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Does DNA modification play a part in Alzheimer's?

Does DNA modification play a part in Alzheimer's?
20th August 2014

It is believed that DNA modification could have a role to play in the development of Alzheimer's disease. 

Scientists from Exeter University discovered that markers added to DNA around the ANK1 gene could be linked with changes in the brain. Individuals with more Alzheimer's disease-related neuropathy in their brain were shown to have higher levels of this modification. 

Such a finding was especially prevalent in the entorhinal cortex, while also present in other cortical regions that were negatively impacted by the degenerative condition. 

These changes - known as epigenetic - can be reversible, which means they could pave the way for the creation of new therapies to tackle this form of cognitive decline.

This research is important because, at present, very little is known about how and why the disease develops in certain parts of the brain. With the number of individuals in the UK who will have the condition set to reach the one million mark by 2021, the pressure is on for scientists to find out as much as possible in a bid to create effect treatments and cures. 

Professor Jonathan Mill from the University of Exeter Medical School and King's College London, who headed up the study, said: "This is the strongest evidence yet to suggest that epigenetic changes in the brain occur in Alzheimer’s disease, and offers potential hope for understanding the mechanisms involved in the onset of dementia. 

"We don’t yet know why these changes occur - it's possible that they are involved in disease onset, but they may also reflect changes induced by the disease itself."

Research communications manager at Alzheimer's Society Dr Clare Walton highlighted the fact this research suggested epigenetic marks were involved in the onset of the disease, which should open up new avenues for further breakthroughs. 

The full findings of this research can be viewed in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 

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