by Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.
Two new genome studies from Europe have proposed three additional genes that may influence risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The gene findings are the result of a large consortium study conducted in Europe and add further support to the role of beta-amyloid in AD. While the three new genes exert only minor effects on AD risk (decreasing or increasing risk by only 15-20%), they should be helpful when combined with the roughly 100 genes previously identified in the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Alzheimer’s Genome Project (AGP) for furthering our understanding of this disease. The new genes as well as the dozens of others identified over the past two decades are summarized on Cure Alzheimer’s Fund-supported online Alzheimer’s gene encyclopedia and database, AlzGene.org.
The initial publication of the results of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund’s AGP (Bertram et al., 2008), was named by Time magazine as a “Top Ten Medical Breakthrough of 2008”. The updated list of now over 100 genes that influence risk for AD from the AGP and other’s studies, including the three described in the two new reports from the European Consortium, join the four previously established AD genes discovered between 1987 and 1995, three of which were co-discovered by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium Chairperson, Dr. Rudy Tanzi of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. The combination of all of these genes will be invaluable in driving our progress toward a cure for AD.
At Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, we believe that AD will ultimately be conquered by a combination of “early prediction” and “early prevention” of this devastating disease . In both cases, we need to know the complete set of genes that influence one’s risk for AD. The complete battery of AD genes will someday be used to both predict one’s lifetime probability of getting AD, and to guide research aimed at obtaining a clearer understanding of the causes of AD and developing effective new therapies for AD.
In summary, while the three new AD genes described in the two new European studies exert only modest effects on AD risk, when added to the roughly 100 other AD genes previously identified in the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund AGP and other AD genetic screens, we will hopefully move a step closer to our ultimate goal of beating AD with “early prediction-early prevention.”
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.
Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy
Professor of Neurology,
Harvard Medical School
Director, Genetics and Aging Research Unit, MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease Massachusetts General Hospital
114 16th Street Charlestown, MA 02129
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