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Medical Daily is reporting that a new study, published in the journal Neuron, has uncovered early genetic markers that can be used to predict if a person is at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.
The discovery was made by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who identified a number of genetic mutations that can potentially influence the levels of Tau proteins in a person's system. Having higher levels of Tau determines how likely it is that someone will develop dementia.
The hope is that this new information will eventually lead to genetic tests, which could potentially determine a person's risk for Alzheimer's years in advance, thereby leading to more effective treatments.
"We have identified several genes that influence the levels of soluble Tau in the cerebrospinal fluid, 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," senior author Dr. Alison Goate said to Medical Dail.
Currently, it is very difficult to project the possibility of the disease, as scientists can only measure the current level of Tau proteins in a person, and not factors that would contribute to their accumulation.
The research was conducted by running genetic analysis on 1,269 patients, which led to the discovery of genetic mutations in regions of the gene TREM2. Previous research indicated that TREM2 had some effect on the disease's progression. Interestingly, TREM2 can also influence the development of a gene called TREML2, which actually protects against Alzheimer's.
More research is necessary before scientists can develop a practical application for the new information, and Alison Goate and her team have announced that they will be continuing to conduct additional studies on how gene mutations affect the brain's nervous system.