WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- A rare mutation in a gene called TREM2 appears to nearly triple the risk for Alzheimer's disease in adults, a new study finds.
This gene is involved in immune and inflammatory responses, and may be yet another piece of the mystery of the causes of Alzheimer's disease and a target for treatment, the researchers added.
"We found a mutation that confers a large risk for Alzheimer's disease," said lead researcher Dr. Kari Stefansson, the CEO of deCODE Genetics based in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Although only 1.2 percent of the population has the TREM2 mutation, when comparing adults aged 85 and older with and without it, those who do have it are almost seven times more likely to have Alzheimer's disease, he said.
Of course, having this mutation doesn't mean that one is destined to develop Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is a complex disease and a person probably needs to have several risk factors that combine to produce the condition, Stefansson said.
"This has implications for treatment," he said. The mutation might be a target for new drugs that blunt the mutation's action, he said.
The report was published in the Nov. 14 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
An Alzheimer's expert praised the new study.
"This shows the value of basic research," said William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer at the Alzheimer's Association. "This kind of science is very important, and can accelerate our finding better therapies for Alzheimer's disease."
Thies noted this finding doesn't mean people should run out and be tested for this mutation. The mutation might, in the future, be important for treatments, but that's a long way off, he said.
The need to develop treatments for Alzheimer's disease is a pressing issue, he added.
"The imperative for finding new therapies is obvious
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