Teams of scientists will use support from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research into the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease, analyzing how genome sequences—the order of chemical letters in a cell’s DNA—may contribute to increased risk or protect against the disease.
Scientists have discovered gene variants that affect the function of immune cells in young, healthy people. Interestingly, many of these same gene variants are known risk factors for diseases that occur later in life, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This linking of known gene risk factors for age-related neurological disorders to immune system functions, such as inflammation, offers new insights into Alzheimer’s and other disorders and may one day lead to promising therapies.
Official mortality figures may have substantially underreported deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease in 2010 show two recent studies supported in part by NIA. Underreporting of Alzheimer’s as a cause of death on death certificates is a well-known phenomenon. Some people with the disease never receive a diagnosis. Many others have dementia-related conditions, such as aspiration pneumonia, listed as the primary cause of death while the underlying cause, Alzheimer’s, is never reported.
Scientists have identified a possible cellular mechanism triggered by oxidative stress and DNA damage that is linked to tau, a protein commonly seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and certain other neurodegenerative diseases called “tauopathies.” The effect was observed in fruit fly and mouse tauopathy models and in human Alzheimer’s brains.
Training to improve cognitive abilities in older people lasted to some degree 10 years after the training program was completed, according to results of a randomized clinical trial supported by the National Institutes of Health.
The findings showed training gains for aspects of cognition involved in the ability to think and learn, but researchers said memory training did not have an effect after 10 years.