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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Nov;1089:472-86.

Age-related inflammatory diseases: role of genetics and gender in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease.

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Gruppo di Studio sull' Immunosenescenza, Dipartimento di Biopatologia e Metodologie Biomediche, Corso Tukory 211, 90134 Palermo, Italy.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a heterogeneous and progressive neurodegenerative disease which in Western societies mainly accounts for clinical dementia. A high proportion of women are affected by this disease, especially at a very advanced age, which might to a large extent be associated with the fact that women live longer. However, some studies suggest that incidence rates may be really increased in women. For this reason the influence of estrogens on the brain and the decrease of it during menopause are of special interest. After menopause, circulating levels of estrogens markedly decline, influencing several brain processes predicted to influence AD risk. The control of estrogens on oxidative stress, inflammation, and the cerebral vasculature might also be expected to increase AD risk. During the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study--a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of women 65-79 years of age--oral estrogen plus progestin was seen to double the rate of developing dementia, with risk appearing soon after the treatment was initiated. On the basis of current evidence, hormone therapy (HT) is thus not indicated for the prevention of AD. Inflammation clearly occurs in pathologically vulnerable regions of the AD brain and the search for genetic factors influencing the pathogenesis of AD has led to the identification of numerous gene polymorphisms that act as susceptibility modifiers. Accordingly, several reports have indicated that the risk of AD is substantially influenced by several genetic polymorphisms in the promoter region, or other untranslated regions, of genes encoding inflammatory mediators. Here we review several data suggesting that inflammatory genetic variation may contribute to higher AD susceptibility in women too. All together this information may represent the basis both for future recognition of individuals at risk as well as for a pharmacogenomic approach in achieving drug responsiveness.

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