According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers have identified two genes linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The genes identified in this study point towards biological pathways that may be involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous studies have already identified a genetic connection to a rare form of Alzheimer’s that is found to run in families with sibling or parents having a history of the disease and a single genetic connect was identified as possibly being an indicator for developing the more common type of Alzheimer’s. The discovery of a possible link involving two more genes that may be responsible for developing Alzheimer’s could lead to target treatment options. Further studies are needed to verify the new findings, but if they confirm the new genetic link, it could mean the development of new treatments targeted to specific genes and biological pathways.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, fatal brain disease affecting one out of five Americans over the age of 65. Dementia is used to describe memory loss serious enough to interfere with day to day activities. There are several different types of dementia including those caused by other disease processes such as strokes. Alzheimer’s is responsible for 50-80% of all cases of dementia.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s symptoms may vary and progress at different rates and new research, such as this study, is aimed at early detection and treatment that may help slow the progression of the disease. Early dementia-like symptoms could be caused by other conditions that may be reversed by early treatment.
If Alzheimer’s is found to be the cause, early detection gives the individual and their families more options. Early detection can allow families to plan for the future and take advantage of the time they have to make the most of quality time. Treatment aimed at slowing the progression of the disease also is more likely to be effective when started early.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, however, treatment can help cognitive (thought processes) and behavioral (how we act and feel) symptoms. Treatment options may include a combination of drug therapy, vitamin therapy, counseling, and education for family and caregivers.
While this new study shows a possible genetic link to the development of Alzheimer’s, it is too early to have any real benefit to individuals. Having genetic studies done simply to evaluate risks for Alzheimer’s is not recommended. Anyone who has a parent or sibling diagnosed with the disease should speak with their doctor about any concerns and the need for evaluation and screening.
While new studies will continue to explore the genetic link, developing treatment options targeted to the biological pathways and genetic components would still be years away from being available. These studies show promise and will lead to further investigation.
Individuals can find more information about coping with Alzheimer’s and updates on the newest research by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association website.
Reaching the Limits of Genome-wide Significance in Alzheimer Disease: Back to the Environment;Nancy L. Pedersen, JAMA. 2010; 303(18):1864-1865.
Alzheimer’s Association – online.