Could blood type influence susceptibility to Alzheimer’s?

New research suggests that blood type has an influence on the size of the grey matter in our cerebellum. It’s been suggested that larger grey matter may be linked with better brain function, potentially attributing to greater protection against certain diseases of the brain such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. These interesting claims are yet to be fully confirmed, but the research adds to a growing body of knowledge aimed at finding ways to prevent neurodegenerative disorders.

Published research in the journal Brain Research Bulletin in May 2015 by researchers at the UK’s University of Sheffield, suggests that individuals with ‘Type O’ blood have larger ‘grey matter’ in the cerebellum, the area of the brain important in assisting with cognitive function and motor skills.

Our grey matter is a major component of the central nervous system comprising of a mass of brain cells, including neurones. Grey matter has an important role in processing information around the brain. As this area is the first to be damaged when an individual suffers from a brain disease such as Alzheimer’s, those with larger grey matter may have more ‘backup’ before negative effects come into play.

The UK research study aimed to compare the grey matter volumes of 189 cognitively healthy adults. Of the participants, 76 adults had Type O blood, 65 adults had Type A blood while the others had either Type AB or B blood.

Latest Alzheimer's Research - Sage Institute of Aged CareAll participants were scanned using an MRI brain scanning technique to measure the volume of the grey matter. The researchers found that participants with Type O blood had more grey matter in the posterior proportion of the cerebellum. Those with ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘AB’ blood types had more grey matter volumes in both temporal (responsible for memory and language) and limbic regions (responsible for emotions, memories and arousal) of the brain, including the left hippocampus. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that first indicates brain damage with those suffering Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Matteo De Marco, research fellow at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Neuroscience, stated that the findings indicated that individuals with ‘O’ blood type may have more protection against particular diseases where the volumetric reduction is seen in temporal regions of the brain, with Alzheimer’s disease being a classic example.

Dr De Marco was quick to emphasise, however, that the community must not to jump to conclusions and assume that blood type can decrease or increase our risk of dementia. Further, individuals with A, B or AB blood types should not assume that they are at higher risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s until further research is performed.

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Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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