In a new study, researchers have brought together all known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease for the first time to produce a new model of the disease.
The Multiplex Model is a new way of looking at Alzheimer’s disease.
The model was produced by looking at all known genetic risk factors to further understanding of what triggers Alzheimer’s and how it develops. It may help speed up the discovery of new treatments.
The research was conducted by scientists from Cardiff University.
More than 50 risk genes have already been identified and this new theory uses these—and the impact of thousands of other genes—to create the most detailed look at the basis of the disease yet.
There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and Alzheimer’s is the most common form. There is no cure for the disease, which causes problems with memory and thinking.
The genetic breakthroughs scientists have made over the past 20 years have shown that Alzheimer’s is a multi-component disease.
In the study, the Multiplex Model assumes that changes to one or all of these components work together to form a disease cascade.
In other words, Alzheimer’s can be triggered by a number of different defects in genetic make-up.
Researchers are already able to predict those likely to get Alzheimer’s with about 80% accuracy by looking at the combined effect of all contributing genes.
For those with the highest genetic risk, they can currently predict the likelihood in most cases.
The model of Alzheimer’s used for the past 20 years—known as the amyloid hypothesis—has been limited to looking at one component of the disease, namely that plaques of amyloid protein form in the brain triggering dementia, but this approach has yet to yield new treatments that work.
This new model looks at the combined effects of many genes, along with a breakdown in cellular processes linked to Alzheimer’s, such as abnormalities in the brain’s immune response or differences in the way the brain processes cholesterol.
It also considers environmental factors, such as aging and vascular issues.
This new approach allows scientists to look at all of the different factors and components involved—once they know more about exactly what is happening in the earliest stages of disease at a cellular and the genetic level they can identify new targets for treatment and preventative therapies.
This further emphasizes the need for a multi-angle, holistic approach to studying the neurodegenerative disease.
In order to make breakthroughs, scientists will have to harness wide-ranging expertise from across the research field, ensuring new knowledge gained is brought together to provide a complete picture of the causes and drivers of dementia.
The lead author of the study is Professor Julie Williams.
The study is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
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