Scientists discover 84 new genes linked to dementia
In a new study from the University of Exeter, researchers found how genes are regulated in dementia, and they discovered 84 new genes linked to the disease.
They analyzed data from more than 1,400 people across six different studies, in a meta-analysis. These studies had used brain samples from people who had died with Alzheimer’s disease.
The team looked at an epigenetic mark called DNA methylation at nearly half a million sites in the genome.
Epigenetic processes control the extent to which genes are switched on and off, meaning they behave differently as needed across the different cell types and tissues that make up a human body.
Importantly, unlike our genes, epigenetic processes can be influenced by environmental factors, making them potentially reversible and a possible route to new treatments.
The study looked at epigenetic patterns across the genome, in a number of different regions of the brain.
The team then related the amount of DNA methylation to the number of neurofibrillary tangles within the brain, which is an important hallmark of the severity of Alzheimer’s disease.
They looked at different regions of the brain, which are affected in Alzheimer’s disease before looking for common changes across these cortical regions.
The researchers identified 220 sites in the genome, including 84 new genes, which showed different levels of DNA methylation in the cortex in individuals with more severe Alzheimer’s disease, which weren’t seen in another area of the brain called the cerebellum.
The team went on to show that a subset of 110 of these sites could distinguish in two independent datasets whether a brain sample had high or low levels of disease, with more than 70% accuracy.
This suggests that epigenetic changes in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease are very consistent.
The findings were subsequently confirmed in an independent set of brain samples from the Brains for Dementia Research cohort.
The team says the findings give important insights into genomic areas that could one day provide the key to new treatments.
The next step for this work is to explore whether these epigenetic changes lead to measurable changes in the levels of genes and proteins being expressed.
This will then allow researchers to explore whether they could repurpose existing drugs that are known to alter the expression levels of these genes and proteins, to effectively treat dementia.”
If you care about dementia, please read studies about this mental issue could predict dementia years before other symptoms and findings of this kind of work could increase your dementia risk by more than 50%.
For more information about dementia prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about a new way to detect early dementia in time for intervention and results showing a new way to early detect and distinct different forms of dementia.
The study is published in Nature Communications. One author of the study is Professor Katie Lunnon.
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