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Researchers discover a new genetic cause of Alzheimer's disease

) for the amyloid precursor protein and therefore produce 150% instead of 100% of the protein.

So, Jessie Theuns and her colleagues, under the direction of Christine Van Broeckhoven, hypothesized that the quantity of amyloid precursor protein might also play a role in Alzheimer's disease. The geneticists from Antwerp systematically studied the hereditary code that is responsible for controlling the expression of the gene (= promoter). Biological processes in our body are strictly regulated, primarily by closely controlling the amount of each protein that is produced. The promoter of a gene has the most important control function in this process.

In younger Belgian and Dutch Alzheimer's patients (younger than 70), the researchers found genetic variations in the promoter that increased the gene expression and thus the formation of the amyloid precursor protein. These variations in the promoter that increase expression occur up to 20 times more frequently (2 per 100 patients) than the mutations in the precursor protein that change the shape. Furthermore, there is a connection with the age at which the symptoms are first detected: the higher the expression (up to 150% as in Down syndrome), the younger the patient (starting between 50 and 60 years of age). Thus, the amount of amyloid precursor protein is a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease in the ageing process.

Prospects for tests and treatments
These new findings lead to a new understanding: namely, that the quantity of the amyloid precursor protein, and thus of the amyloid protein, in brain cells contributes significantly to the risk of contracting Alzheimer's. This discovery will have to be taken into account in diagnostic tests and in the search for new medicines.


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Source:VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology


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