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2017 Grants - Duarte-Guterman
The Impact of Motherhood and APOE Genotype on the Aging Brain
Paula Duarte-Guterman, Ph.D.
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship (AARF)
Can APOE-e4 status and changes in the brain during pregnancy and motherhood affect a woman’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease?
Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and they also tend to develop greater declines in memory and other cognitive functions. The reasons for these discrepancies, however, have not been identified. Recent studies have found that pregnancy and motherhood promote significant changes in the aging female brain. These changes appear to make mothers more susceptible to dementia than non-mothers, especially those moms who have multiple pregnancies and carry a dementia-related gene variant known as APOE-e4.
Paula Duarte-Guterman, Ph.D., and colleagues will identify brain changes that occur during pregnancy, and how these changes may affect brain health in individuals with the APOE-e4 gene. For their effort, they will study female rats with or without APOE-e4 and with or without the experience of pregnancy. The researchers will measure various biomarkers (biological factors) of aging in the different rat brains: including inflammation and shortened telomeres (the end regions of chromosomes in the genetic code – reduction in length is associated with aging). They will then determine if such changes are influenced by motherhood or APOE-e4. In addition, the investigators will look for other genes in the rat brains that may distinguish moms from non-moms, and possibly make the moms more vulnerable to brain cell aging and dementia.
The results of this work will help us better understand the role that reproductive history has on a woman’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It could also lead to diagnostic and treatment strategies that are better tailored to women.