New genes linked to late-onset Alzheimer's have been discovered, giving scientists clues on how to create better drugs to fight off the disease. Researchers in the multinational International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project (IGAP) have found 11 genes which broaden our understanding of the disease and confirm its overlap with other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.
"This international effort has given us new clues into the steps leading to and accelerating Alzheimer's disease," researcher Gerard Schellenberg said in a release. "We can add these new genetic clues to what we already know and try to piece together the mechanism of this complex disease."
The project has collected DNA from over 74,000 patients in 15 countries and is the largest international collaboration of Alzheimer's genetic research. The newly discovered genes are linked to cell and brain function, as well as lipid transport among others.
One of the key findings was a gene responsible for inflammation that has also been associated with MS and Parkinson's. All three of these diseases are a result of proteins in the brain forming plaques and tangles which impair brain function. As we age, it gets harder for our bodies to clear away this buildup.
Other research has also noted the role of inflammation in Alzheimer's progression. A study at Yale University singled out inflammation as the central factor in age-related diseases, causing insulin resistance and lowered cognitive functioning.
IGAP researchers say they'll expand their data set in the future and continue to look for targets to pinpoint in disease treatment. They say large-scale genetic sequencing will play a big part in the future of complex Alzheimer's research.