Researchers Identify New Alzheimer's Gene

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans can show brain lesions usually associated with Alzheimers disease, aiding in diagnosing the disease.

 

Scientists have identified a new gene variant that seems to strongly raise the risk for Alzheimer's disease, giving a fresh target for research into treatments for the mind-robbing disorder.

Less than 1 percent of people are thought to have the problem gene, but it roughly triples the chances of developing Alzheimer's compared to people with the normal version of the gene. It also seems to harm memory and thinking in older people without dementia.

Scientists are excited by the discovery because of what this gene does, and how that might reveal what causes Alzheimer's and ways to prevent it. The gene helps the immune system control inflammation in the brain and clear junk such as the sticky deposits that are the hallmark of the disease.

It points us to potential therapeutics in a more precise way than we've seen in the past, said Dr. William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association.

About 35 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer's is the most common type. In the U.S., about 5 million have Alzheimer's. There is no known cure.

Until now, only one gene ApoE has been found to have a big impact on Alzheimer's risk. About 17 percent of the population has at least one copy of the problem version of this gene but nearly half of all people with Alzheimer's do.

The new gene, TREM2, already has been tied to other forms of dementia. Researchers homed in on a version of it they identified through mapping the entire genetic code of more than 2,200 Icelanders. Further tests on 3,550 Alzheimer's patients and more than 110,000 people without dementia found that the gene variant was more common in Alzheimer's patients. It's a very strong effect, raising the risk of Alzheimer's by three to four times about the same amount as the problem version of the ApoE gene does, said Dr. Allan Levey, director of an Alzheimer's program at Emory University, one of the academic centers participating in the research.
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Source: Yellowbrix

 

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