Alzheimer and heart attacks have been found to share common genetic basis. The research leads the way to the first genetic test on developing the risk of the diseases even at a young age. According to Federico Licastro, an immunologist at the University of Bologna who coordinated the study published in the scientific journal, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, a test is now ready. "They are already selling it in America", he says, citing the case of a private firm in New Mexico (USA) that collaborated on the study. "But the tests could easily be also conducted wherever, using a simple blood test".
It comes as no surprise that the prospect of personalised tests is also very attractive to healthcare companies. Alzheimer and heart attacks are two relatively common diseases, Alzheimer being the most frequent form of senile dementia: by 85, it affects one in five women and one in ten men. Heart attacks, along with other cardiovascular problems, are one of the most widespread diseases and one of the main causes of death, affecting approximately 12.5 per cent of the population.
Very little was known to date about the connection between the two diseases. However, some epidemiological data appeared to suggest such a link. For example, coronary problems had already been associated with elevated frequency of Alzheimer, just as other issues such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and other typical cardiovascular risk factors. Some genes, controlling for inflammatory processes and cholesterol metabolism, were also known to be connected in some way to both Alzheimer and heart attacks.
What the researchers did was to examine the DNA of 1800 people (280 of whom had suffered a heart attack, 257 Alzheimer and 1307 healthy subjects, used as a control group), in their search for genetic factors suggesting a risk common to the two diseases. Their research proved positive; indeed there is some overlapping between the congenital risks of being
|Contact: Luigi Valeri|
Universit of Bologna