Gene Mutation May Help Cause Alzheimer's15 years, 3 months ago
Posted on Mar 05, 2005, 5 a.m.
By Bill Freeman
Another piece of the Alzheimer's puzzle has fallen into place, as researchers report the identification of a gene associated with the mind-robbing disease. Mutations in the gene, called UBQNL1, may raise risks for the common, late-onset form of the disease that comprises more than 90 percent of Alzheimer's cases.
Mutations in the gene, called UBQNL1, may raise risks for the common, late-onset form of the disease that comprises more than 90 percent of Alzheimer's cases. The gene, located on chromosome 9, is only the second gene ever linked to late-onset disease, researchers said.
Even though truly effective treatments for Alzheimer's remain elusive, identifying genetic factors in the disease should prove crucially important in the not-so-distant future, in both the diagnosis and treatment of the illness.
"It's really a two-pronged attack: First, we find all the genes involved to help identify those at risk, and then, from the other side, we learn from the genes what's going wrong," explained lead researcher Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The findings appear in the March 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Alzheimer's is the leading cause of age-related dementia in the United States, affecting more than 4.5 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer's Association. As the population ages, experts expect that number to reach 16 million by 2050.