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Early-life events may trigger biochemical pathways for Alzheimer’s disease: the “LEARn” model

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia among the elderly, manifests mostly late in adult life. However, it is presently unclear when the disease process starts and how long the pathobiochemical processes take to develop. Our goal is to address the timing and nature of triggers that lead to AD. To explain the etiology of AD, we have recently proposed a “Latent Early-life Associated Regulation” (LEARn) model, which postulates a latent expression of specific genes triggered at the developmental stage. This model integrates both the neuropathological features (e.g., amyloid-loaded plaques and tau-laden tangles) and environmental factors (e.g., diet, metal exposure, and hormones) associated with the disease. Environmental agents perturb gene regulation in a long-term fashion, beginning at early developmental stages, but these perturbations do not have pathological results until significantly later in life. The LEARn model operates through the regulatory region (promoter) of the gene and by affecting the methylation status within the promoter of specific genes.

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This work was supported in part by grants from Alzheimer’s Associations (Zenith award) and the National Institutes of Health (AG18379 and AG18884) to DKL.

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Correspondence to Debomoy K. Lahiri.

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Lahiri, D.K., Zawia, N.H., Greig, N.H. et al. Early-life events may trigger biochemical pathways for Alzheimer’s disease: the “LEARn” model. Biogerontology 9, 375–379 (2008).

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