonaBeta Brain Research Center (BBRC) on the special DNA sequences found at the ends of chromosomes (or telometers).
Both BBRC studies have included participants from the Alpha Studiopromoted by the La Caixa Foundationand have evaluated the role of telomere length, considered a marker of biological age in neurodegenerative disorders, in the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s, the BBRC and the La Caixa Foundation reported this Monday in a statement and collected by Europe Press.
The results of these investigations indicate that there are genetic variants that are associated with a longer telomere length and that may be related to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Elizabeth Blackburn and Carolyn Widney (Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2009) were already talking about telomeres and telomerase and their relationship with cell aging and longevity. Since then, research in this area has grown.
These genetic variants were associated with lower levels of some Alzheimer’s biomarkers, such as the p-tau protein, as well as greater cortical thickness in cognitively healthy people with a high genetic predisposition to the disease. “Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA located at the ends of chromosomes. Its main function is to protect them, to prevent them from wearing out or deteriorating.», explained the BBRC researcher and first author of the study, Blanca Rodríguez-Fernández.
Positive news in Alzheimer’s research
The first of the studies, published in Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journaladvances that the genetic variants associated with longer telomeres could have a protective effect on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and that, in addition, these would be significantly associated with a longer life expectancy.
In the second study, published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy and that has had the collaboration of the Institut d’Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge (Idibell), this possible relationship has been analyzed through brain, cognitive and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration. In this study, samples from the Alpha Study have been used, a cohort that includes a population of cognitively healthy individuals at risk of suffering from the disease.
The research reveals significant associations between gene variants that predict longer telomere length and lower levels of some Alzheimer’s biomarkers, such as the p-tau protein, and that inheriting longer telomeres has been linked to a greater cortical thickness among people with a high genetic predisposition to have the disease in the future.
The co-lead researcher of the project, Marta Crous-Bou, has affirmed that the findings are positive but need to be replicated in larger cohortsincluding participants at different stages of disease development, as well as following up the Alpha study participants and doing additional observational analyses.
Natàlia Vilor-Tejedor, co-senior investigator of the study and leader of the BBRC Neurobiogenetics team, explained that “genetic variants associated with a longer telomere length could protect the brain structure through multiple mechanismseither in regions affected mainly by processes related to Alzheimer’s or aging itself.
According to studies carried out in Spainand which appear in the Comprehensive Plan for Alzheimer’s and other Dementias (2019-2023), the prevalence of this disease is around 0.05% among people aged 40 to 65; 1.07% between 65-69 years; 3.4% in the 70-74 years; 6.9% in the 75-79 years; 12.1% in the 80-84; 20.1 in 85-89; and 39.2% among those over 90 years of age.
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Telomere length could protect us from Alzheimer’s