Alzheimer's Research Findings

Q: Are there any new findings on genetics and Alzheimer's?

A: Yes, and recent discoveries may help solve the mystery of who develops Alzheimer's disease and how it progresses. Researchers have known for years that Alzheimer's disease is strongly associated with the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, but a new study reveals three additional genetic variants that may also confer the risk of Alzheimer's.

Investigators looked at DNA samples from 1,829 confirmed cases of Alzheimer's and 2,576 healthy control subjects. Writing in the Archives of Neurology, the researchers described three alleles—identified as CLU, CR1, and PICALM—that were consistently associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's.

In a related study, researchers investigated the correlation between these three gene alleles and brain measurements as revealed in neuroimaging results. Using data from 525 people with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's and 215 healthy controls, the study found that six brain measurements, including hippocampal volume, amygdala volume, and white matter lesion volume were all related to the presence of these genes (and possibly two others, BIN1 and CNTN5).

These two findings provide important clues to researchers examining how genetics affects the development of Alzheimer's.

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 16 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 02 Oct 2014