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Alzheimers: New Study Reveals Strong Genetic Link

April 3, 2011

I will be getting this test as soon as possible or when available as my mother and her mother has this dreaded disease.

NY Times reports: Researchers say the studies, which analyzed the genes of more than 50,000 people in the United States and Europe, leave little doubt that the five genes make the disease more likely in the elderly and have something important to reveal about the disease’s process.

“The level of evidence is very, very strong,” said Dr. Michael Boehnke, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Michigan and an outside adviser on the research. The two studies are being published Monday in the journal Nature Genetics.

By themselves, the new genes are not nearly as important a factor as APOE, a gene discovered in 1995 that greatly increases risk for the disease: by 400 percent if a person inherits a copy from one parent, by 1,000 percent if from both parents.

In contrast, each of the new genes increases risk by no more than 10 to 15 percent; for that reason, they will not be used to decide if a person is likely to develop Alzheimer’s. APOE, which is involved in metabolizing cholesterol, “is in a class of its own,” said Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, a neurology professor at Harvard Medical School and an author of one of the papers.

But researchers say that for understanding the disease and developing new therapies, a slight increase in risk is more than sufficient. And like APOE, some of the newly discovered genes appear to be involved with cholesterol. Others are linked to inflammation or the transport of molecules inside cells.

For years , there have been unproven but persistent hints that cholesterol and inflammation are part of the disease process. People with high cholesterol are more likely to get the disease. Strokes and head injuries, which make Alzheimer’s more likely, also cause brain inflammation.

The new discoveries double the number of genes known to be involved in Alzheimer’s, to 10 from 5. One of the papers’ 155 authors, Dr. Richard Mayeux, chairman of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center, said the findings would “open up the field.”

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