McGill University, Neuroimaging Translational Laboratory researchers, recently announced that they have uncovered that the apolipoprotein ꜫ4 (APOE ꜫ4) gene is associated with an even greater role in dementia.


In a recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Neurology, Dr. Pedro Rosa-Neto’s research team from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute’s Translational Neuroimaging Laboratory found that the risk of developing dementia conferred by APOE ꜫ4 does, in fact, involve processes associated in tau aggregation as reported recently by McGill University.

The Neurotoxic Proteins

It is known that Alzheimer’s disease is defined by “the aggregation of two proteins in the brain: amyloid plaques and tau tangles, both of which are known to be neurotoxic” commented Joseph Therriault, a PhD student at McGill’s Integrated Program in Neuroscience under the supervision of Dr’s Pedro Rosa-Neto and Serge Gauthier, Director of the Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders Research Unit at the McGill Center for Studies in Aging.


This gene has been associated with amyloid plaques, but its actual association with tau tangles has been controversial. But the recent research reveals its association in living humans.

The Study

The French-Canadian team assessed two independent populations by leveraging data from the Translational Biomarkers in Aging and Dementia (TRIAD) cohort and the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), two research initiatives whereby participating patients agreed to complete a variety of imaging and clinical assessments. McGill University reported that in both instances, MRIs and PET scans were used to establish a relationship between APOEꜫ4 and tau tangles. 


The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health ResearchWeston Brain Institute, and Fonds de la recherche en Sante du Quebec.

Comments on Results

“The researchers report that this study allows for a conclusion that carriers of the gene have greater levels of tau tangles in the brain’s memory centers,” said PhD student Joseph Therriault. The study doesn’t identify a biological mechanism for why the association exists, but the findings contribute to an evolving framework for an understanding that APOEꜫ4 plays a central role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead Research/Investigator

Dr. Pedro Rosa-Neto

Serge Gauthier 

Joseph Therriault

Call to Action: The team will continuing pursuing this research in the hopes of identifying whether the studied individuals accumulate tau at a faster level through longitudinal imaging with the goal of observing how subjects evolve over time. Connect with this team or follow TrialSite News as their progress is updated.

Source: McGill

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