As many as 42 previously undiscovered genes have been found to have a link with the development of Alzheimer’s disease in the largest ever study of genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, a CNN report states.
According to the report, in addition to the APOE e4 gene and the development of proteins like ‘amyloid beta’ and ‘tau’ that form in the brain and cause devastation as Alzheimer’s progresses, the 42 previously-unknown genes signal newer ways for the disease to progress.
The study’s co-author, Julie Williams, center director at the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University, said in a statement: “This is a landmark study in the field of Alzheimer’s research and is the culmination of 30 years’ work. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, exercise and diet influence our development of Alzheimer’s, and acting to address these now is a positive way of reducing risk ourselves.”
“However, 60-80% of disease risk is based on our genetics and therefore we must continue to seek out the biological causes and develop much-needed treatments for the millions of people affected worldwide,” she added.
Dr Rebecca Sims, senior research fellow at Cardiff University and UK Dementia Research Institute co-investigator and co-leader of the study, said that it “more than doubles the number of identified genes influencing risk for the more common form of Alzheimer’s disease.”
“It provides exciting new targets for therapeutic intervention and advances our ability to develop algorithms to predict who will develop Alzheimer’s in later life,” she remarked.
Published recently in the journal Nature Genetics, the global study analysed genomes of 1,11,326 people with clinically-diagnosed Alzheimer’s, and compared them with genes from 6,77,663 cognitively-healthy people, the CNN report states.
Clinics in 15 members of the European Union, along with countries like Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Iceland, Nigeria, New Zealand, the UK and the US supplied the genomes.
In total, researchers identified 75 genes linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, 33 of which were known already. Williams added in her statement that “with multiple triggers, biological pathways and cell types involved in its development”, Alzheimer’s disease is “an extremely complex condition”.
“Components of our immune system have a big role to play in the development of the disease. For example, immune cells in the brain known as microglia are responsible for clearing out damaged tissue, but in some people that may be less efficient which could accelerate the disease,” she said.