New Alzheimer’s genes discovered in world’s largest study

Two new genes that raise a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease have been discovered by researchers.

Cardiff University reports an international team, involving its Dementia Research Institute, compared thirty two thousand genetic codes from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy individuals.

The researchers uncovered several new genes and specific mutations in those genes that lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. They found rare, damaging genetic mutations in the genes known as ATP8B4 and ABCA1 which could lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also found evidence of genetic alternation in a further gene, ADAM10.

Professor Julie Williams, Director of the Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University, and a co-author on the study, said “These findings point us towards very specific processing in the brain, which includes differences in the brain’s immune system and how the brain processes cholesterol. These differences impact brain functioning and leads to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the UK. An estimated 60-80% of the risk of Alzheimer’s disease can be explained by genetic factors. For early onset Alzheimer’s (under sixty five years of age), this increases to more than 90%.

Julie Williams said “This study helps expand our knowledge about who is at risk of developing this form of dementia.

“These genetic discoveries also allow us to understand the mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s, as well as create genetic models of the disease to develop targeted therapies in the future – through new drug-based treatments or even gene therapy.

“The Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University is well-placed to apply this research and take it forward into developing disease models. We are the biggest investment in dementia research in Wales, with over 100 researchers focused on developing our understanding of dementia and delivering new treatments.”

The study, “Exome sequencing identifies rare damaging variants in ATP8B4 and ABCA1 as risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease”, was led by Amsterdam UMC, and is published in Nature Genetics.

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