New Alzheimer's Gene Targets Found

Researchers Discover 3 Genes Linked to Alzheimer's Disease; Findings May Lead to New Treatments

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 6, 2009 -- Researchers in the U.K. and France have found three genes that make Alzheimer's disease more likely when certain mutations are present.

The genes -- which are called CLU, CR1, and PICALM -- may make good targets for new Alzheimer's disease treatments, the scientists report online in Nature Genetics.

The genes were found by comparing DNA from thousands of Europeans and Americans with and without Alzheimer's disease.

Other genes are also involved in Alzheimer's disease. The APOE4 gene variant is known to be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, and more gene discoveries are likely, the researchers report.

For instance, in July 2008, another team of researchers reported that a gene called TOMM40 may be a strong predictor of Alzheimer's disease.

Julie Williams, PhD, is a professor of neuropsychological genetics at Cardiff University in the U.K. She was one of the researchers involved in finding the new genes.

"Three of the risk genes -- APOE, CLU, and CR1 -- have roles in protecting the brain from damage. Perhaps the changes we see in these genes remove this protection or may even turn them into killers," Williams says in a statement posted on the Nature Genetics web site.

One day, the newly discovered genes may become part of a broad genetic test to predict Alzheimer's risk, but on their own, they wouldn't make a good gene test, researcher Michael Owen, PhD, notes in a news release. Owen directs Cardiff University's MRC Center for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics.

Owen says a larger study is being planned to look for more Alzheimer's gene targets.

SOURCES: Harold, D. Nature Genetics, Sept. 6, 2009; online edition. Lambert, J. Nature Genetics, Sept. 6, 2009; online edition. News release, Alzheimer's Research Trust. News release, INSERM. Statement from Julie Williams, PhD, professor of neuropsychological gneetics, Cardiff University, U.K. Statement from Michael Owen, PhD, director, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, U.K. WebMD Health News: "New Alzheimer's Disease Gene Identified.

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