Understanding Alzheimer’s Through a Key Gene
Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have made an exciting discovery that could help us better understand Alzheimer’s disease.
The team focused on a specific gene that plays a big role in the brain’s immune system.
By studying this gene closely, they found certain changes, or mutations, that could either increase or decrease the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
What the Researchers Did
The experts from Indiana University joined forces at the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute for this groundbreaking research.
Their study, led by Andy Tsai, who is now at Stanford University, was published in the journal Immunity.
The team focused on a gene called phospholipase C gamma 2 (PLCG2), which is important for the brain’s immune cells, known as microglia.
They discovered that a specific change in the gene, called the M28L variant, made people more likely to get Alzheimer’s. Another change, called the P522R variant, seemed to protect against the disease.
They tested these findings using special mouse models designed to mimic Alzheimer’s disease.
What they found was really interesting: the mice with the protective gene change had fewer harmful brain plaques than those with the risk-raising gene change.
Brain plaques are clumps of proteins that are commonly found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and are thought to contribute to the disease.
Why This Matters: A New Path to Targeted Treatments
Gary Landreth, one of the lead researchers, emphasized that these immune cells in the brain influence our ability to learn and form new memories.
“The microglial response affects neurons which then affects the capacity to learn and form new memories,” he said.
This is big news because it adds to what we know about how Alzheimer’s disease works. Even more, it opens the door to new kinds of treatments.
By understanding how these gene changes affect the disease, researchers can start working on targeted therapies to help treat or even prevent Alzheimer’s.
“We used human genetics to investigate and identify a mechanism, and indeed we have,” said Landreth, highlighting how unique and special their teamwork was.
The TREAT-AD Center is already looking into how these discoveries can be turned into real-world treatments.
This research marks an important step in the ongoing fight against Alzheimer’s. By digging deep into our genes, these scientists are helping pave the way for a future where Alzheimer’s could be a thing of the past.
If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about Alzheimer’s cause: could a tiny worm and a diabetes drug crack the case? and findings of Even moderate alcohol drinking is linked to faster Alzheimer’s development.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that cranberries could help boost memory, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.
The research findings can be found in Immunity.
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