Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 22nd of December 2015.
Researchers studying a rare form of Alzheimer’s believe they may have discovered a genetic variation that could delay the condition by up to 12 years.
Consisting of researchers from the Australian National University, Colombia’s University of Antioquia, the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, the New York University, the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, the University of Kentucky, and Flinders University, the team was conducting research into a rare type of Alzheimer’s found in one ancestral family from North Columbia when they made the discovery.
Some members of this family group, thought to consist of more than 5000 people, have been found to carry a rare strain of Alzheimer’s that causes the condition to develop much earlier than usual. The team hoped to carry out genetic research in order to try and identify what caused some members of the family to develop Alzheimer’s in their forties, others to develop it later, and the majority to not develop it at all.
During the study, researchers found several genetic variations that they believe make a difference in deciding when people develop the condition. By focussing on variations of the gene apolipoprotein E (a gene that is responsible for repairing damage in the brain), they were able to discover that some variations led to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s at a younger age while the presence of one particular variation seemed to delay the onset of the condition by up to 12 years.
The team are hailing the discovery with cautious optimism. On one hand, discovering a gene that appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s could have massive repercussions in the world of dementia medicine, both signalling the possibility of genetic diagnosis and also the starting block for developing drugs that could potentially delay the onset of Alzheimer’s significantly. On the other hand, the study was only carried out on members of one specific family group with one specific – and rare – type of Alzheimer’s. Whether or not this gene would be effective on other people with the condition remains to be seen.