Culprit gene behind Alzheimer's identified

Culprit gene behind Alzheimer's identified

According to researchers at the Vancouver-based University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, the identification of the gene responsible for the destruction of brain cells in Alzheimer's patients and people with Down's syndrome spells hope for patients.

Progression of Alzheimer's leads to dementia in patients. There are more than 35 million Alzheimer's patients around the world, costing $600 billion in 2010. According to projections, one in every 85 people will be afflicted with this condition by 2050.

Lead researcher Weihong Song, who heads the Canada Research Chair in Alzheimer's disease and is professor of psychiatry at the university, said Wednesday their discovery could one day lead to the development of a therapy or drug to prevent dementia in people suffering from these two conditions.

He said his team found a protein (gene) called Regulator of Calcineurin 1 (RCNA1) whose excess production starts a "chain reaction" that destroys neurons in the hippocampus and cortex parts of the brain in people suffering from these diseases.

By finding similarities in both conditions, the researchers found that the same protein RCNA1 was the trigger for the mental deterioration. "Neuron death is the primary reason for memory loss and cognitive impairments of Alzheimer's disease, and it's the main reason people with Down's syndrome develop Alzheimer's disease long before most people, usually in their 30s," Song was quoted as saying in the local media.

But it may take many years before any drug or therapy is developed to stop the spread of the disease. But "that's our next target", said Song.