PHOENIX, Ariz. Sept. 15, 2008 Investigators at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) today announced a link between the brain protein KIBRA and Alzheimer's disease, a discovery that could lead to promising new treatments for this memory-robbing disorder.
The new discovery builds on a previous TGen-led study published in the prestigious journal Science, which showed a genetic link between KIBRA and memory in healthy adults.
In the new study, TGen researchers found that carriers of a memory-enhancing flavor of the KIBRA gene had a 25 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
The findings were reported Saturday in the online edition of Neurobiology of Aging, a Philadelphia-based peer-review journal that generally focuses on how aging affects the nervous system.
"This research suggests that KIBRA, and possibly some of the proteins with which it interacts, may play a role in Alzheimer's disease,'' said Dr. Matthew Huentelman, an investigator in TGen's Neurogenomics Division and the paper's senior author.
The critical difference found in KIBRA, a protein so named because it is commonly found in the kidneys and brain, was that those individuals with the T-allele gene were less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those with the C-allele. Alleles are those genetic markers A, C, G or T that determine such inherited traits as eye and hair color, or susceptibility to disease.
"We are now beginning to dig deeper regarding the genetic sequence of KIBRA in individuals carrying, and not carrying, the T-allele. We believe this variation causes a potential lifelong difference in the total levels of KIBRA in the brain, and that this may influence one's risk for Alzheimer's," said Huentelman, who led a team that worked with several Arizona institutions, as well as other national and international universities and research institutions.
Dr. Eric Reiman, clinical director of TGen's
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The Translational Genomics Research Institute