Researchers have isolated nine genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease, with one gene potentially slowing the widespread of the condition by 17 years.

The findings could also assist scientists in developing novel treatments to delay Alzheimer’s, according to lead researcher and medical geneticist, Mauricio Arcos-Burgos, an associate professor at the Australian National University.

In the study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the team followed a family made up of 5,000 individuals in Columbia and identified genes that slowed or accelerated the progress of Alzheimer’s, as well as the rate at which it happens.

Arcos-Burgos believed there could be greater success in delaying the onset rather than preventing it completely. “Even if we delay the onset by on average one year, that will mean nine million fewer people have the disease in 2050,” he explained in a statement.

The family is struck with a genetic type of Alzheimer’s, and they are deemed a unique subject since they are a large and a closely knit family living within a particular area in the Colombian western mountains.

The family will be given Alzheimer’s treatment for testing by the U.S. National Institute of Health, which allotted $170 million for the research.Instead of going down the treatment path, Arcos-Burgos’ team studied the variable age when dementia strikes in the family. Alterations in the brain can be identified before 20 years of age.

The family’s genetic predisposition to the disease goes back to a founder mutation in a person who arrived in the region about 500 years ago. The researchers identified the nine genes implicated in Alzheimer’s – a mix of those delaying the condition by 17 years at most or advancing its progress.

Arcos-Burgos said that members of the family with a mutation will develop the condition, although it could happen once they reach 30 or 70 years old. His team replicated one gene variant, but needs to conduct further studies to confirm if these variants will affect the age of onset in a bigger setting.

The team will proceed with studying the genes of some members of the Queanbeyan people, whom it has been following for the last decade.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts up to 35 million worldwide. By 2050, it is forecasted to affect about one in 85 individuals around the world.

Photo: Liliana Amundarain | Flickr

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