Three genes closely linked to the development of Alzheimer’s have been identified, and experts think further research could slash rates of the illness by a fifth.
This “leap forward” in understanding late-onset Alzheimer’s has challenged previous assumptions about the disease’s treatment.
Two British and French-led teams published a report in the journal Nature Genetics, suggesting that finding a way to eliminate the effects of these three genes could prevent up to 100,000 cases of “common” Alzheimer’s in the UK.
No genes have been linked to common Alzheimer’s since 1993, when a quarter of cases were found to be connected to a mutant form of a gene called APOE.
Researchers now believe brain inflammation plays a more important role in Alzheimer’s than previously thought.
The UK group identified two genes known as clusterin, or CLU, and PICALM, and the French team highlighted complement receptor 1, or CR1.
It is known that clusterin protects the brain by ridding it of potentially destructive amyloid protein, like APOE does. Clusterin and CRI both slow down damaging brain inflammation caused by an overactive immune response.
Professor Julie Williams, who led the British scientists, described the breakthrough as “the biggest advance in Alzheimer’s research in 15 years”.
Copyright Press Association 2009