Alzheimer’s disease takes a heavy toll on the health of the American public. In 2020 alone, the costs for treating this condition reached into the hundreds of billions. Now, a new study is helping to shed some light on the genetic causes behind Alzheimer’s.
Authored by an international team of researchers, this new report appeared in the journal Medical News Today. For their research, the study authors cast a very wide net, examining the data of nearly 800,000 people. Specifically, they reviewed the genetic data of 111,000 Alzheimer’s sufferers, compared to 677,000 individuals with no history of this condition.
So what did all this data reveal? The study documented a total of 75 distinct genes that could potentially increase a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s. Perhaps more noteworthy, more than half (42) of these genes had no prior connection to this cognitive disease.
The study’s co-author, Dr. Jean-Charles Lambert, stated that his team’s work relied “on strong indices [that show] that the genetic component of Alzheimer’s disease is particularly high and that support the existence of numerous genetic susceptibility factors.” Lambert further noted that “Genetic research is first and foremost basic research to understand in the most intimate way possible what goes wrong in our brains as we age [that] can lead to Alzheimer’s.”
A Blocked Path
One area that caught the researcher’s eye was a certain protein, known as TNF-alpha. This protein utilizes our immune system, triggering inflammation in order to protect the body from various threats. According to the study authors, multiple Alzheimer’s-linked genes interfere with the TNF-alpha protein, effectively blocking its communication channels.
“The TNF pathway is undoubtedly a pathway that will be studied as a therapeutic approach of interest for Alzheimer’s disease,” stated Lambert when asked to provide additional details regarding this finding. “I have no doubt that many researchers and pharmaceutical companies will look into this possibility, especially since there are already treatments targeting this pathway in other diseases.”