The “exciting” discovery that two genes are linked to Alzheimer’s could lead to a way of treating the devastating and currently incurable disease, scientists believe.
One gene was found to have a protective effect, while different mutations of the other appeared to make the condition more or less likely.
While genes that affect the chance of getting this form of dementia have been identified before, these two are thought to offer a greater chance of leading to an effective treatment.
Dr Rebecca Sims, of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said: “These particular genes, which suggest that immune cells in the brain play a causal role in the disease, are very good targets for potential drug treatment.
“These are much more exciting than previous genes we have identified. All of the other genes we have highlighted … affect the risk of Alzheimer’s disease but how they work is very unclear.”
Unlike other genes know to affect Alzheimer’s, these two, PLCG2 and ABI3, were found to cause changes in proteins involved in the disease. This process is easier to influence artificially, suggesting new drugs could be developed to stimulate or dampen down the effects.
And Dr Sims said: “In addition to identifying two genes that affect the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, our new research reveals a number of other genes and proteins that form a network likely to be important in its development.
About 850,000 people in the UK have Alzheimer’s, which causes proteins to build structures called plaques and tangles in the brain.
These affect nerve cells’ ability to communicate and eventually they start to die and the brain actually gets smaller.
Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society which helped fund the research along with Alzheimer’s Research UK, echoed Dr Sims’s optimism.
“Over 60 per cent of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, yet despite its prevalence we…