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BYU researchers find gene mutation predicting Alzheimer's

By Carole Mikita | Posted - Nov. 14, 2012 at 6:06 p.m.


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PROVO — Researchers at Brigham Young University have played a major role in discovering a new Alzheimer's risk gene.

Scientists from BYU, King's College, London, The National Institutes of Health and Washington University Medical School discovered a rare genetic mutation — TREM2 — that increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Though the causes of the disease are unknown, the finding puts medical researchers and scientists closer to a cure. The research, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, could lead to diagnostic tests predicting the Alzheimer's between five and 15 years before onset.

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Their research is a huge jump in learning about a gene associated with the immune system that is linked to a higher risk for the disease.

As they work, they are racing against the clock. The number of Alzheimer's cases worldwide will double in the next decade. The costs for a single patient per year are in excess of $100,000.

"It's why we need a solution and certainly this research gets us much closer, gives us the understanding we need to get closer to a cure," Kauwe said.

Their discovery affects only a small percent of the population, but it is a strong indicator in what may be a key player in the disease.

"It's about understanding something fundamentally new about a disease and using that information to develop better strategies for prevention and cure," Kauwe said.

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