Hispanics are a high-risk group when it comes to Alzheimer’s and a recent study stating that men who lose Y chromosomes from their blood cells as they age may have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is really raising some eyebrows.
Researchers studied over 3,200 men who already had Alzheimer’s and those patients were nearly three times more likely to show a loss of the Y chromosome in some of their blood cells. Older men with that “loss of Y” faced a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s over the next eight years.
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Experts said the study doesn’t prove that loss of the Y chromosome directly contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. But it adds to evidence tying loss of Y to disease risk, said study co-author Lars Forsberg.
It also raises the possibility of one day testing men’s blood for loss of Y, to predict their risk of developing Alzheimer’s, said Forsberg, a researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden.
The findings were reported online May 23 in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
Men have an X and a Y chromosome, while women have two X chromosomes. Researchers used to think that the Y did little more than determine male sex and ensure normal sperm production.
But recent studies have shown that the Y chromosome contains a large number of genes, whose jobs are not fully understood yet.
Similarly, researchers have long known that as men age, they can lose the Y chromosome from some of their body cells. It was seen as a normal part of aging. Some recent studies, however, have suggested otherwise.
These latest findings on Alzheimer’s are “very interesting and provocative,” said Dr. Luca Giliberto, a neurologist and researcher with the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, in Manhasset, N.Y.
Giliberto, who was not involved with the study, said the researchers accounted for other factors tied to Alzheimer’s risk — including older age, education levels, high blood pressure and diabetes.