Sun, Nov 10th, 2013

Experts discover 11 new ‘risk genes’ for Alzheimer’s Disease

A landmark study, the largest of its kind, has identified 11 new risk genes linked to the deadly brain disease.

A number of these genes impact on the immune system, which researchers now know plays a crucial role in the development of Alzheimer’s.

Professor Julie Williams, head of neurodegeneration at the Cardiff ­University School of Medicine’s ­Medical Research Council Centre on Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, led one of four global research teams.

She said: “Now we know a lot more about what is causing the disease, but we need to know more about the how. How these genes are actually contributing to the disease’s process and then we get to target errors with drugs or other interventions.

“Several of us will have some risk factors for many diseases, but it is having a number of them that will push us over the edge to developing them.“I think the more genes we find, the more we can use that information to identify people before they develop it or people who are in the early stages of the disease.”The UK scientists joined forces in an international collaboration to gather data from 74,046 individuals to pinpoint 11 Alzheimer’s risk genes.This builds on their previous work from 2009, which identified 10 genes known to be associated with Alzheimer’s, taking the total to 21.

Professor Williams said: “By combining the expertise and resources of geneticists across the globe, we have been able to overcome our natural competitive instincts to achieve a real breakthrough in identifying the genetic architecture that significantly contributes to our mapping of the ­disease.” One of the most significant discoveries of the research, which is published in the journal Nature Genetics, was found in a region of a brain that confirms the involvement of the immune system in the disease.

Professor Hugh Perry, chairman of neurosciences and the Mental Health Board at the Medical Research ­Council, said: “It is particularly noteworthy that this study yet further strengthens the role of the immune response in the development of ­Alzheimer’s.

”Dr Eric Karran, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Alzheimer’s is a complex disease that requires a multi-faceted research approach and this important study shows the progress that can come through collaboration.“Alzheimer’s Research UK is pleased to be supporting scientists at the ­cutting edge of this progress.

“While this new discovery holds real potential, the true value will come from pinpointing the exact genes involved, how they contribute to Alzheimer’s, and how this could be translated.”


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