Genetic insights into Alzheimer's disease

28 October 2013

New genetic epidemiological research has linked multiple new genes with the common, late-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease, with potentially important implications.
 
Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disorder associated with gradual deterioration in cognitive functions. The international collaborative meta-analysis study, which combined genetic data from a total of almost 75,000 patients and controls in a two-stage analysis process, was published in Nature Genetics. In addition to the APOE gene, a variant of which confers significant genetic risk of Alzheimer’s, a further nineteen genetic variants were found to be associated with increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s,includingeleven not previously linked with the disease.
 
These new genetic loci include candidate genes involved in pathways already implicated in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis, such as the production of amyloid precursor protein (APP) and tau protein, immune responses and inflammation. Others suggest the involvement of additional biological pathways and functions such as nerve cell transport, cellular structure, the regulation of gene expression and the modification of proteins.

Alzheimer's Research UK Director of Research Dr Eric Karran commented: "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 into benefits for people living with the disease". The hope is that the genetic insights into factors that affect disease susceptibility will improve understanding of how the disease is initiated and progresses, and provide new opportunities to develop approaches to prevention and treatment. 

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