Healthy living

Five new genes linked to Alzheimer's

Five new genes linked to Alzheimers Genetic clues to the disease

Scientists have found five new genes that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The discovery brings the total number of genes now linked to Alzheimer's to ten.

The international team of scientists say the findings confirm that Alzheimer's is a complex disease, probably triggered by an accumulation of things going wrong, rather than one specific element.

The research builds on previous work which compared the genetic material of 20,000 people with Alzheimer's and 40,000 without the disease.

However, the latest discovery suggests that people with Alzheimer's disease may make a number of different biological responses, compared to those without the condition.

These include the immune response or inflammatory response within the brain and how the brain processes cholesterol and lipids. It also implicates a process called endocytosis, which removes toxic amyloid-beta protein in the brain, at least in healthy individuals.

Professor Julie Williams from Cardiff University's MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, who led the study, said: "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."

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Research UK said: "UK scientists are leading the field in our understanding of the genetics of Alzheimer's.

"These findings are a step towards defeating dementia. We are yet to find ways of halting this devastating condition, but this work is likely to spark off new ideas, collaborations and more research. "

The findings are published online in Nature Genetics.

This article was published on Mon 4 April 2011

Image © Karen Roach -

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