Icelandic researchers: rare gene increases Alzheimer’s risk

Icelandic and British researchers have pinpointed a gene variant that appears to triple the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The news comes via a new report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which said that the rare variant, dubbed TREM 2, is found in only about one per cent of the population. Researchers said that it also causes memory problems for individuals who don’t develop Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

TREM 2 is thought to have substantial influence on the process of inflammation and the repair of damaged cells, both of which have long been areas of focus for Alzheimer’s researchers. Kari Stefansson, a research leader from Reykjavik-based deCODE Genetics Inc. told the media that drug makers may be able to develop suitable products by targeting TREM 2 and its effects on the brain.

Dr Stefansson said his team managed to pinpoint TREM 2 by sequencing the genomes of more than 2,000 Icelanders, before conducting similar studies on individuals from Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and the United States.

Experts say the discovery opens a new door for drug manufacturers and researchers seeking effective treatment. Neuroscientist John Hardy from University College London, whose team uncovered similar results, spoke optimistically about the findings: “We’re beginning to see pathways to [Alzheimer’s] disease. It seems to be, in part, an inflammation process,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

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