Alzheimer’s: 9 new genetic risk factors found

Alzheimer’s: 9 new genetic risk factors found

New research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, identifies new genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. It also uncovers novel biological mechanisms that may lead to this neurodegenerative condition.

scientist analyzing dna sequence on a screen
Scientists have found new genetic locations associated with Alzheimer’s.

About 5.7 million people in the United States are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. A recent report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that by the year 2060, this number will grow to 13.9 million.

Genes play an important role in whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s or not. Researchers estimate that 60–80 percent of the disease is heritable.

Therefore, identifying the genes that put some people at risk of Alzheimer’s is an important scientific endeavor.

So far, studies have found more than 20 genetic locations that have links with the condition, but these only explain a small percentage of the genetic variance that accounts for Alzheimer’s.

So, a team of scientists has set out to uncover more genetic risk factors. Professor Danielle Posthuma, from the Vrije Universiteit University in Amsterdam, Netherlands, together with Dr. Ole Andreassen from the University of Oslo, Norway, and Dr. Stephan Ripke from the Broad Institute in Boston, MA, led the new research.

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Prof. Posthuma and colleagues carried out a genome-wide association study of over 455,000 people of European descent. Some of these individuals had already received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, while others had a parental history of the disease.

As a result of this combined analysis, the scientists discovered 29 genome-wide genetic locations that have associations with Alzheimer’s, nine of which were new genetic loci.

These newly discovered genes shed some light on possible biological mechanisms that may underlie Alzheimer’s. For instance, the scientists found alterations in some genes in the tissues and cells that play a role in the immune system.

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