Thursday, January 1, 2009

Genetic treasure hunt finds trove of Alzheimer’s disease genes

Alzheimer's Genetics Research: Rudy Tanzi, PhD

An intensive multi-year project to discover all the gene variants which increase a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been completed by MIND’s premier geneticist Rudy Tanzi, PhD, with surprising results that point to new targets for drug discovery.

The Alzheimer’s Genome Project™ screen is the largest such family-based screen ever conducted, using genetic data from more than 1,300 affected families. Dr. Tanzi’s technique uses information from the Human Genome Project, genetic technology and advanced statistical analyses to query every single gene in a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and compare it to a sibling who is unaffected. When a large number of families are studied, the data are like a treasure map pointing to jewels of discovery.

“Every new Alzheimer’s gene we identify provides clues to the cause of this dreadful disease. The knowledge gained from the Alzheimer’s-associated defects in these genes should greatly accelerate our efforts to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” stated Dr. Tanzi. The project’s definitive results included a ‘novel’ AD gene, one of the top genetic hits for Alzheimer’s emerging from that screen.

MIND’s Genetics and Aging Unit, headed by Dr. Tanzi, is well positioned to capitalize on these discoveries. Seven different laboratories work closely together to understand the implications of these genetic mutations, using the latest technology to piece together disease mechanisms and identify targets for treatment.

The far-reaching project was funded entirely with private donations through the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. This nonprofit organization was founded by families affected by Alzheimer’s.  The organization’s ultimate goal is reliable prediction of the disease, development of therapeutics to delay or prevent it and discovery of drugs to treat and cure it. The completion of the Alzheimer’s Genome Project is a huge milestone towards this effort.

By Janice Hayes-Cha
Former Executive Director, MIND
MIND Research Review, Copyright MGH MIND, 2009


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