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Last updated at 12:03 GMT, Friday, 01 November 2013

Eleven new Alzheimer's 'risk genes'

Summary

1 November 2013

Scientists have identified 11 new genes linked to the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The discovery was brought about by the largest study into the disease, and has used information gathered from more than 50,000 people across 15 different countries.

Reporter:

James Gallagher

DNA

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Alzheimer's disease is a growing burden around the world. Yet basic questions such as what causes it or how to diagnose it remain unanswered. A global team of scientists searched through the DNA of more than 50,000 people in the hunt for clues. The study, published in Nature Genetics, identified 11 new genes on top of the ten already discovered. All can increase the chances of developing the dementia.

One of the lead scientists, Professor Julie Williams from Cardiff University, said working out the genes' role in Alzheimer's could lead to treatments. "It's not, you know, 21 different theories about Alzheimer's. They are forming patterns so we can look at a few different processes and try and understand those and then produce treatments from there."

Those patterns centre on the immune system, how the body deals with cholesterol and how cells in the brain transport material. But this is the first step. Further studies are now needed to identify precisely what is going wrong and to begin the slow process of converting the findings into treatments.

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Vocabulary

burden

something difficult to deal with

hunt

search

working out

understanding

patterns

particular ways of organising

immune system

the cells which make it possible for the human body to protect itself from illness

precisely

exactly

converting

turning into

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