MIT Scientists Advance Understanding of Alzheimer’s-Linked Gene

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Alongside his work as a successful investor and entrepreneur, Jean-Jacques Degroof takes a very active role in supporting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jean-Jacques Degroof earned a master’s and a doctorate in management from the school and has since helped advance several MIT programs and activities, including the Aging Brain Initiative at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

Founded in 1994, MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory seeks to advance the understanding of how certain mechanisms drive learning and memory and contribute to neurodegenerative disease. Recently Li-Huei Tsai, the institute’s director, led a team of researchers in a study examining APOE4, a gene variant that has been associated with a higher risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s.

In the comprehensive study, Tsai and other Picower Institute research scientists found that APOE4 promotes the accumulation of beta-amyloid proteins, which cause the plaque that is found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Their experiments showed that the APOE4 variant promotes amyloid accumulation by stimulating excess amyloid secretion and disrupting the process by which astrocyte and microglia cells remove amyloid proteins and other foreign matter from their surroundings.

In addition to revealing how APOE4 facilitates the development of Alzheimer’s pathology, the scientists highlighted the potential for using gene-editing technology to treat the disease in patients with the APOE4 gene variant. The results of the study were published in the May 31, 2018, online edition of Neuron.