Researchers Study Alzheimer's Gene Across Diverse Latino Populations

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2018 - 7:05am
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Despite composing nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population, Latinos remain underrepresented in American biomedical research.

A new study in "Scientific Reports" sought patterns in an Alzheimer's-related gene among more diverse and representative Latino populations.

"We really do not have a good sense of the apoE gene distribution among Latinos, particularly among diverse Latinos," said lead author Hector González of University of California, San Diego's Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

Apolipoprotein E (apoE) is a class of proteins that influence the processing of fats in the human body. Different forms of the apoE gene relate to Alzheimer's disease differently: Research has linked apoE4 to Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, but suggests apoE2 might reinforce mental resilience.

When researchers studied nearly 11,000 Latinos from diverse subgroups in Chicago, Miami, San Diego and New York's the Bronx, they found the dementia-related version apoE4 was most frequent in Dominicans (17.5 percent), Puerto Ricans (13.3 percent) and Cubans (12.6 percent), and was least prevalent in Mexicans and Central and South Americans (roughly 11 percent).

The apoE2 variant occurred most among Dominicans (8.6 percent) and Cubans (6.5 percent), and least among South Americans (3.6 percent) and Mexicans (2.9 percent).

González said the results could help explain known case patterns and improve health outcomes.

"The rates that have been published thus far for dementia among Dominican Puerto Ricans are four times higher than those that have been reported for Mexican-origin Latinos."

Research has also linked the apoE4 gene form to increased levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called "bad cholesterol" because it increases risk for heart disease and stroke.

The study was conducted under the Study of Latinos-Investigation of Neurocognitive Aging (SOL-INCA) project funded by the National Institute on Aging.