The genetic signpost

In 1989, Montreal-born researcher Dr. Judes Poirier discovered a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease while working at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Consortium of Southern California. Apolipoprotein E (apoE) is a transporter of brain cholesterol that played an important role in brain reinnervation. In subsequent follow-up studies, Poirier and his colleagues identified the normally rare apoE gene, known as apoE4, as a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Poirier is now a professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at McGill University and Director of its Research Program on Aging, Cognition and Alzheimer’s Disease. His most recent work has led to the discovery of a biological connection between apoE and the formation of amyloid plaque in the brain. ApoE4 is associated with an increased number of protein clumps, also known as amyloid plaques, in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s and are thought to lead to the death of neurons and other progressive signs and symptoms of the disease.

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