In a new study, researchers have found epigenetic markers linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The research was conducted by a team from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and other institutes.
Despite many years of effort and countless dollars spent, scientists have been unable to cure Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
Previous research has shown that it is not a heritable disease, but epigenetics might play a role.
In the new study, the team focused on DNA methylation, the process whereby a methyl group is added to a DNA nucleotide.
The changes that occur do not alter the DNA itself but instead, alter gene expression.
To learn more about the process and to find out if problems with methylation might be linked to Alzheimer’s, the researchers collected skin stem cells from volunteers, some of whom had Alzheimer’s and others who did not.
The researchers then induced the stem cells to grow into nerve cells and watched the process for changes to DNA methylation that they could use for comparison purposes.
They found that 27 regions of the genome where epigenetic changes occurred in people with Alzheimer’s.
The changes were Alzheimer’s-specific and were not correlated with age.
The team suggests that regulation, establishment, and maintenance of the epigenetic signatures may play a role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings may help to identify the disease in patients at a much younger age, allowing for treatment to delay onset.
The lead author of the study is Irfete S. Fetahu from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The study is published in the journal Science Advances.
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