This Gene Could Predict Future Brain Function

If you knew there was a test to tell the future regarding injury to your child, would you not want to know? You research helmets and pads for your child, so why not APOE? New research shows that genes may be the factor that decides how susceptible one may be to mental decline due to head trauma, specifically the APOE gene. Studies such as the diagnosis on NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher, point to head trauma leading to irrational behavior, depression and memory loss. This is not to sound the panic alarm, but education is key. What if it was you? Would you want to know the risk you take when you walk out onto the field?

The APOE Gene

Out of all our genes, the APOE gene is the one that research shows may be responsible for mental decline due to brain injury. The gene’s normal function is to create a protein, called apolipoprotein, which helps combine with fats to package cholesterol and send it through the bloodstream. More research is needed to solidify the connection, but leading specialists all agree that there is a strong possibility that the APOE gene is the link to conditions pertaining to decreased brain function.

APOE Variations

There are three variations of the APOE gene: E2, E3 and E4. Everyone carries two copies of this gene, one from each parent, and hence possible combinations include E2/E2, E2/E3, E2/E4, E3/E3, E3/E4, E4/E4. A large percentage of the population has a problematic variation of the APOE gene. The E2 and E3 variants manufacture a protein that is able to heal an injured area in the brain (or cleanup the plaque deposit) in the event of a head injury more efficiently than the E4 variation. Since up to one-third of the people who suffer a severe brain injury have deposits of plaque in the brain, a connection has been made between the E4 variant of this gene and a risk for decreased brain function due to the inability to efficiently cleanup plaque. Therefore, carriers of the E2 and E3 genetic variation are typically categorized as low risk; whereas carriers of E4 are typically categorized as having elevated risk for long-term negative results in the event of a head injury.

Risk factors for that sort of chronic impairment are prior concussion, longer exposure to the sport, and according to the new report, the APOE4 gene variant.

– NPR, Doctors: Bench Athletes At First Concussion Sign

Chronic Impairment Risks

A postmortem analysis of the brain of NFL linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year at age 43, found that he had suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive head injuries. Risk factors for that sort of chronic impairment are prior concussion, longer exposure to the sport, and according to the new report, the APOE4 gene variant. That variant exists in about 14 percent of the population and has also been linked to heart disease, some cases of Alzheimer’s disease, and an increased risk for atherosclerosis, which is an accumulation of plaque in the arteries. The E2 variation of the gene has been studied for an increased risk in the development of a rare disease known as hyperlipoproteinanemia type III, which can lead to the development of small, yellow skin growths called xanthomas. This gene variant has also been linked to a disease that can cause vision loss called macular degeneration and the development of atherosclerosis.

Knowing Your Variation Gives You Knowledge-And Knowledge is Power

This gene and its research are so important to helping today’s parents make the best choices for their children. A simple mouth swab could let parents know if by participating in certain sports or other impact activities, their children are at high risk for decreased brain function in the event of a head injury.


Have your ApoE variation tested with our genetic test – SportSafe

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  • cognition
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  • other cognitive measures
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