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Study: Clue To Alzheimer’s Risk Seen In Babies’ Brains

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Researchers say the results could help treat Alzheimer's disease before full symptoms develop. (Getty Images)

Researchers say the results could help treat Alzheimer’s disease before full symptoms develop. (Getty Images)

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.  (CBS Connecticut) – The brains of infants that carry the “Alzheimer’s gene” develop differently from those born without it, according to a new study.

Researchers studied 162 health infants between 2 and 25 months of age.

The found those who have the APOE-E4 gene varient showed different grey and white matter growth.

“Maybe these changes are developmental,” study author Dr. Eric Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Arizona, said to CBSNews.com.

“Maybe they provide a foothold in areas of vulnerability where you would see progressive pathology in later ages. More studies need to be done to determine the extent of the progressive changes years later.”

By using an MRI technique developed at Brown University’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab, scientists could measure how the young brains develop.

Kids with the genetic variant showed increased growth in the frontal lobe of the brain and less growth in several other areas.

The same areas shown to be affected in elderly patients with Alzheimer’s.

Dr.Reiman says that about 25 percent of the population have at least one of the APOE-E4 genetic variants, which contribute to their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Two to three percent of the population will get two copies of the gene, one from each parent.

Most people will develop Alzheimer’s when they are 65 and older, but up to 5 percent of the population suffers from an early-onset form of the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, making up 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., and more than 5 million Americans are currently living with the disease.

Sean Deoni, who oversees Brown University’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab, added in a press release, “these results do not establish a direct link to the changes seen in Alzheimer’s patients, but with more research they may tell us something about how the gene contributes to Alzheimer’s risk later in life.”

The study was published in JAMA Neurology on Nov. 25.

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