Scientists in Australia have identified a network of nine genes that play a key role in the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. This finding could support the development of new treatments to delay the onset of the disease, according to lead researcher Associate Professor Mauricio Arcos-Burgos from The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at ANU.
The study which led to the discovery was of a family of 5,000 people in Columbia. The Columbian family are afflicted by a type of hereditary Alzheimer's. They are a unique resource in the fight against the disease because they are such a large, close-knit family and live in a specific region in the western mountains of Columbia.
The United States National Institute of Health put $170 million towards developing treatments for Alzheimer's, to be tested among this family. This allowed scientists to identify genes that delay the disease, and others that accelerate it, and to see by how much.
Associate Professor Arcos-Burgos, a medical geneticist, said: "If you can work out how to decelerate the disease, then you can have a profound impact. I think it will be more successful to delay the onset of the disease than to prevent it completely. Even if we delay the onset by on average one year, that will mean nine million fewer people have the disease in 2050."
Currently, Alzheimer's disease affects up to 35 million people around the world, and by 2050 it is predicted to affect one in 85 people globally.
Due to the large study group, the team were able to discount environmental factors, and trace the genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's disease back to a founder mutation in one individual who came to the region about 500 years ago.
Associate Professor Arcos-Burgos aims to continue the study by looking at the genes of a group of Queanbeyan people who have been followed for the past ten years.
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