Alzheimer’s study reveals 42 new genes that may drive risk
An international team of researchers from eight partner countries has found a total of 75 genes linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Of those genes, 42 are new genes that had not previously been associated with the disease.
Examing genetic factors
For this study, researchers compared the genes of more than 111,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease to those of more than 677,000 people without the condition.
Medical News Today had the chance to speak with Dr. Jean-Charles Lambert, research director of INSERM, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris, and co-lead author of this study. He said this research was an opportunity to understand why some people develop a disease like Alzheimer’s disease.
The study looked for differences in genes between people with Alzheimer’s disease and those without the condition, in what is known as a genome-wide association studyTrusted Source.
In the study, Dr. Lambert explained, “we rely on strong indices [that show] that the genetic component of Alzheimer’s disease is particularly high and that support the existence of numerous genetic susceptibility factors.”
“This implies that these genetic factors participate in the deleterious mechanisms that develop over the years preceding the clinical expression of the pathology. Genetic research is first and foremost basic research to understand in the most intimate way possible what goes wrong in our brains as we age [that] can lead to Alzheimer’s.”
Alzheimer's and inflammation
During their research, the team also discovered a connection between the TNF-alpha protein and Alzheimer’s disease. TNF-alphaTrusted Source is a small protein called a cytokineTrusted Source that works with the body’s immune system and helps protect the body by triggering inflammation.
Researchers found multiple genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease involved in a blockage of TNF-alpha signaling.
“The TNF pathway is undoubtedly a pathway that will be studied as a therapeutic approach of interest for Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Lambert said when asked how TNF-alpha protein may play a role in future therapy development for Alzheimer’s.
“I have no doubt that many researchers and pharmaceutical companies will look into this possibility, especially since there are already treatments targeting this pathway in other diseases.”
Dr. Heather Snyder, Alzheimer’s Association vice president of medical and scientific relations, who was not involved in the study, also spoke to MNT. She said previous research has shown TNF-a, or TNF-alpha, signaling plays a very well-known role in inflammation, and may also have many other roles in the brain.
“More research will need to be conducted to understand the complicated role that TNF-a signaling may play in Alzheimer’s, though there are already some clinical trials that are addressing this question,” she continued. “In 2018, the Alzheimer’s Association, through its Part the Cloud global research program, funded an early-stage clinical trial of a promising TNF-targeting drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.”
Additionally, the team also uncovered evidence suggesting a connection between dysfunctioning microglia and Alzheimer’s. Microglia are brain cells that help defend the central nervous system against bacteria and viruses and regulate the removal of waste cells and other matter from the brain.
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