Researchers at Brigham Young University took the current trend on Alzheimer’s research and flipped it upside down. Instead of focusing on why people get the disease, they tried to uncover what protects people against Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have already identified that two clear risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease are age and the presence of APOE e4 allele. Yet, many people who have risk factors live far beyond 75 years and show no signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. So, why is that?
Researchers turned their focus to the “underlying biology that protects certain high-risk individuals against AD. We term these individuals ‘AD resilient individuals’ and define them as individuals who are at least 75 years old, cognitively normal, and carry at least one APOE ε4 allele,” researchers write.
Because of their innovative research, they discovered a new gene that appears to offer protection against the disease. This information offers hope that someday we will be able to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease before it ever starts. Their findings were published in Genome Medicine.
Alzheimer’s Research Goals
The project began in 2012 as a collaboration between researchers at BYU as well as Utah State University, the University of Utah, the Mayo Clinic, and the Washington University School of Medicine.
Researchers described their goal as to uncover if there’s a genetic trait that protects people against the development of Alzheimer’s disease. They weren’t sure what they would find when they first embarked on the journey. “We expected there was probably something there…We were hopeful we would find something,” said Perry Ridge, an Assistant Professor of Biology at BYU.
To help answer their question, they looked to the Utah Population Database, which includes 20 million of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints genealogical and medical records.
Researchers worked to identify more than 200 “AD resilient” people 75 and older with family members who carried the E4 allele. This is the main genetic component associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. From these individuals, researchers used linkage analysis to find family members who had not developed the disease but had the marker for it in their DNA.
According to researchers, “Our approach consists of three key parts: linkage analysis and fine mapping, genetic analyses, and experimental biological validations.”
Family member DNA was carefully compared and assessed between members who had developed the disease and family members who had NOT developed the disease. Their approach was unique because instead of looking for what causes Alzheimer’s, they were focused on what protects people against developing it. And that’s how researchers discovered the RAB10 Gene.
The RAB10 Gene May Protect You From Alzheimer’s Disease
According to researchers from this study, the RAB10 Gene appears to protect people against the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. According to Associate Professor of Biology John Kauew, there’s hope that the discovery of this gene in combination with other advancements in Alzheimer’s research could help find a cure to this illness that impacts so many families.
“I do believe there should be some hope we’ll have a preventative therapy for Alzheimer’s disease in the future,” Kauew is quoted as saying.
Through a series of calculations, researchers concluded that Rs142787485 in RAB10 offers “significant protection against AD.” Their published findings explain how these results could offer “promising therapeutic target for AD prevention.”