Research Digest

Lab notes: Scientist find a gene that can protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Genetic research into Alzheimer’s disease so far has focussed on identifying risk factors and not genes that reduce risk of the disease.

Alzheimer’s researchers have found a number of genes that might increase a person’s chance of developing the neurological disorder. But is there a gene that can protect someone from Alzheimer’s? It turns out that there might be.

Medical researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah, United States have discovered a variant of a gene called RAB10 that provides a protective effect for individuals at high-risk of Alzheimer’s. Many elderly people who carry this genetic variant never acquired the disease.

The research team used data from the Utah Population Database, which is a dataset of 20 million genealogical records and historical medical records. They first identified families that had a large number of people resilient to Alzheimer’s, that is, they carried the main genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s but remained healthy into advanced age.

The researchers then used whole genome sequencing to look for the DNA that resilient individuals shared with each other. They also identified the DNA that they did not share with family members who died of Alzheimer’s. They discovered that the common factor between the resilient subjects was a variant in the RAB10 gene while those who got the disease did not carry this variant.

The research team then carried out experiments to check the impact on Alzheimer’s disease related proteins when the RAB10 gene variant was either overexpressed or underexpressed in cells. They found that when this gene is reduced in in a person’s body, it has the potential to reduce risk for Alzheimer’s.

While there are currently no meaningful interventions for Alzheimer disease, the study authors believe this genetic function could be targeted with drugs to help reduce the risk of people getting the disease. The study was published in the journal Genome Medicine details a novel and promising approach in the effort to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

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