Researchers at Cardiff University say they’ve found five new genes linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Through our ongoing research, we are finding genes that increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, allowing us to pinpoint what may be going wrong, biologically, in the brain,” said Julie Williams, who headed up the Cardiff study.
Alzheimer’s, a form of degenerative dementia, is a complex condition made up of various elements. Scientists believe it’s 80% genetic.
The new research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, brings the total of known genes associated with the condition to 10. The more of these genes someone has, the more likely they are to develop Alzheimer’s.
The five new genes affect three bodily processes — the immune system, the ways the brain processes cholesterol and lipids and the process of removing toxic amyloid-beta protein from the brain. The latter process, called endocytosis, is also affected by a number of other Alzheimer’s-related genes.
“We now have four genes that implicate this very precise process and it offers a very big clue that this process is playing a strong role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Williams.
If researchers can develop treatments that target these processes, it would significantly reduce people’s chances of developing the disease.
What’s more, if doctors could treat the effects of all 10 genes, the number of Alzheimer’s cases would be reduced by a massive 60%, according to the study.
“This study, plus our previous studies, means that we are beginning to piece together the pieces of the jigsaw and gain new understanding. We still have a long way to go – but the jigsaw is beginning to come together. If we were able to remove the detrimental effects of these genes through treatments, we hope we can help reduce the proportion of people developing Alzheimer’s in the long-term,” said Williams.
However, the researchers warn any treatments that result from this study are at least 15 years away.
City Connect encourages you to learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease and help fund research to find a cure by visiting the Alzheimer’s Society website.
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