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21 new genes discovered associated with Alzheimer's

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The largest ever analysis of Alzheimer's patients' DNA has now doubled the number of genes linked to the dementia to 21. The result of a massive international collaboration, the findings as published in the journal Nature Genetics, indicate a strong role for the immune system. The down side is the major mysteries concerning causes of dementia, how brain cells die, how to treat it or even diagnose it remain unanswered.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Alzheimer's is a condition that usually effects the elderly and destroys both long and short-term memory. The number of people developing Alzheimer's is steadily growing worldwide as people live longer.

"It is really difficult to treat a disease when you do not understand what causes it," lead researcher Professor Julie Williams from Cardiff University says.

Involving nearly three quarters of the world's Alzheimer's geneticists from 145 academic institutions, the study looked at the DNA of 17,000 patients and 37,000 healthy people.

Versions of 21 genes were discovered, or "sets of instructions," which made it more likely that a person would develop Alzheimer's disease. While this doesn't guarantee the development of Alzheimer's, they do make the disease more likely.

"We've doubled the number of genes discovered and a very strong pattern is emerging," Professor Williams, the head of neuro-degeneration at Cardiff University told TV reporters.

"There is something in the immune response which is causing Alzheimer's disease and we need to look at that."

The way the body deals with cholesterol and the way cells in the brain deal with big molecules in a process called endocytosis seem to be involved. The findings now needs other research groups to pick up on the findings and work out exactly what is going wrong and develop treatments.

This could include drugs, genetic therapies or changes to lifestyle.

"By mapping the genetics of the most common, late-onset form of Alzheimer's, these findings highlight new biological processes that could significantly advance our understanding of this devastating disease," Dr. Eric Karran, the director of research at Alzheimer's Research U.K. Says.

"While this new discovery holds real potential, the true value will come from pinpointing the exact genes involved, how they contribute to Alzheimer's, and how this could be translated into benefits for people living with the disease."

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