“Landmark” research finds new clues about the genetic causes of Alzheimer’s

Posted under Blog on November 15th, 2012 by Editorial Team / No Comments


This week the New England Journal of Medicine has published research that is hoped will have major implications for understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
The international group of scientists, led by UCL’s Institute of Neurology, studied data from 6,675 people with Alzheimer’s and compared them with 16,242 people without the disease. 
Without getting lost in the technical language of the research, essentially the researchers have identified a specific mutation in a gene that plays a role in the immune system. This mutation, known as R47H, was more likely to appear in those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Although the mutation is extremely rare, its identification provides valuable new information about what causes Alzheimer’s to develop in some people but not others. 
These days there is no shortage of research updates in the field of dementia, but what was more unusual about this latest announcement was the enthusiasm in the sound bites.
The study lead Dr Rita Guerreiro of UCL called the results “particularly exciting”. Another UCL Professor, John Hardy, called it “the biggest study of its kind in Alzheimer’s to date” and praised the collaboration of researchers across the globe. 
The Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Eric Karran, went further, calling it a “landmark” and praising “this pioneering study.”
New UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also got involved, but his line was more conservative, choosing to highlight Britain’s role as a world leader in dementia research. 
All very encouraging, and a welcome antidote to the disappointing drug trial results announced at the recent Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s conference in Monte Carlo.
However, the reality is that, as we blogged earlier this month, ending the worldwide epidemic of this debilitating and tragic disease remains one of the greatest health challenges of modern times. All progress is good progress of course, and hopefully the excitement felt by the scientists will spread to the patients, families and carers who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Tags: Alzheimer's, Clinical trials on Alzheimer's Disease conference, R47H, research, UCL



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