Icelandic scientists find rare Alzheimer’s-fighting gene

Hopes have been raised in the fight against Alzheimer’s after Icelandic scientists made an exciting discovery.

Scientists at the deCODE genetics lab in Iceland have recently found a gene, present in around one per cent of Iceland’s population, that protects individuals from serious brain function ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers believe that those carrying the gene are 47 per cent more likely than those without it to live to the age of 85 or older, according to a report published in the Nature journal. Scientists also say it is the first DNA sequence ever found that is believed to protect people from the neurodegenerative disorder.

“We’ve found the first protective mutation in Alzheimer’s disease and provided proof of concept for using BACE inhibitors to treat the disease,” Kari Stefansson, deCODE’s chief executive, said in an interview with The Guardian.

He added, “We’ve also shown that this mutation protects against normal cognitive decline in the elderly. It shows that Alzheimer’s, and the cognitive decline that awaits all of us if we survive long enough, seems to be mediated through the same mechanism. So if big pharma manages to develop an effective BACE inhibitor, it should probably be put into the drinking water of elderly people.”

Anne Corbett said on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society, “We know that the development of Alzheimer’s can be linked to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. We still have a lot to learn about what happens in the brain, but this research offers new insight into a gene we already know is linked to the disease.

“One in three people over 65 will develop dementia. This development offers interesting new information about how our genes might affect our chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It could also provide a new target for future investigations to find treatments to help people live well with dementia, or even find a cure,” she told The Guardian.