Memory Performance Linked To Key Genetic Variant

Patricia Inacio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inacio, PhD |

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shutterstock_141503410In neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, the loss of memory is often a defining symptom. In a study entitled “FASTKD2 is associated with memory and hippocampal structure in older adults” the authors report to have found a new genetic variant in the FASTKD2 gene that is associated with improved memory performance. The new findings could give rise to future drug development for treating dementia and Alzheimer’s. The study was published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal.

The team of researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine with study first author, Vijay K. Ramanan, Ph.D., and led by Andrew J. Saykin, Psy.D., director of the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center and the IU Center for Neuroimaging performed a genome-wide screen, to find new genetic markers of memory impairment, a fundamental feature of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, the authors analyzed memory test results of 14,000 older adults.

They found a single alteration in the DNA sequence, known as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), in a gene. FASTKD2 (short for fast-activated serine/threonine kinase domains 2), was associated with better results in adults’ memory tests. In agreement with a neuroprotective effect, the authors observed that the carriers of this SNP exhibited a larger hippocampus (an area of the brain responsible for memory storage) and increased density of grey matter, accompanied by lower levels of apoptotic markers in the cerebrospinal fluid, in agreement with the role of FASTKD2 as a mediator in apoptosis control.

Thus, the authors suggest that FASTKD2 might prove a target of potential therapeutics trying to prevent memory loss in aging and in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Saykin added, “There is likely no single ‘memory gene’; we expect that memory is driven by a combination of multiple genes along with environment and lifestyle. Although the influence of FASTKD2 was modest, there are parallels to research in diabetes, cancer and hypertension that uncovered genetic variants with similar effects that turned out to be targets for drugs that are now commonly used.”