Gait and balance impairments are among the most troublesome and heterogeneous in Parkinson’s disease (PD). This heterogeneity may, in part, reflect genetic variation. The apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene has three major allelic variants (ε2, ε3 and ε4). Previous work has demonstrated that older adult (OA) APOE ε4 carriers demonstrate gait deficits. This study compared gait and balance measures between APOE ε4 carriers and non-carriers in both OA and PD.
334 people with PD (81 APOE ε4 carriers and 253 non-carriers) and 144 OA (41 carriers and 103 non-carriers) were recruited. Gait and balance were assessed using body-worn inertial sensors. Two-way analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) compared gait and balance characteristics between APOE ε4 carriers and non-carriers in people with PD and OA, controlling for age, gender, and testing site.
Gait and balance were worse in people with PD compared to OA. However, there were no differences between APOE ε4 carriers and non-carriers in either the OA or PD group. In addition, there were no significant group (OA/PD) by APOE ε4 status (carrier/non-carrier) interaction effects for any measures of gait or balance.
Although we found expected impairments in gait and balance in PD compared to OA, gait and balance characteristics did not differ between APOE ε4 carriers and non-carriers in either group. While APOE status did not impact gait and balance in this cross-sectional study, future work is needed to determine whether progression of gait and balance deficits is faster in PD APOE Ɛ4 carriers.