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New Evidence Ties Gene To Alzheimer's

May 12, 2009

Adapted from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Of dozens of candidates potentially involved in increasing a person's risk for the most common type of Alzheimer's disease that affects more than 5 million Americans over the age of 65, one gene that keeps grabbing Johns Hopkins researchers' attention makes a protein called neuroglobin.

Adding to a growing body of evidence about the importance of this protein for the health of the aging brain, researchers at the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine canvassed the genetic neighborhood of neuroglobin and, for the first time in a human population, linked variation there with a risk for Alzheimer's. Ever so slight genetic variations between individuals can and do influence the amounts of particular proteins that each specific gene ultimately produces. In this case, the team has found that individuals with genetic variations equating to less neuroglobin production have an increased risk for Alzheimer's.

The scientists think that neuroglobin production also ramps up in reaction to the insult of the Alzheimer's disease. They hypothesize that maybe in some people it's simply not enough of a protective response to effectively defend the brain.

"The older we get, the less neuroglobin this particular gene produces in our brains—unless something stimulates the gene to produce more," Avramopoulos explains. "That something could be a stressor such as a lack of oxygen resulting from stoke or emphysema, for instance. And it looks like it also could be Alzheimer's disease. "Further work on this gene will likely provide intervention targets for a multitude of very common conditions including Alzheimer's."

The study was published in the Neurobiology of Aging.

View all news updates for Alzheimer's disease


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