According to a recent report, an international group of scientists have discovered a new gene which has been linked to the late onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This gene proves to be the second big discovery of a strong genetic risk factor for the disease, and is a huge step forward in finding a cause (and possibly cures) for this debilitating disease. Let’s take a closer look at this discovery . . .
The first gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease was a gene called APOE. It is located on chromosome 19. During the study of this gene, they came across CALHM1.
Researchers from the US, France, Italy, UK and Australia were led by Dr Philippe Marambaud of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that builds up senile plaques made from amyloid-beta peptides and massive loss of neurons or brain cells.
What causes this disease?
There have been some indications that early onset Alzheimer’s disease is caused from a few dominant gene mutations. However, the majority of late onset is from complex interactions of genes and environmental factors.
What is CALHM1?
CALHM1 influences levels of calcium, amyloid-beta peptides and susceptibility to the disease. It is found in a calcium channel part of the brain that is affected early in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study published in the June 26, 2008 issue of Neuron, scientists said they found an imbalance of calcium in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is linked to a calcium release ion channel. CALHM1 coincides with this study.
"We are very excited about the idea that CALHM1 could be an important target for anti-amyloid therapy in Alzheimer's disease,” says Marambaud.
He also added, “Because CALHM1 is restricted to the brain, drugs that target it would most likely have fewer side effects, which is a big question mark with drugs that are currently being trialed because these target enzymes involved in production of amyloid-beta peptides, and these enzymes are also present in other parts of the body.”
" We quickly found that this variant was associated with the disease."
"The problem was that it was a variant in a gene with no known function. We had no idea what it was," he added.
Calcium irregularity has been believed to be involved in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease; however, there was no proof. This study helps to establish proof.
This is great news for those of you who have ever wondered if it will be your loved one or even you that could possibly suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. This discovery is taking us one step further to protecting and finding a cure for this debilitating disease.