"Alcohol and Alzheimer’s disease-prone genes may put humans at greater risk of Alzheimer’s onset and progression"
Standford Medicine reports that a study has found ‘Asian glow’ may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
‘Alcohol glow’ AKA ‘Asian flush’ is a condition that causes people to develop flushes on their face and other areas of their body after consuming alcohol.
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that results in memory loss, language problems, disorientation, mood swings and behavioural issues.
According to a study held by researchers at the Stanford University of Medicine, a key enzyme “involved in alcohol metabolism increases damage in cells from patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Facial redness following alcohol consumption is caused by a mutation in aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 or ALDH2. The mutation reduces the activity of the enzyme, resulting in a buildup of acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is involved in the break down and metabolism of alcohol. When acetaldehyde is built up too much, the body responds with skin flushing.
The mutation is most among East Asians and affects about 560 million people, or about 8% of the world’s population.
Daria Mochly-Rosen, PhD, professor of chemical and systems biology explained the link between the mutation and Alzheimer’s. Mochly-Rosen is the lead author of the sudy.
“Our data suggest that alcohol and Alzheimer’s disease-prone genes may put humans at greater risk of Alzheimer’s onset and progression,” Mochly-Rosen said. “This is based on our patient-derived cell studies and our animal studies, so an epidemiological study in humans should be carried out in the future.”
Authors of the study examined cell cultures from 20 patients with Alzheimer’s disease. One culture had the ALDH2 mutation (ALDH2*2) but only had a fraction of the ability to metabolise acetaldehyde.
ALDH2*2 cells had more free radicals than normal cells and more 4-HNE – another toxic chemical that ALDH2 processes.
“Free radicals are formed when we have fever, when we have chronic diseases, when we are stressed; free radicals are formed under many kinds of pathological stimuli. These free radicals form toxic aldehydes, and the job of ALDH2 is to remove these toxic chemicals,” Mochly-Rosen explained.
“Once these aldehydes accumulate, the first organelles that they damage are the organelles that contain the enzyme that is supposed to get rid of them: the mitochondria.”
When alcohol was added to the cells with either ALDH2 or ALDH2*2 derived from patients with Alzheimer’s disease, there was an increase in free radicals. In the ALDH2*2 , the effect was greater.
However, other studies did not manage to find a link between Alzheimer’s and Asian glow. The findings Mochly-Rosen’s study concluded that further validation is needed “in large epidemiological studies of humans is needed to see whether alcohol drinkers who have the ALDH2*2 mutation develop Alzheimer’s disease at a higher-than-average rate.”
The study also hopes to investigate whether decreased alcohol consumption and the use of compounds such as Alda-1 could reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s.