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New Alzheimer’s genes found

An international research team have found two new genes that increase the risk of late onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“By studying the genes of almost 14,000 participants, and comparing the DNA of Alzheimer patients and people without the disease, we have identified two new genes associated with the disease. We believe they are involved in the formation of brain lesions in patients with Alzheimer’s,” said Dr Corinne Lendon from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), and member of the international collaboration.

“This discovery has improved our understanding of the disease and in the long term may help us develop new diagnostics and ultimately treatments for this debilitating disease,” said Dr Lendon.

“However we know Alzheimer’s is the result of many genetic and lifestyle and environmental factors. We can all reduce our risk by adopting a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight and healthy eating.”

“Our collaboration involves new technologies and a very large number of DNA collections from groups all over the world. This has given us the ability to detect new risk genes and what is really exciting about our research is the results have been independently replicated. A parallel study using another 13,000 participants has implicated the same genes, making the findings even more compelling.”

“Many researchers are trying to elucidate the genetic or environmental causes of the disease. At QIMR, we are studying how the genes and the environment interact together to enhance risk. We are currently developing a test using brain cells to screen for potential drugs that combat the unwanted effects of the genes” explained Dr Lendon.

With the world’s population ageing, the prevalence of dementia is projected to increase over four fold in the next 40 years. By 2050, 1.13 million Australians are expected to be affected (compared to 245,400 in 2009). Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia worldwide.

“Alzheimer’s affects so many of us. It causes horrendous suffering for the patient and everyone around them. At the moment there is no cure.”

“It is therefore essential that Alzheimer research be supported, in the hope that one day we will prevent it,” said Dr Lendon.

The discovery is the combined effort of researchers from around the world including QIMR and medical institutions throughout Europe. The project was led by Philippe Amouyel from the Pasteur Institute in Lille, France.

The results will be published in Nature Genetics, September 2009 edition.