Depression and Alzheimer’s disease share genetic roots

Journal Reference:

  1. Nadia V. Harerimana, Yue Liu, Ekaterina S. Gerasimov, Duc Duong, Thomas G. Beach, Eric M. Reiman, Julie A. Schneider, Patricia Boyle, Adriana Lori, David A. Bennett, James J. Lah, Allan I. Levey, Nicholas T. Seyfried, Thomas S. Wingo, Aliza P. Wingo. Genetic Evidence Supporting a Causal Role of Depression in Alzheimer’s Disease. Biological Psychiatry, 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2021.11.025

Co-senior author Aliza Wingo, MD, of Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, USA, said of the work, “It raises the possibility that there are genes that contribute to both illnesses. While the shared genetic basis is small, the findings suggest a potential causal role of depression on dementia.”

The authors performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS), a technique that scans the entire genome for areas of commonality associated with particular conditions. The GWAS identified 28 brain proteins and 75 transcripts — the messages that encode proteins — that were associated with depression. Among those, 46 transcripts and 7 proteins were also associated with symptoms of AD. The data suggest a shared genetic basis for the two diseases, which may drive the increased risk for AD associated with depression.

Although previous studies had examined AD and depression using GWAS, the current work was made more powerful by using larger, newly available data sets that revealed more detailed information.

“This study reveals a relationship between depression and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia at the genetic level,” said co-senior author Thomas Wingo, MD. “This is important because it may explain, at least in part, the well-established epidemiologic association between depression and higher risk for dementia.”

Dr. A. Wingo added, “This relationship raises the question of whether treatment of depression can mitigate the risk for dementia. We identified genes that may explain the relationship between depression and dementia here that merit further study. Such genes may be important treatment targets for both depression and reduction of dementia risk.”

“The costs of ineffectively treated depression continue to mount. There has been increasing evidence that major depressive disorder increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but little insight into this relationship,” John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, said. “This innovative study, which links genetic risk mechanisms to molecular changes in the brain, provides the clearest link to date supporting the hypothesis that depression plays a causal role in the biology of Alzheimer’s disease.”

This does not mean that if one has an episode of depression that dementia is an inevitable result. Instead, it suggests that ineffectively treated depression may aggravate the biology of Alzheimer’s disease, potentially hastening the onset of symptoms and increasing the rate of functional decline.”

We wish to give thanks to the author of this article for this remarkable material

Depression and Alzheimer’s disease share genetic roots

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