British scientists have discovered two new genes associated with Alzheimer's disease, while French colleagues uncovered a third. The results, from the largest ever Alzheimer's genome-wide association study (GWAS) involving 16,000 individuals, are published in Nature Genetics. They are the first new genes found to be associated with the common form of Alzheimer's disease since 1993.
The Alzheimer's Research Trust spoke of "a leap forward for dementia research", the MRC's Sir Leszek Borysiewicz praised "a huge step towards achieving an earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's", and the Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan hailed the Cardiff-led study as "a real feather in the cap of Welsh science".
The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, Alzheimer's Research Trust and Welsh Assembly Government among others. The UK-led research involved scientists from universities in Cardiff, London, Cambridge, Nottingham, Southampton, Manchester, Oxford, Bristol and Belfast, who collaborated with Irish, German, Belgian, Greek and American institutions.
Previously only one gene, APOE4, had been associated with Alzheimer's disease. This study reveals two further genes, CLU and PICALM, are related to the disease. This is expected to provide scientists with a much clearer route to developing new treatments.
The paper's lead-author, Prof Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said:
"Both CLU and PICALM highlight new pathways that lead to Alzheimer's disease. The CLU gene produces clusterin which normally acts to protect the brain in a variety of ways. Variation in this gene could remove this protection and contribute to Alzheimer's development. PICALM is important at synapses - connections between brain cells - and is involved in the transport of molecules into and inside of nerve cells, helping form memories and other brain functions. We know that the health of synapses is closely
|Contact: Andrew Scheuber|
Alzheimer's Research Trust