Identifying genes and biological pathways associated with Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and affects over 830,000 people in the UK.
The effect of this neurodegenerative condition on individuals, families and society can be devastating, and worryingly, the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease has been predicted to treble by 2050.
Understanding the biological mechanisms underpinning Alzheimer's disease is essential in the fight against it, and is key to the development of therapies for prevention, treatment or cure.
So far our research, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust, Alzheimer's Research UK and the Alzheimer's Society, has played an important part in identifying over 20 novel genes that affect an individual's susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease.
A better understanding of how these genes function, and their relationships with other mechanisms in the body has opened up new avenues of investigation that can be used as targets for disease modelling, drug discovery, regenerative medicine, and improved diagnosis.
Our work suggests that understanding the mechanisms of the immune system is especially important, and should be a priority for research.
Research so far
To investigate this further we are creating new disease models for Alzheimer's disease using stem cells derived from both people with the highest genetic risk of developing dementia and those most likely to age healthily.
This research, which utilises the NMHRI's Tissue Culture and Core Stem Cell Facilities, is funded by the NISCHR Centre for Aging and Dementia Research (CADR).
Using stem cell neurobiology techniques to create new models is crucial, because the animal models currently being used in Alzheimer's disease research do not accurately reflect how the disease works in humans.
These unique models could further our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie the development of the disease, while also shedding light on those that protect us from diseases associated with ageing.