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Researchers discover a new genetic cause of Alzheimer's disease

Researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) connected to the University of Antwerp are the first to show that the quantity of amyloid protein in brain cells is a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Amyloid protein has already been known to be the primary component of the senile plaques in the brains of patients. The new discovery demonstrates that the greater the quantity of the protein that is produced, the younger the dementia patient is.

Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease is a memory disorder that affects up to 70% of all dementia patients. In Belgium, about 100,000 people suffer from this disease. The disease gradually destroys brain cells in the deep areas of the brain that are responsible for memory and knowledge. Ever since the disease was first reported by Alois Alzheimer − 100 years ago now − scientists have been searching diligently for ways to treat it.

Amyloid plaque formation plays a key role
Genetic research has previously shown a direct connection between amyloid protein and the development of senile plaques and loss of cells. Amyloid protein originates when it is cut by enzymes from a larger precursor protein. In very rare cases (fewer than 1 in 1000 patients), mutations appear in that amyloid precursor protein, causing it to change shape and be cut differently. The amyloid protein that is formed now has different characteristics, causing it to begin to stick together and precipitate as amyloid plaques. The development of amyloid plaques in the brain tissue of Alzheimer patients is a central factor in the search for a therapy for Alzheimer's disease.

A lot or not much of the amyloid precursor protein is a risk factor The fact that patients with Down syndrome get Alzheimer's disease shows that the quantity of the amyloid precursor protein contributes to the disease: in fact, patients with Down syndrome have 3 copies of the gene (or hereditary code
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Source:VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology


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