While there is no known ‘silver bullet’ for Alzheimer’s disease it appears that there may be some ‘luck of the draw’ genetic variants that help.
A DNA study of over 10,000 people by University College of London (UCL) scientists has identified a class of gene variants that appear to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings, published in Annals of Human Genetics, suggest these naturally occurring gene variants reduce the functioning of proteins called tyrosine phosphatases, which are known to impair the activity of a cell signalling pathway known as PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β. This pathway is important for cell survival.
The research builds on previous studies in mice and rats, which suggested inhibiting the function of these proteins might be protective against Alzheimer’s disease, but this is the first time such an effect has been demonstrated in people.
Researchers believe the PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signalling pathway could be a key target for therapeutic drugs and the findings also strengthen evidence that other genes could be linked to either elevated or reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These results are quite encouraging. It looks as though when naturally-occurring genetic variants reduce the activity of tyrosine phosphatases then this makes Alzheimer’s disease less likely to develop, suggesting that drugs which have the same effect might also be protective,” said the study’s lead author, Professor David Curtis (UCL Genetics Institute).