Dementia is one of the most debilitating consequences of Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological condition characterized by tremors, stiffness, slow movement and impaired balance. Eighty percent of people with Parkinson’s develop dementia within 20 years of the diagnosis, and patients who carry a particular variant of the gene APOE are at especially high risk.
In new research, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a clue to the link between Parkinson’s, APOE and dementia. They discovered that harmful Parkinson’s proteins spread more rapidly through the brains of mice that have the high-risk variant of APOE, and that memory and thinking skills deteriorate faster in people with Parkinson’s who carry the variant. The findings, published Feb. 5 in Science Translational Medicine, could lead to therapies targeting APOE to slow or prevent cognitive decline in people with Parkinson’s.