Monday, 17 February 2014

The Apolipoprotein E4 under your bed

Apoliprotein E (ApoE) is a fascinating protein. It performs many functions and yet so little is known about its role in several serious health conditions. The general sciencey view is that ApoE plays a role in lipid metabolism, neurobiology and immune function. So, in other words, it’s bloody important.

Why do I care about ApoE? Well, I take a stab in the dark when I say that there are likely many more people who know that:

Apolipoprotein E4 = oh shit

than there are people who know whether they have it. I believe this is a good thing, but not for the reason you may think.

But to answer the question - I care because I know I am blessed with an E4/E4 genetic profile. And SPILCs (smart people in lab coats) keep telling me I’m doomed because of it - most likely due to Alzheimer’s or heart disease or possibly both.


But before I get all teary-eyed and blather on about how selfish my parents were for breeding, it’s worth taking a step back and explaining a few things. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into specifics on lipoprotein metabolism, because I’m not a lipidologist (thank goodness) and many people have done an excellent job of it already:

A handy little animation for all you lipid groupies  – lipid metabolism

My intention is put up a few posts on what I've learned about ApoE and why I think knowing you have one or two E4s is not as devastating as the SPILCs will have you believe.

You see, SPILCs have this fascination with breeding mice that have no ApoE or human ApoE4 just to see what happens. I imagine the quality of life for these poor buggers isn't that flash, but the lure of a new drug with multi-zillion dollar profits is obviously a strong one – so if a few mice get broken in the process…so be it.

Anyway, the sad mice papers that I've read usually conclude with some brilliant observation that, although they're not exactly certain why or by what method, E4 must have been some evolutionary joke and that great steps must be taken in order to rid this toxic protein from the human race.

That they come to this conclusion without also considering why or how the E4 population has avoided extinction this long is perplexing. Does environment not factor in here somewhere? Do they not think that perhaps we have some biological advantage that is no longer advantageous considering the food we now tend to eat?

I don’t know, but I thought that would be worth a study or two. 

This post is simply a primer for what will be spewed forth in the coming weeks and months. Even if you don’t have E4, you might be interested in the brilliant little protein that has taken up so much of my spare time.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of some very annoying people who seem to be enjoying their apples just a tad too much. 

They are probably high. Or drunk. Or possibly just some of those irritating people who like eating apples and want everyone to know how healthy they are because of it. I imagine they have annoying names like Brad and Crystal and are genetically faultless. Which is why eating apples all the time is apparently not having an outward effect on their appearance.

I am not liable for the replacement cost of your pc monitor, so try to resist putting your fist through Brad’s teeth. 

Have a good one.