The Kensington Sierra Madre is excited to join forces with Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Care at UCLA for an insightful webinar, “Know Your Genes: How Family History Affects Brain Health.”
Leading the session are Dr. Kacie Deters and Dr. Jessica Rexach, respected experts whose dedication to the field of neurodegenerative diseases has made significant contributions to our understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
During the event, we will delve into the intricate world of genetics, sharing knowledge about its role in Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, and the latest research developments.
Our genes, which make up the blueprints of our biology, play an instrumental role in shaping brain health and the risk of brain diseases.
Genes tell our neurons how to form and function, from the synapses that allow cells to communicate to the proteins that perform important cellular tasks.
In the realm of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and frontotemporal dementia, genetics can play a particularly crucial role.
For a very small fraction of cases, around 1%, the cause of these brain diseases can be traced back to a specific gene mutation, known as “deterministic” genes.
Luckily, deterministic genes are quite rare, however in most cases, it’s the result of multiple genes that contribute a small amount to a person’s overall risk. These are known as “risk” genes.
With the exception of certain gene therapies such as CRISPR gene editing, the best that most of us can do is make lifestyle choices, which can potentially offset a person’s risk of developing brain diseases.
Here are actionable steps you can take in your everyday life to influence your genes and potentially mitigate the risk of brain disease for yourself and your loved one:
- Lead a physically active lifestyle to reduce hypertension, a leading cause of stroke
- Prioritize a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and lean proteins
- Get enough sleep to remove harmful toxins accumulated in the brain
- Engage in cognitive activities to keep the brain sharp, such as playing games, reading, or playing an instrument
- Maintain social connections with friends and family to relieve stress and promote brain health
- Receive regular medical check-ups to detect early potential brain health issues, such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
- Avoid harmful habits such as excessive eating, smoking, and alcohol consumption
While we cannot control our genetic makeup, we can control our lifestyles and environments to a significant extent. These tips may not only prevent brain disease but promote a positive quality of life for yourself and your loved one.
Decoding genetics: understanding the key risk and deterministic genes for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and frontotemporal dementia
Understanding the role genetics play in developing neurodegenerative disease is a complex process.
It involves understanding the roles of both risk genes, which increase the likelihood of developing a condition, and deterministic genes, which are rare mutations that almost certainly cause the disease if inherited.
Let’s explore the key genes in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and frontotemporal dementia.
Deterministic genes: APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2, which are mutations that cause early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Risk genes: APOE-e4, which is a major risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s. In one study, researchers found 40%-65% of people with Alzheimer’s have this gene.
Deterministic Genes: PRKN, PINK1, and LRRK2 are among the genes where specific mutations can lead to Parkinson’s disease.
Risk Genes: Variants of the GBA and LRRK2 genes are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Deterministic Genes: Mutations in the MAPT, GRN, and C9orf72 genes can cause frontotemporal dementia.
Risk Genes: While the risk genes for this condition are not as well-characterized, variants of the TMEM106B gene have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of frontotemporal dementia.
The role of family history in brain health can be significant.
Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with a neurodegenerative disease can increase your risk of developing the same condition, however, genetics are only one piece of the puzzle.
Here’s a checklist of risk factors:
- Family history of neurodegenerative diseases
- Genetic mutations (if known)
- Age (risk increases with age)
- Chronic health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke)
- Lifestyle factors (physical inactivity, poor diet, excessive weight)
Recent years have seen promising breakthroughs in our understanding and treatment of neurodegenerative brain disorders.
These advances, along with ongoing research in immunotherapies, neuroprotective drugs, and stem cell therapies, hold promise for better treatments and potential cures for these brain diseases.
The FDA recently approved a new drug called Aducanumab, brand name “Aduhelm”, which targets the amyloid plaques in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s.
It’s the first new treatment approved for Alzheimer’s in decades and is the first to attract that cause of disease, rather than just fighting the symptoms.
Researchers have been investigating the use of CRISPR gene editing technology to silence or “turn off” genes like LRRK2 and GBA, which are mutations that have been linked to Parkinson’s disease.
Recent advances have resulted in a better understanding of the C9orf72 gene, which is a very specific mutation that’s been known to cause dementia.
This new knowledge will lead to new therapies aimed at reducing the production of abnormal proteins in the brain caused by this mutation.
Through ongoing training and educational programs such as our event “Know Your Genes, How Family History Affects Brain Health,” we empower caregivers to provide the best possible care and support to their loved ones.
In addition to our three layers of memory care, we offer a range of amenities to enhance the lives of our residents that include on-site physical rehabilitation, an all-day dining program, life enrichment activities, and more.
Our community has just launched a new memory care program – Kensington Club – centered around those with early stages of memory loss, and cater our care to all levels of need.
If you or your loved one with could benefit from our compassionate care and comprehensive healthcare services, please reach out to us today to learn how we live Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.