More Late Onset Alzheimer's Genes Identified

Christine Kennard Health Pro
  • Researchers from MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MGH-MIND) report they have identified four novel genes that may influence the risk of late onset Alzheimer's.


    In the initial study, the human genome of 400 families in which 3 members had Alzheimer's disease was tested. From about half a million DNA markers four new markers have been identified which, the researchers believe, may be markers for late onset Alzheimer's disease. A fifth marker, APOE, has already been firmly established as a risk for late onset Alzheimer's disease. An estimated 20-25 percent of the population carry a gene known as apolipoprotein e4 (apoE4) allele.

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    The research findings, reported in the American Journal of Human genetics, were interesting enough for the team to then analyze the genetic material of a further 900 families.


    The new markers identified have different associations with Alzheimer's. One gene, like the APOE, is in the same proximity as one that influences age of onset but they are unsure what it does. The research team believe it may control the activity of other genes. A second genetic marker is known to cause a type of ataxia, a movement disorder. The third gene is involved with the immune system which deals with our body's defense from infections caused by viruses and bacteria. The fourth marker produces a synapse protein. A synapse is the gap between neurons in the nervous system, across which neurotransmitters pass in order to stimulate or inhibit bodily processes.


    The research team, headed by Rudolf Tanzi, believe their discovery could lead to new drugs that target the, ‘pathways and biochemical events' involved in the disease process, giving new hope for the future cure for Alzheimer's disease. They will continue with their investigation.


    Genes and Disease

    The genetic makeup of each human shows us that faulty genes cause certain diseases and conditions which can lead to inherited illnesses. Other differences in the human genome can give us a higher or lower risk of contracting an illness. Genes are more significant than environment as risk factors for Alzheimer's disease.  Risk factors for Alzheimer's disease tells us that although a close family member may have them, it does not follow that they will be passed on, although it may increase your risk.


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    Massachusetts General Hospital (2008, October 30). Gene Scan Of Alzheimer's Families Identifies Four New Suspect Genes.


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Published On: November 04, 2008