New risk gene illuminates Alzheimer's disease

February 25, 2014

A team of international scientists, including a researcher from Simon Fraser University, has isolated a gene thought to play a causal role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published the team's study.

The newly identified gene affects accumulation of amyloid-beta, a protein believed to be one of the main causes of the damage that underpins this in humans.

The gene encodes a protein that is important for intracellular transportation. Each brain cell relies on an internal highway system that transports molecular signals needed for the development, communication, and survival of the cell.

This system's impairment can disrupt amyloid-beta processing, causing its eventual accumulation. This contributes to the development of , which are a key hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Teasing out contributing disease factors, whether genetic or environmental, has long posed a challenge for Alzheimer's researchers.

"Alzheimer's is a multifactorial disease where a build-up of subtle problems develop in the nervous system over a span of decades," says Michael Silverman, an SFU biology associate professor. He worked on the study with a team of Japanese scientists led by Dr. Takashi Morihara at Osaka University.

Identifying these subtle, yet perhaps critical genetic contributions is challenging. "Alzheimer's, like many human disorders, has a genetic component, yet many environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to the disease as well," says Silverman. "In a sense, it is like looking for a needle in a complex genetic haystack."

Only a small fraction of cases have a strong hereditary component, for example early-onset Alzheimer's.

This breakthrough in Alzheimer's research could open new avenues for the design of therapeutics and pave the way for early detection by helping healthcare professionals identify those who are predisposed to the disease.

"One possibility is that a genetic test for a particular variant of this newly discovered gene, along with other variants of genes that contribute to Alzheimer's, will help to give a person their overall risk for the disease.

"Lifestyle changes, such as improved diet, exercise, and an increase in cognitive stimulation may then help to slow the progression of Alzheimer's," says Silverman.

Explore further: Researchers identify variation in gene PLD3 can increase risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

More information: PNAS DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1307345111

Related Stories

Researchers identify variation in gene PLD3 can increase risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

December 24, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A new study, part-funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wellcome Trust and Alzheimer's Research UK, has shown that a fault in a gene called phospholipase D3 (PLD3) can contribute to the overproduction ...

Rare gene variants double risk for Alzheimer's disease

December 11, 2013
A team led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has identified variations in a gene that doubles a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later in life.

Researchers discover an epigenetic lesion in the hippocampus of Alzheimer's

January 21, 2014
Alzheimer's disease can reach epidemic range in the coming decades, by the increasing average age of society. There are two key issues for Alzheimer's disease: there is currently no effective treatment and it has been described ...

Unlikely gene variants work together to raise Alzheimer's risk

October 23, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Studying spinal fluid from people at risk for Alzheimer's disease, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a gene variation that had not been considered risky ...

New Alzheimer's research suggests possible cause: The interaction of proteins in the brain

June 19, 2013
For years, Alzheimer's researchers have focused on two proteins that accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer's and may contribute to the disease: plaques made up of the protein amyloid-beta, and tangles of another ...

Alzheimer's risk gene may begin to affect brains as early as childhood

December 3, 2013
People who carry a high-risk gene for Alzheimer's disease show changes in their brains beginning in childhood, decades before the illness appears, new research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) suggests.

Recommended for you

Delayed word processing could predict patients' potential to develop Alzheimer's disease

October 20, 2017
A delayed neurological response to processing the written word could be an indicator that a patient with mild memory problems is at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, research led by the University of Birmingham ...

PET scans for Alzheimer's could bring benefit to more patients

October 19, 2017
An imaging tool honed to spot rogue proteins in the brain could benefit some patients with suspected Alzheimer's, according to a new study.

One step closer toward a treatment for Alzheimer's disease?

October 18, 2017
Scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), in collaboration with colleagues at the University California, San Diego (UCSD), have characterized a new class of drugs as potential therapeutics for Alzheimer's disease ...

New mechanism detected in Alzheimer's disease

October 13, 2017
McGill University researchers have discovered a cellular mechanism that may contribute to the breakdown of communication between neurons in Alzheimer's disease.

Neuroscientists identify genetic changes in microglia in a mouse model of neurodegeneration and Alzheimer's disease

October 13, 2017
Microglia, immune cells that act as the central nervous system's damage sensors, have recently been implicated in Alzheimer's disease.

Green tea extract delivers molecular punch to disrupt formation of neurotoxic species

October 11, 2017
Green tea is widely considered to be beneficial for the brain. The antioxidant and detoxifying properties of green tea extracts help fight catastrophic diseases such as Alzheimer's. However, scientists have never fully understood ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.