Alzheimer's Risk Could Be Identified In Young Brains And Treated Before Symptoms Appear

It affects 850,000 people in the UK.

11/08/2016 10:43

A group of genes found in healthy brains could be used to pinpoint the origins of Alzheimer’s and administer preventative treatments before symptoms appear.

The study by the University of Cambridge uncovered a specific gene signature in healthy, young people that echoes pattern in which Alzheimer’s disease spreads through the brain much later in life.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, identified by the NHS as a a neurological disease which affects multiple brain functions, including memory.

Sally Anscombe via Getty Images

Degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease always follows a characteristic pattern, beginning in the entorhinal region and spreading outwards to all neocortical areas.

Researchers have long wondered why these parts of the brain are more vulnerable to attack from Alzheimer proteins – known as tangles and plaques.

This study, published in Science Advances, indicates that there are a signature group of genes that are most vulnerable because they are present in areas of the brain that have weak defences against these dementia-causing proteins.


Professor Michele Vendruscolo said: “Vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease isn’t dictated by abnormal levels of the aggregation-prone proteins that form the characteristic deposits in disease, but rather by the weaker control of these proteins in the specific brain tissues that first succumb to the disease.”

In future young people could be identified as “higher risk” of developing dementia and most likely to benefit from preventative treatments by having an aberrant gene signature. 

Currently the disease is incurable, but affects an estimated 850,000 people in the United Kingdom alone.

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