Study reveals key role of the immune system in defending brain against Alzheimer’s

 

The role of the immune system in defending the brain against Alzheimer’s disease has been revealed in a study identifying 11 new genes that could help to trigger the most common form of senile dementia.

Key genes involved with the immune defences are among those newly identified as raising the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than half of the 800,000 people in Britain with some form of dementia.

Scientists believe the findings support the belief that a failure of the immune system to clear out tangled proteins and other “debris” accumulating in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients may be central to how fast someone succumbs to the disease.

The same regions of the genome have also been found to play a role in multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, indicating that there may be common genetic factors behind the diseases, said Gerard Schellenberg of the University of Pennsylvania.

“We know that healthy cells are very good at clearing out debris, thanks in part to the immune response system,” Professor Schellenberg said.

“But in these neurodegenerative diseases where the brain has an inflammatory response to bad proteins and starts forming plaques and tangle clumps, perhaps the immune response can get out of hand and do damage,” he said.

The 11 genetic factors linked to Alzheimer’s doubles the number of genes known to play a role in the disease. Scientists hope to use the information to develop new drugs and to identify those people at greatest risk of developing the brain disorder.

Alzheimer’s disease is affecting an increasing number of people as the population ages. One in three people over 65 today will die with dementia – more than half with Alzheimer’s – but the number of patients with dementia will more than double to 1.7 millions by mid-century.

The international study, published in Nature Genetics, collected genetic sequences from nearly 75,000 people in 15 countries in order to tease out the genetic factors that appear to raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

“A lot of work remains to clarify these new pathways and create new drugs,” said Philippe Amouyel of the Pasteur Institute in Lille, one of the leaders of the International Genomic Alzheimer’s Project.

“However, there is clearly a strong willingness in the scientific world to put together all our research capacities to move forward in the fight of this rapidly growing disease,” he added.

Concern over how governments in the developed world will cope with the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s has led to a special summit on dementia research in London in December, as part of the UK’s G8 presidency.

The international effort to find the scientific basis of the disease will be crucial for developing new treatments, said James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society.

“This truly global effort has doubled the number of genes linked to Alzheimer’s and showed what can be achieved when researchers collaborate,” Dr Pickett said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'