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Thread: ApoE gene good for our ancestors, but bad for us?

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    ApoE gene good for our ancestors, but bad for us?

    The press release from Arizona University:

    Ancient DNA can both diminish and defend modern minds

    You've likely heard about being in the right place at the wrong time, but what about having the right genes in the wrong environment? In other words, could a genetic mutation (or allele) that puts populations at risk for illnesses in one environmental setting manifest itself in positive ways in a different setting?

    That's the question behind a recent paper published in The FASEB Journal by several researchers including lead author Ben Trumble, an assistant professor at Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change and ASU's Center for Evolution and Medicine.

    These researchers examined how the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene might function differently in an infectious environment than in the urban industrialized settings where ApoE has mostly been examined. All ApoE proteins help mediate cholesterol metabolism, and assist in the crucial activity of transporting fatty acids to the brain. But in industrialized societies, ApoE4 variant carriers also face up to a four-fold higher risk for Alzheimer's disease and other age-related cognitive declines, as well as a higher risk for cardiovascular disease....
    The actual paper: Benjamin C. Trumble et al., Apolipoprotein E4 is associated with improved cognitive function in Amazonian forager-horticulturalists with a high parasite burden, The FASEB Journal, online 28 December 2016 before print,

    The apolipoprotein E4 (E4) allele is present worldwide, despite its associations with higher risk of cardiovascular morbidity, accelerated cognitive decline during aging, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The E4 allele is especially prevalent in some tropical regions with a high parasite burden. Equatorial populations also face a potential dual burden of high E4 prevalence combined with parasitic infections that can also reduce cognitive performance. We examined the interactions of E4, parasite burden, and cognitive performance in a traditional, nonindustrialized population of Amazonian forager-horticulturalists (N = 372) to test whether E4 protects against cognitive decline in environments with a heavy pathogen burden. Contrary to observations in industrial populations, older adult E4 carriers with high parasite burdens either maintained or showed slight improvements in cognitive performance, whereas non-E4 carriers with a high parasite burden showed reduced cognitive performance. Being an E4 carrier is the strongest risk factor to date of AD and cognitive decline in industrial populations, it is associated with greater cognitive performance in individuals facing a high parasite and pathogen load, suggesting advantages to the E4 allele under certain environmental conditions. The current mismatch between postindustrial hygienic lifestyles and active parasite-rich environs may be critical for understanding genetic risk for cognitive aging.—Trumble, B. C., Stieglitz, J., Blackwell, A. D., Allayee, H., Beheim, B., Finch, C. E., Gurven, M., Kaplan, H. Apolipoprotein E4 is associated with improved cognitive function in Amazonian forager-horticulturalists with a high parasite burden.

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