Alzheimer's Disease and other Dementias

Is Increased Dementia Risk in Women a Matter of Proteins?

Gender-specific differences between the levels and structures of proteins present in the white matter and the mitochondria of the brains of men and women suffering from dementia have been revealed for the first time in a study published in March 2016 in the open access journal Molecular Brain.

A release from BioMed Central explains that while previous studies have shown that women exhibit higher risk of dementia than men, the underlying mechanisms of this gender difference have remained elusive. The findings by researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore may advance our understanding of the higher risk of dementia that has been observed in women compared to men, which the researchers suggest could lead to the development of new drugs for dementia treatment.

The release quotes Associate Professor Sze Siu Kwan, one of the co-authors of the study, as saying, “The number of dementia patients is projected to triple by 2050 and there is an urgent need to identify key mechanisms of how dementia develops. Our findings and further study could have direct implications for our knowledge about the progression of dementia that could lead to the development of drugs for treatment of dementia.”

The researchers used proteomics – the large-scale study of proteins, including their variations and changes – to analyze the proteins present in post-mortem brain tissues from five male and five female dementia patients and ten healthy controls. The researchers wanted to identify changes in structure and function of the proteins present in the white matter and the mitochondria of the temporal lobe – the part of the brain involved in visual memory and the understanding of language. Proteomics is an unbiased approach as, rather than testing a set of pre-defined, specific proteins, it allowed the researchers to look at thousands of proteins to identify changes associated with dementia.