A gene so powerful it nearly triples the risk of Alzheimer's disease has been discovered by an international team of scientists.
Researchers have called the findings "the most potent genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's identified in the past 20 years."
The study moves researchers one step closer to finding effective treatments for Alzheimer's, said Rosa Rademakers, a neurogeneticist with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.
"With every new discovery, it opens up a new avenue of research," she said. "It gives us a new tool to make models. Those models become tools to test drugs."
The study found that a common variation in the TREM2 gene, R47H, has a strong association with Alzheimer's disease.
"The TREM2 variant may be rare, but it is potent," said Minerva Carrasquillo, a neuroscientist with the Mayo Clinc in Jacksonville.
She said that she found the variant in 1.9 percent of the DNA samples from 1,994 Alzheimer's disease patients but only in .37 percent of the DNA samples from 4,062 "control" participants, people who don't have Alzheimer's.
That means that while not everybody who has the variant will develop Alzheimer's, the variant makes it three times more likely to happen, she said.
The study was done by researchers from 44 institutions around the world, including 10 from Mayo Clinic's campuses in Florida and Minnesota. The study was led by John Hardy, a researcher at the Institute of Neurology at University College London, who is a former professor at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.
The study was recently published in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. (ANI)