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Second Genetic Risk Factor For Alzheimer's Identified

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, June 26, 2008 3:02 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Alzheimer's and Dementia, Head and Brain Injuries, Elderly, Gene Therapy

A second gene has been discovered that raises the risk factor for Alzheimier's.

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IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ closeup render of neuron brain cell/ author: Henrik5000

Researchers have uncovered another clue in the search for the cause and cure of Alzheimer’s disease, a newly discovered gene that increases the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s by as much as 77 percent.

The latest discovery from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, finds that the gene, calcium homeostasis modulator 1, or CALHM1, increases late-onset Alzheimer’s by 44 percent.

Having two copies of the gene boosts that to 77 percent. Previously there was no known function of the gene.

About 25 percent of the population has one copy, says study author Philippe Marambaud. The research is published in the journal Cell.

The gene is found in the hippocampus. That area of the brain that stores memories that is impacted early in the progression of Alzheimer’s.

CALHM1 gene controls specific calcium channels that allow molecules to enter cells making proteins called beta amyloids, some of which can clump and form plaques that damage brain cell communication, associated with Alzheimer’s.

“We are very excited about the idea that CALHM1 could be an important target for anti-amyloid therapy in Alzheimer’s disease,” said Philippe Marambaud.

The CAL gene joins another gene implicated in late-onset, the ApoE4, found on chromosome 19. That is found in about 40 percent of those who develop the disease after the age of 65. Both genes now can be the target of ongoing drug therapy.

The race is on to make some inroad into Alzheimer's and its mind-robbing devastation before one in eight baby boomers, or about 10 million Americans, face its effects as predicted.

Medicare spending will jump to $38 billion in 2025, when the boomers reach the age for nursing home admission.

Dr. Marambaud tells Bloomberg, “This is an interesting avenue because we may save a lot of time in terms of screening or safety and efficacy.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder in which massive numbers of neurons are lost in several brain regions, and where amyloid plaques are found.

Late-onset Alzheimer’s occurs after the age of 65. Early-onset is a rarer form, occurring in five to 10 percent of Alzheimer’s patients.

Environmental factors as well as genetics are known to play a role in determining whether someone will get Alzheimer’s. An adult who has two parents with the disease has twice the risk of getting the illness, according to research earlier this year from the Seattle Veterans Affairs research center.

Research from that group shows that DHA slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s in mice. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in cold water fish. #


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