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New study links gene to aggressive Alzheimer's

Comparison of a normal brain (left) and an Alzheimer's patient's brain (right).
(Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, a service of the National Institute on Aging)
Comparison of a normal brain (left) and an Alzheimer's patient's brain (right).

By Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio


An international team led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has identified a gene that may determine how quickly Alzheimer's patients develop dementia.

The researchers first identified a genetic variant associated with high levels of a particular protein in spinal fluid. Previous research had already linked the protein - called tau - to Alzheimer's.

Study co-lead Alison Goate says the researchers found that the same genetic marker was associated with the rapid development of dementia.

"There are clearly genes that influence those levels of tau and therefore the rate at which the disease progresses. And I think if we can understand those more, then maybe we can develop drugs that slow down that progression."

In the U.S., as many as five million people have Alzheimer's disease.

The study is published in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics.


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