Alzheimer's Risk Identified Through Early Genetic Markers
Scientists in the U.S. have identified certain genetic markers that could potentially be helpful in early identification of those people who are at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. The research was published in the journal Neuron and identifies the build-up of proteins in the brain that are associated with mutations.
The study concludes that high levels of these tau proteins increase the chance for Alzheimer's disease. A hallmark of the disease seems to be tangles of a kind of protein tau called phosphorylated tau (also known as ptau).
The research team from the Washington University School of Medicine identified several gene variants, one of which was linked to a small increased risk of developing Alzheimer's but had a greater risk for contributing to cognitive decline.
Genetic information from more than 1,200 people was used for the study, which was a significantly larger pool of participants than previous research in this area.
"We anticipate that knowledge about the role of these genes in Alzheimer's disease may lead to the identification of new targets from therapies or new animal or cellular models of the disease," noted Dr. Allison Goate, the study's leader.
Experts in the UK said the study may help researchers understand the changes in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, adding that the study adds to the number of genetic markers previously known as links to the development of the disease.
"In discovering new genes that have a link to Alzheimer's, this robust study helps scientists to better understand the way the brain changes when dementia develops," notes Dr. Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society. "Research such as this may in the future help us to engineer treatments aimed at stopping such changes and therefore slowing or stopping the effects of dementia."
Dr. Brown added that the newly-found genetic markers are likely to be "a few of many" that might affect an individual's risk for developing Alzheimer's. He adds it is important for people to recognize that lifestyle factors also play a role in this disease, and that research has shown exercising regularly, eating a proper diet, not smoking, and having cholesterol and blood pressure checked at regular intervals are essential in reducing the risk for developing dementia.
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