Research conducted on mice by Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute in Texas found that removing a protein associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease from the brain did not affect memory and learning. However, the removal of the protein led to an increase in cholesterol levels, according to the findings.

The apolipoprotein (ApoE) has three major versions — ApoE2, ApoE3 and ApoE4. Plaque buildup in the brain — formed when protein pieces called beta-amyloid accumulate — is likely to happen more in a person with ApoE4. Those who receive one copy of the protein from either of their parents are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, people who get two copies of ApoE4 are at an even higher risk, though not necessarily.

For the latest study, researchers aimed to find out whether the removal of ApoE protein actually hampered brain function. They removed the protein completely from the brain but let it be in the liver to filter cholesterol.

The results showed that while mice were able to learn and had their memory intact even after ApoE was removed, their cholesterol levels went up and they lost cognitive function. Researchers said that this added to the existing evidence that overall heart health has an impact on the brain.

Dr. Joachim Herz, the study’s lead researcher and professor of molecular genetics, neuroscience, neurology and neurotherapeutics at the institute, said that additional research is required to find out what causes the cardiovascular health to affect the brain.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Neuroscience on Tuesday.

Almost 7.5 million new cases of Alzheimer’s are diagnosed across the world every year and about 5 million Americans currently suffer from the disease.