The evolution of Alzheimer’s

  • April 13, 2012
The evolution of Alzheimer’s

New research sheds light on the genetic evolution of Alzheimer's Disease.

Researchers have discovered the existence of a shared pathway through which multiple genes and their byproducts affect people’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

The research could be an important focus for future gene discovery and the development of targeted therapies to fight against Alzheimer’s. It has been published in the latest edition of The American Journal of Human Genetics.

The study, led by Gates Cambridge alumnus Towfique Raj [2005] from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, explored large-scale human genome data to better understand the functions and interactions of specific locations of genes on a chromosome associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

The researchers found significant evidence of recent natural selection acting on several collections of DNA gene sequences. The findings suggest that several genes associated with susceptibility to developing Alzheimer’s Disease have evolved together, and that the proteins encoded by these genes physically interact.The researchers say these genes may be components of a shared molecular mechanism that affects AD susceptibility.

Towfique, who completed a PhD in Genetics with the help of a Gates Cambridge scholarship, says: “The AD susceptibility genes may have been under selection pressure together because of some non-AD-related event in that particular population’s history – perhaps a pathogen or metabolic or environmental challenge.

“We offer robust statistical evidence that these genes under natural selection are physically interacting, and we link in new genes that were not suspected to be part of the molecular pathway. These offer targets for further genetic work to see if they do contribute to susceptibility to Alzheimer’s.”

Picture credit: worradmu and www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

Latest News

The magic of music

Eighteen months ago, after finishing her PhD, Naomi Woo [2014] moved to Winnipeg to take up the role of assistant conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The role is a first stepping stone to a career conducting orchestras in Canada and internationally. In this position, Naomi has conducted concerts for all audiences, but also had […]

Exploring the neural bases of consciousness

New insights into how neurochemical influences from the brainstem affect the rest of the brain to bring about consciousness could help brain-damaged patients and further our understanding of how consciousness works. A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS] by researchers at the Division of Anaesthesia, University of Cambridge investigates the […]

Knowledge gap on zoonotic disease transmission highlighted

The impact of climate change on migration patterns, particularly in areas which depend on agriculture and livestock, could affect zoonotic disease transmission yet little research has been done to date. A new study, led by Gates Cambridge Scholar and Veterinary Science PhD student Dorien Braam [2018], looks at the research that currently exists, but calls […]

Addressing climate change in words and action

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has called for the US federal government to establish a national, robust and legally binding net-zero target that emphasises comprehensiveness, equity and clarity on the role of offsets.  In an opinion piece in Arizona Republic, Stephen Lezak and his co-authors, including Kate Gallego, the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, which has done […]