New Genetic Study May Lead to Deeper Grasp of Causes of, and Treatments for, Alzheimer’s Disease
Researchers have discovered 42 new genes that potentially could serve as risk factors — or warning signs — for the advent of Alzheimer’s disease.
The finding came as part of a study that also revealed a link between a protein known as Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and Alzheimer’s.
The team of international researchers pointed to 75 genes that are connected to the disease, 42 of which were were not previously known to be associated with Alzheimer’s. The results lend hope that scientists can build upon this “genome-wide association study” to discover therapeutic inroads for detecting and treating Alzheimer’s.
Researchers have long sought to learn what causes the disease, which destroys the memory and cognitive skills. While genes have been considered a risk factor, their pathway to Alzheimer’s has not been clear.
The study sought to discern differences in the genetic makeup of people with Alzheimer’s and those unaffected by the disease. The team compared the genes of more than 111,000 people with Alzheimer’s to those of over 677,000 people without the disease.
Dr. Jean-Charles Lambert, research director of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and co-lead author of the study, expressed hope that the findings will help scientists learn why certain individuals develop diseases like Alzheimer’s. The research demonstrated that “the genetic component of Alzheimer’s is particularly high” and further supported “the existence of numerous genetic susceptibility factors,” according to Lambert.
“This implies that these genetic factors participate in the deleterious mechanisms that develop over the years preceding the clinical expression of the pathology,” Lambert explained. Genetic research, he said, helps scientists understand “what goes wrong in our brains as we age [that] can lead to Alzheimer’s.”
The TNF-alpha protein helps protect the body, but the researchers discovered that certain genes they associated with Alzheimer’s block that protective function. Lambert said this finding should help researchers and pharmaceutical companies develop therapeutic approaches to the disease.
For more details, the journal, Nature Genetics, published results of the study on April 4, 2022.