Newly identified genetic variants could delay Alzheimer's onset by four years


July 21, 2014

Researchers have discovered specific genetic variants that could delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by almost four years (Photo: Shutterstock)

Researchers have discovered specific genetic variants that could delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by almost four years (Photo: Shutterstock)

Over the past few years scientists and researchers have made some inroads in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, but as yet no definitive cure has been found. In the latest promising development, a team of Canadian researchers has identified a genetic variant that can delay the onset of the disease by up to four years.

Alzheimer’s has been the focus of a great deal of research in the past few years. Scientists have identified genetic markers through advanced blood tests, discovered proteins complicit in the onset of the disease, investigated lasers that could potentially remove proteins that affect neurological processes and recently, a study by the University of California showed that the disease could be successfully halted, and even reversed, in mice. But while many of these developments are promising in the long run, the need to delay the diseases onset is considered crucial in the interim.

The Canadian research team, led by Judes Poirier, PhD, C.Q., from the Douglas Mental Health Institute and McGill University in Montréal, conducted a study on an extensive scale in which they found natural genetic variants that provided protection against the most common form of Alzheimer's.

"We found that specific genetic variants in a gene called HMG CoA reductase, which normally regulates the production and mobilization of cholesterol in the brain, could change the process and delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by almost four years,” says Poirier. “This is a remarkable breakthrough in an area where research has been rarely successful in recent years.”

The ultimate goal for Dr. Poirier and his team is to take this newfound information and identify specific biological processes that respond positively to pharmaceutical treatments. But while the team believes this is an important breakthrough against Alzheimer’s, they note the importance of adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle to help assist the body in slowing the onset of the disease.

As someone who has experienced firsthand the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s on a family member, it is my hope that this latest development leads to a long term solution that can delay, or even halt its onset indefinitely. The news will certainly be welcomed by those millions of people genetically predisposed to the disease.

Dr. Poirier and his team presented their findings at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen this month.

Sources: Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University

About the Author
Angus MacKenzie Born on the cold, barren Canadian plains of Calgary, Alberta, Angus MacKenzie couldn’t decide between marketing, automotives or an entrepreneurial path - so he chose all three. With an education in automotives and marketing, Angus has rebuilt the carburetor on his 1963 Rambler Ambassador twice, gotten a speeding ticket in an F430 once, and driven & photographed everything from Lamborghinis to Maseratis to various German and Asian designs. When not writing, Angus has for the past six years been Editor-in-Chief for elemente, an internationally recognized architecture/design magazine. All articles by Angus MacKenzie
1 Comment

As great as these individual incremental progressive steps are I think the bigger story are the improving tools. The pace of research is improving because the tools are getting better. One of the bigger impacts of the internet is that research can be posted, reviewed, collaborated with, etc., in a matter of days and across continents & language gaps. Not so long ago it took months just to get an article peer reviewed with more months to go prior to publishing. Now researchers can confer without leaving their own office and include a far larger range of active workers, all very nearly on the same time.

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