Researchers have found a genetic component in the disease of Alzheimer’s, raising hopes that it may lead to new treatments.
The findings from researchers at the University of Illinois, who found that Alzheimer’s patients had abnormal protein levels in their brains, may be the first evidence of a gene linked to the disease, The Wall St. Journal reported.
The study found that some Alzheimer’s sufferers had abnormal proteins in the brain and had a protein imbalance that is a hallmark of the disease.
It was published online on Friday in the journal Science.
Dr. Thomas G. Geisinger, a professor of neurology at the university, and his colleagues had previously found a gene that controls protein levels.
The researchers looked for a gene called MTN2, which encodes a protein called the MTN1 gene, that was involved in regulating protein levels and said it might be a target for therapies that would alter brain levels of this protein.
“We found that the abnormal levels of MTN-2 are associated with a protein-protein interaction that is related to neuronal loss,” Geisingert said in a statement.
“What we have found is that there is a protein in the human brain that regulates the amount of MTn2.
This is a molecular signature of Alzheimer disease.”
A gene called CNV-1 is involved in Alzheimer disease.
Geisingser said the new findings may help explain the link between Alzheimer’s and CNV.
“The new evidence points to a gene, not a gene mutation, that is involved with the disease,” Geiseringer said.
“It also points to the need for new therapies to target the CNV/NV1 protein that is found in the Alzheimer’s brain.”
A new drug candidate for Alzheimer’s Dr. George M. Geingert, MD, a former member of the University Medical Center at Lenox Hill Hospital, has studied the protein MTN, and believes that it has a role in the development of Alzheimer-like pathology in the brains of people with the disorder.
“In the future, we may develop a drug that targets MTN,” Geisinert said.
The new study is part of a broader effort to unravel the link, said Geiseninger.
“This study provides a new hypothesis for a possible therapeutic target of MTNs in the developing brain,” he said.
A team led by Geisinger discovered that the normal protein levels were associated with brain atrophy, and a decrease in brain density.
In addition, abnormal levels in the protein were associated a protein that was called MTNP, which is involved both in the formation of neurons and in the degradation of brain tissue.
A mutation in the MTNP gene was found to be associated with Alzheimer’s symptoms.
“These data strongly suggest that MTN may be a biomarker for Alzheimer disease,” the study authors said in the study.
“Our data suggests that MTNP may be particularly important for neurodegeneration, as the MTNs may be implicated in neurodegenesis as a result of the protein-to-protein interactions involved in neuronal loss.”
The new research suggests that more research is needed before scientists can begin to develop a cure for Alzheimer in people.
A number of other genetic and environmental factors may play a role, including the diet, the age at which the brain is formed, the genetic makeup of the person and the way in which the patient develops Alzheimer’s.