An international consortium released a comprehensive study on October 27, 2013 that identifies 11 new genes related to Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these genes are also identified as being involved with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. This research will allow specific drugs and treatment strategies to achieve slowing or reversal of Alzheimer’s disease.
With joint cooperation of major institutions in the US and Europe, over 74,000 patients and controls from 15 countries were carefully analyzed to establish the relationships of the genes to late onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). One of the co-senior authors, Gerard Schellenberg, PhD of the University of Pennsylvania stated that this study has identified more genes involved in LOAD than all of the studies done in the past 15 years.
This study shows the positive benefits that genetic engineering can achieve in curing human diseases. When genetic engineering is combined with stem cells, there is tremendous potential to treat diseases such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and other diseases that involve either defective organs or missing proteins required for proper functioning of the immune system and reduction of inflammation throughout the body.
Given that the funding for this study has been provided from governments and the work has been done largely in university and private research organizations, there may be wider ownership and distribution of the knowledge than what normally occurs through the large pharmaceutical companies.
The study has concluded that there are immune system interactions that are a factor in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Inflammation is also indicated as part of this progression. There are many other diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis that also involve inflammation and immune system malfunctions.
This progress in identifying these genes as key components of Alzheimer’s disease may lead to successful treatment of many other diseases. The cooperation of the international research groups is a positive step in supporting global solutions for major health issues.
The new approach to preventing or reversing Alzheimer's disease may follow a similar level of understanding as found in combating HIV. Understanding the mechanism of a disease as to the steps that occur in the progression of the disease offers a real opportunity to achieve a general solution for these classes of diseases. The HIV approach to stopping the progression of the virus to generate AIDS is discussed in a related Examiner article by this author.