Scientists discover genes that reveal vital clues about how the disease progresses.
PUBLISHED: 13:00 EST, 10 Aug 2016
A cluster of genes has been identified in healthy brains that could help develop preventative treatments for Alzheimer's disease.
People with the gene 'signature' - a sequence of between 50 an 60 specific genes - are vulnerable to the spread of the illness which causes dementia. They are vulnerable because they are less able to get rid of the rogue proteins that cause plaques and tangles in the brain.
A cluster of genes has been identified in healthy brains that makes certain people more vulnerable to
Alzheimer's disease. University of Cambridge academics say the findings could be used to develop treatments for individuals well before symptoms appear. At present, a genetic cause for Alzheimer's has been found for only around 1 in 20 cases, and the researchers hope the breakthrough will cast light on the other 19 out of 20 cases that cannot be predicted. The results published in the journal, Science Advances, looked at 500 healthy brains of persons who died between the ages of 24 and 5. They found that brains with the signature are significantly weaker in the areas where Alzheimer's disease spreads than brains that do not have the signature. The researchers believe that healthy young people with this specific gene signature may be more likely to develop Alzheimer's in later life. They may also not benefit from preventative treatments if and when they are developed for human use.
Alzheimer's disease is currently incurable. Its molecular origins are also unknown, and it is hoped the gene signature research will help explore why certain parts of the brain are more vulnerable than others. Professor, Michele Vendrusculo of the Centre for Misfolding Diseases at Cambridge's Department of Chemistry, one of the paper's authors, said: "To answer this question, what we've tried to do is to predict disease progression starting from healthy brains. If we can predict where and when neuronal damage will occur, then we will understand why certain brain tissues are vulnerable, and get a glimpse at the molecular origins of Alzheimer's disease."
Rosie Freer, a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and the study's lead author, said: "I hope that these results will help drug discovery efforts - that by illuminating the origins of disease vulnerability, there will be clearer targets for those working to cure Alzheimer's disease."
Posted, 8th of August, 2016 by Olga Brunner, M.Sc.
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