A new study defines the development of Alzheimer’s disease and a severe course of disease in COVID-19 due to genes as genetic diseases. In addition, the study authors also identified the same changes in the immune system in both diseases. Accordingly, targeting specific genes that are considered risky could contribute to future treatment options.
Risk factors in dementia and corona infections as genetic diseases
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, a syndrome in which cognitive functions decline over time. Various genes can also significantly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Such genetic factors change the response of microglia or immune cells in the brain to accumulations of amyloid protein and balls. Therefore, in the present research work, the scientists have concentrated on a subpopulation of microglial cells in the interferon system. These cells also respond to interferon proteins that the body releases to fight viral infections such as SARS-CoV-2. The study authors identified a variant of the interferon-stimulated gene oligoadenylate synthetase 1 (OAS1). This can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by an estimated 11–22%. This supports the idea that people with lower OAS1 levels are more likely to have a chronic immune response or a cytokine storm.
The scientists examined the genotyping of more than 2500 human DNA samples. Of these, 1313 were from people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and 1234 from control people without neurodegenerative disease. The study results showed that the body needed OAS1 to reduce the amount of inflammatory proteins. This underscores the importance of inflammation in both Alzheimer’s disease progression and the severity of COVID-19. Regarding the new research, the authors note that they do not know whether the effects of this gene could affect the long-term neurological consequences of coronavirus or increase the risk of dementia. However, this study adds important information about the pathogenesis of the more severe forms of COVID-19. Hopefully the researchers will be able to shed further light and develop treatment options or even personalized preventive medicine.