New Genetic Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Have Been Discovered

It is well-understood that Alzheimer’s is likely caused by a combination of environmental and genetic risk factors. As a result, finding a cure has been particularly challenging.

Most recently, a team of researchers identified three new genes linked to Alzheimer’s risk. This finding, in conjunction with previous research, will help researchers better understand the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer’s. In turn, new approaches for treatment may be discovered.

Researchers Have Identified New Genetic Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s

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Last week a team of researchers, led by scientists from the University of Queensland and the University of Edinburg, identified three new genes associated with Alzheimer’s risk. Published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, their findings support previous research in relation to Alzheimer’s.

This recent discovery was based on a combination of findings from an existing study and a new analysis, which involved the children of Alzheimer’s patients. By analyzing the data from large sample sizes, researchers can pick out gene variations that are more common among people who develop this neurodegenerative disease.

These types of genetic risk factors are typically found by comparing the DNA samples of people with a disease and people without the disease. To date, this method has allowed researchers to identify approximately 30 genes linked to Alzheimer’s.

For this specific study, the researchers assessed genetic data from more than 300,000 people from the UK Biobank. Since only a fraction of this data came from people with Alzheimer’s, the team of researchers began to study data from younger people whose parents had developed the disease.

Their Findings

Since children share an average of 50 percent of their genes with each parent, genetic variables were of particular interest. While having a parent with Alzheimer’s does not necessarily mean that you will be at a much greater risk of developing the disease, there are specific genes that are highly relevant.

By combining their results with existing data (which involved an additional 70,000 people both with and without Alzheimer’s), they were able to identify three new genes that may influence one’s overall risk. These include ADAM10, BCKDK/KAT8, and ACE.

The Link Between Alzheimer’s and Genetics

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Both types of Alzheimer’s (early-onset and late-onset) both have a genetic component.

  • Those with early-onset Alzheimer’s represent less than 10 percent of those living with the disease. Developing symptoms as early as 30 years of age, some cases are caused by one of three genes mutations. This results in what is known as early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). For example, if a child’s mother or father carries one of these genetic mutations, the will have a 50/50 chance of inheriting that mutation. In turn, there is a high probability that the child will also develop FAD.

  • The majority of cases are the late-onset form of Alzheimer’s. In this case, symptoms become apparent in a person’s mid-60s or later. Although the exact cause is unknown, environmental, lifestyle and factor variables likely play a role. However, one form of the APOE gene (on chromosome 19) does appear to increase one’s risk. Although APOE ε4 is a significant risk-factor gene, if you inherit this allele, that does not mean that you will develop Alzheimer’s.

At this time, a blood test can help identify which APOE alleles a person carries. However, this method of testing is typically used in a research setting. Many experts agree that genetic testing will not likely be able to predict Alzheimer’s with 100 percent accuracy.

Concerned That You May Develop Alzheimer’s Following Your Parent’s Diagnosis?

It is important to note that if your parent developed Alzheimer’s, this does not mean you will suffer the same fate. However, if your immediate relative developed Alzheimer’s, it is recommended that you conduct a baseline evaluation. That way, you can track your screening results and follow-up with your physician over time.

This is why BrainTest® is so valuable in terms of tracking your level of cognitive function over time. This assessment tool will help you detect early warning signs so that you can discuss your results with a physician. Take your first test for free here.

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Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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