"We feel confident that we may be closing in on new Alzheimer's genes," says the study's senior author, Richard Mayeux, M.D., co-director of the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center. "This is a major collection of families, and family studies really give you more confidence that the region you're looking at is significant."
Researchers think that Alzheimer's is caused by the interaction of several different genes, but so far only one gene, ApoE4, has been linked conclusively to the disease. Finding the other genes will be a huge step toward understanding how Alzheimer's begins and how it can be treated. It will also allow clinicians to predict who will develop Alzheimer's later in life and who will benefit from drugs that prevent the disease.
About the Study
The new study found strong evidence for new Alzheimer's genes on chromosomes 18 and 10. The region on 18 had never been strongly linked to the disease before, while the link to chromosome 10 confirms previous findings by other Alzheimer's researchers.
The evidence for both locations is relatively strong because the researchers used a large collection of 96 families with Alzheimer's disease. A total of 490 parents, children and siblings were studied.
The researchers do not yet know which gene in the chromosome 18 region is responsible, but since the region is small, there are only a few possibilities. Dr. Mayeux and his colleagues are now trying to identify the gene.