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Alzheimer’s disease prevalence is more common in women than in men, according to research. For instance, in the US, two-thirds of the more than five million people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are women. 

More accumulation of tau protein in women is linked to higher AD prevalence 

Although the cause for the disparity is still unclear, one popular theory proposes that women have much larger tau protein deposits in their brains. Interestingly, new research by Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine researchers has offered more insight to support the theory. According to research, women’s brains express a particular enzyme more than men do, which causes more tau protein to accumulate over time. Researchers assert that this discovery could aid in creating new dementia medications.

Alzheimer’s patient’s brain nerve cells accumulate harmful protein masses as a result of the tau protein. Meanwhile, the involved enzyme is an X-linked enzyme called ubiquitin-specific peptidase 11 (USP11). This implies that the enzyme can be found in X-chromosome genes.

Co-study author David Kang said they are delighted about the latest research findings, which will offer the foundation for creating neuroprotective medicines. The study also establishes a framework for checking other X-linked factors that point to then increased tauopathy susceptibility in females. 

Kang added that whenever a certain tau protein is not required for nerve cell function, it is supposed to be cleared or destroyed. However, the clearance may experience a disruption leading to tau cell aggregating in nerve cells. It results in nerve cell destruction, called tauopathies, like Alzheimer’s disease. 

USP11 enzyme activity makes women susceptible to AD

Researchers sought to establish why tau accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease can result from dysfunctions in the intricate, balanced mechanism. Additionally, researchers assessed the heightened activity of the enzymes that regulate ubiquitin tag removal. 

The study demonstrated that women have higher USP11 levels in their brains relative to men. Additionally, the USP11 levels are more strongly linked to brain tau pathology in women than in men. According to the researchers, excessive USP11 enzyme activity in women drives the predisposition to tau pathology in AD.