BOISE — Two decades and counting of research and patience for Dr. Troy Rohn, to uncover answers about Alzheimer’s Disease.
“I joined the faculty here in 2000, so this is my 20th year, I’ve been doing research in Alzheimer's Disease, probably about 23 years," said Rohn,
"In science, progress is typically glacial, you know it’s very slow, but I think recently we’ve been working with a gene that you can inherit, it’s called the APOE4 gene."
Their lab, comprised of three undergraduate students and one graduate student, is seeing exciting results with that gene; they’ve found it can turn toxic to cells in the brain— and promote inflammation — which is a prominent feature of Alzheimer’s Disease. The most common type of AD is late-onset, meaning 65 years or older.
"There really is no gene you can inherit that’s going to predict you’ll get late on-set Alzheimers, but there are risk factors, so I go back to the APOE4 gene, that is the greatest risk factor," said Rohn.
About 40% of people that have AD have the APOE4 gene. The APOE4 gene increases your risk, but still, you can have the gene and never get Alzheimer's. Additionally, you can not have the gene and still, be at risk. Often APOE4 gene is what is tested in genetic tests, like 23andMe, to assess your risk-factor for AD and Dementia. The lab continues to study the gene, but it's complicated by nature.
"Dementia really describes the symptoms, so, loss of memory, confusion, the inability to do higher executive functions, all those are words that fall under the umbrella of Dementia," said Rohn, Alzheimer's Disease is the leading cause of Dementia."
Dr. Rohn’s focus isn't exactly on finding a cure; it's more so on finding treatment for symptoms.
“This is a disease that’s really hard on families and patients themselves, and we need better treatments," said Rohn.
Dr. Rohn’s is now working with a company called Cognigenics to research how to genetically modify genes in your brain, to be more resilient with the Alzheimer's symptoms.
However, like Dr. Rohn previously stated, these results take time, The company is currently in the conceptual stage, and Rohn's role is helping with the pre-clinical experiments. They’re not yet to the human trials stage, but having patience pays off.
“These things take time, but I’m very excited and committed," said Rohn.