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article imageGenes linked to Alzheimer’s disease

By Tim Sandle     Feb 4, 2014 in Science
Boston - Scientists have identified abnormal expression of genes, resulting from "DNA relaxation," that can be detected in the brain and blood of Alzheimer's patients. This offers a clue of a genetic link to the degenerative disease.
Researchers have previously established that the protein tau is involved in a number of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, previous studies have implicated DNA damage as a cause of neuron, or cell, death in Alzheimer's patients.
Based on these factors, researchers have been studying changes in DNA structure in tau-induced neurodegeneration. To explore the effects a research group used genetically modified flies and mice, designed to express human tau protein, in order to show that DNA is more relaxed when diseases of the brain occur.
From their studies, the researchers showed that DNA, which is normally tightly wound, "relaxes." When this occurs it results in abnormal gene expression. This appears to be the central event that cause neurons to die in Alzheimer's disease.
The research team hope that this finding will lead to a generation of drugs that tackle the DNA structure in order to halt Alzheimer’s disease in the early stages.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that worsens over time, leading to a slow decline in cognitive functions and affecting memory, thinking, and behavior. More than 5 million Americans are living with the condition, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The genes have been described in the journal Nature Neuroscience, in a paper titled “Tau promotes neurodegeneration through global chromatin relaxation.” The research was led by scientists at the Harvard Medical School, Boston; Boston Children's Hospital, Boston; and University of Florida, Gainesville.
More about Alzheimer's, Genes, Dna, Rna, degenerative
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