Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scientists ID new Alzheimer's disease gene

MANHASSET, N.Y. (UPI) -- U.S. medical scientists say they have identified a gene that puts people at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

Philippe Marambaud of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Fabien Campagne of the Weill Medical College at Cornell University said the calcium channel modulator gene holds promise as a potentially new way to treat or even prevent Alzheimer's disease.

They said they found the risk gene called CALHM1 strongly expressed in the hippocampus -- a brain region necessary for learning and memory. The researchers said CALHM1 leads to a partial loss of function, which means less calcium gets into a cell, thereby weakening signals normally regulated by calcium. They determined one of those signals controls the levels of amyloid peptides, the building blocks of the characteristic disease plaques.

Using DNA from deceased U.S. Alzheimer's victims and age-matched controls, along with DNA samples from patients in France, Italy and the United Kingdom, the researchers ran tests on 3,404 samples. They discovered people having the genetic variant had 1.5 times higher risk of developing Alzheimer's.

The study that included French researcher Jean Charles Lambert is detailed in the journal Cell.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International
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