Byline: HELEN TURNER
FAMILIES with relations suffering from Alzheimer's disease have been offered hope by a breakthrough at a Welsh university.
A leading scientist at Cardiff University has identified five genes that increase the risk of developing the disease, which is the most common form of dementia and causes patients to suffering mood swings, memory loss and confusion.
Professor Julie Williams' groundbreaking discovery means scientists are a step closer to pinpointing what goes wrong in Alzheimer's sufferer's brains and increases the prospect of developing treatment for the condition.
Professor Williams, of the University's MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, said: "This study, plus our previous studies, means that we are beginning to piece together the pieces of the jigsaw and gain new understanding.
We still have a long way to go - but the jigsaw is beginning to come together.
"If we were able to remove the detrimental effects of these genes through treatments, we hope we can help reduce the proportion of people developing Alzheimer's in the longterm."
Published in Nature Genetics, the study of around 20,000 sufferers and 40,000 healthy individuals confirms that Alzheimer's disease remains a complex condition.
The scientists have been able to implicate a range of risk factors for the disease, including a sufferer's immune system, the ways the brain processes cholesterol and lipids and for the first time a process called endocytosis, which, in normal healthy brains removes toxic amyloid-beta protein from the brain.
Professor Williams said: "What's exciting is the genes we now know of, the five new ones, plus those previously identified, are clustering in patterns.
"So several genes are implicating the immune system, for example, and it's telling us there's something different about the immune system of people who go on to develop Alzheimer's disease. …