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Gene linked to late-onset Alzheimer's disease

27 September 2010

By Alison Cranage

Appeared in BioNews 577

US scientists have identified a gene which they suggest is associated with Alzheimer's and could help uncover the causes of the disease.

The research was led by Dr Pericak-Vance at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine with the findings published in PLoS Genetics last week.

The researchers used genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to investigate genetic variation in 2,269 people with Alzheimer's and 3,107 without the disease. They found a variation in a gene called MTHFD1L was associated with Alzheimer's.

'Identifying this gene is important because the gene is known to be involved in influencing the body's levels of homocysteine, and high levels of homocysteine are a strong risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease', Dr Pericak-Vance said.

It has also recently been suggested that MTHFD1L may increase the risk of coronary artery disease. The authors suggest that understanding more about the role of the gene could aid understanding of how homocysteine levels and blood vessel function in the brain affect Alzheimer's.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: 'Our understanding of the genetics of Alzheimer's is advancing at a pace now, with important new discoveries providing treatment targets for dementia scientists. The identification of this gene contributes another piece to the puzzle, particularly as it is involved with processes already known to be linked to Alzheimer's'.

'There is still much ground to cover in unravelling the genetic code of Alzheimer's and further studies are crucial to future successes'.

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