Last Updated: November 7, 2018
Studies have shown a link between childhood post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Until now, the studies have suggested a link between the two conditions, but a new study from the University Medical Center of Goettingen in Germany recently discovered a molecular link between the disease and PTSD.
Learn more about this study and how the condition can lead to Alzheimer’s later in life.
A Genetic Link Between Alzheimer’s and PTSD
The University Medical Center of Goettingen researchers hypothesized that various risk factors would eventually cause an aberrant activation of genes that ultimately contribute to Alzheimer’s. To test their hypothesis, scientists screened for animals that have PTSD-like symptoms in early life and experienced memory impairment later when exposed to other Alzheimer’s risk factors, like an increase of beta-amyloid.
It was through this screening that researchers identified the Formin 2 gene. Mutations of this gene have been linked to intellectual disability.
The research team then genetically modified mice to silence the Formin 2 gene and exposed those mice (and a control group) to fear-conditioning and gave the mice memory tests. In results published in The EMBO Journal, they concluded that the genetically modified mice showed symptoms of PTSD and experienced “accelerated age-associated memory decline” over time. Additionally, the mice that had been exposed to amyloid pathology experienced an increase in deregulated genes as they aged, suggesting that the condition may lead to Alzheimer’s through “aberrant gene expression.”
New Hope for Alzheimer’s Treatment
Researchers also tested the effectiveness of Vorinostat – an histone-deacetylases (HDAC) inhibitor drug known to improve memory in mice – on the genetically mutated mice and a control group. Using a placebo, they found that the drug did significantly prevent cognitive decline in the genetically mutated mice.
Researchers hope that they can continue to test other genes and environmental factors linked to Alzheimer’s, like depression.
The authors of the study stated, “Our study now provides the first insight into these mechanisms and offers – via the use of HDAC inhibitors – therapeutic options that should help people with PTSD and AD.”
Have you seen a link between Alzheimer’s and PTSD in your life, a parent or senior loved one? Share your stories with us in the comments below.