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expert reaction to study of genes associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s

A study published in Nature Genetics provides new insights into the genetic cause of Alzheimer’s disease.


Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“Genes are the instruction manual for life, the code for producing proteins that govern our biology. Certain gene variations can pre-dispose someone to disease, including Alzheimer’s, however they aren’t the only factor, with age and other lifestyle factors accounting for some of the risk.

“Previous genetic discoveries underpin much of our current understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and the direction of research into new treatments. Creating an extensive list of Alzheimer’s disease risk genes is like having the edge pieces of a puzzle put together, and while this work doesn’t give us the full picture, it provides a valuable framework for future developments.

“Using this genomic wide sequencing approach, researchers were able to uncover more evidence that the immune system plays a pivotal role in the development of Alzheimer’s, which gives us clues about the pathways that might be most important to look at in our search for new treatments.  The research also, however, tells us just how complex Alzheimer’s is, with several different mechanisms implicated in the development of the disease.

“It’s going to take a concerted and global effort to develop life-changing treatments, but this seminal study also gives us hope that research will win, and it gives us the opportunity to work on new treatment targets.

“Well-conducted collaborative efforts like this, including researchers at the UK Dementia Research Institute, underline the positive impact that investment in dementia research in the UK can deliver. Alzheimer’s Research UK are proud to have co-founded the UK DRI and must thank the dedication of our supporters across the UK for making this work possible.”


Prof Tara Spires-Jones, Deputy Director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, said:

“This is an important and robust study looking for gene changes that are associated with risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  Scientists in a large international collaboration examined the genes of over 700,000 people and identified 42 new risk genes.  The new genes provide hints about why people develop Alzheimer’s that will be followed up in future studies to try and better understand the disease and develop treatments.  This more complete picture of genes that increase Alzheimer’s risk also allowed the scientists running this study to develop a new scoring system to predict the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  This tool will be useful for researchers but will not likely be used any time soon for people who are not participating in clinical trials. ”



‘New insights into the genetic etiology of Alzheimer’s disease and related’ was published in Nature Genetics at 16:00 UK time on Monday 4th April.




Declared interests

Dr Susan Kohlhaas: “Alzheimer’s Research UK are co-founders and current funders of the UK Dementia Research Institute.”

Prof Tara Spires-Jones: “I have no conflicts with this paper.”

No others received.

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