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Currently, in order to determine if someone will develop Alzheimer’s disease, doctors use tests that analyze the amount of Tau protein buildup in the central nervous system. The more Tau in an individual’s system, the more likely he or she will progress towards dementia.
However, there was no system to help determine who will start expressing this protein years ahead of time – until now.
Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified genetic mutations that can influence the accumulation of Tau proteins, according to Medical Daily. This discovery could potentially lead to an early genetic test, which could help reveal those who are most at risk for Alzheimer’s – leading to earlier, more effective treatments.
"We have identified several genes that influence the levels of soluble tau in the cerebrospinal fluid,” senior author Dr. Alison Goate, of WU School of Medicine, told Medical Daily, “and we show that one of these genes also influences risk for Alzheimer's disease, rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease, and density of tangle pathology in the brain."
After performing a genetic analysis on 1,269 patients, Goate and her team identified genetic mutations in a previously implicated region, found in the gene TREM2, as putting people at risk for Alzheimer’s. A receptor gene, TREM2 can actually influence the development of another similar gene TREML2.
According to the researchers, the two genes – while similar – acted oppositely in association with the Tau protein levels. The first was associated with risk for Alzheimer’s and the other was protective against the disease.
Goate said the team would continue to perform more studies to determine the full effects of the gene mutations on nervous systems in the brain.
The research was published in the journal Neuron.