New Alzheimer's insight

  • One of the largest studies into the genetics of Alzheimer's disease has found double the number of previous genes associated with the disorder. Irma Wants Some Coffee

    Researchers are becoming closer to understanding the causes of Alzheimer's disease with the largest study into the genetics of the disorder. Findings suggest that at least 20 genes play a role in the common late-onset form of Alzheimer's, which is more than double the number of scientists had previously discovered.

    This work gives researchers an extraordinary insight into the biological pathways that drive the disorder whilst raising the prospect of a test that could determine a person's susceptibility to the disease. This test could be helpful in the future if preventative drugs become available, reports the Guardian.

    The researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Lille, used genetic information from over 74,000 Alzheimer's patients and healthy controls to find regions of DNA that were more common in people who had the disease. As well as discovering genes already implicated in the disease the researchers also 11 gene regions that had never been linked to the disorder before.

    The findings highlight how complex the disease is and show that it is driven by changes in inflammatory responses, a complex immune system, the way proteins are handled in the brain and how neurons talk to one another.

    One of the most intriguing results from the study published in Nature Genetics in the discovery of a risk-raising gene involved in the immune system which is already thougt to place people at a greater risk of MS and Parkinson's disease. "This helps us understand the pathophysiology of the disease," said Amouyel.

    "If we are able to develop preventative treatments for Alzheimer's disease, they would need to be used very early on," said Philippe Amouyel, the researchers leader. "This could help us identify people who are more prone to the disease by estimating their individual risk."

    Head of research at Alzheimer's Society, James Pickett says: "This truly global effort has doubled the number of genes linked to Alzheimer's and showed what can be achieved when researchers collaborate. We now need continued global investment into dementia research to understand exactly how these genes affect the disease process."

    Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia affecting around 500,000 people in Britain and one in fourteen people over the age of 65 are affected.

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