, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 255-266,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 19 Apr 2012

Pathology supported genetic testing and treatment of cardiovascular disease in middle age for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

Abstract

Chronic, multi-factorial conditions caused by a complex interaction between genetic and environmental risk factors frequently share common disease mechanisms, as evidenced by an overlap between genetic risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in several genes including ApoE, MTHFR, HFE and FTO are known to increase the risk of both conditions. The E4 allele of the ApoE polymorphism is the most extensively studied risk factor for AD and increases the risk of coronary heart disease by approximately 40 %. It furthermore displays differential therapeutic responses with use of cholesterol-lowering statins and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, which may also be due to variation in the CYP2D6 gene in some patients. Disease expression may be triggered by gene-environment interaction causing conversion of minor metabolic abnormalities into major brain disease due to cumulative risk. A growing body of evidence supports the assessment and treatment of CVD risk factors in midlife as a preventable cause of cognitive decline, morbidity and mortality in old age. In this review, the concept of pathology supported genetic testing (PSGT) for CVD is described in this context. PSGT combines DNA testing with biochemical measurements to determine gene expression and to monitor response to treatment. The aim is to diagnose treatable disease subtypes of complex disorders, facilitate prevention of cumulative risk and formulate intervention strategies guided from the genetic background. CVD provides a model to address the lifestyle link in most chronic diseases with a genetic component. Similar preventative measures would apply for optimisation of heart and brain health.