What causes Alzheimer’s disease?

A type of protein called amyloid forms ‘plaques’ which accumulate in and around brain cells causing them to die. A different type of protein called tau forms ‘tangles’ which change the structure of brain cells. We also know that certain chemicals in the brain which transmit messages between neurons are depleted. Scientists do not yet know why the altered amyloid builds up in the brains of some people but not in others.

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Tangles (below) and plaques (above).

Which genes have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease?

Medical research has identified five genes that influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Three of these genes affect younger people (under the age of 65), and two affect older people (over the age of 65). It must be remembered that Alzheimer’s disease is not a hereditary condition and by identifying the genetic ‘risk factors’ for developing Alzheimer’s disease scientists can begin to look for affective treatments.

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The location of genes that are associated with Alzheimer disease.


Principal Funder:

Wellcome trust

Major Sponsors:

GlaxoSmithKline life technologies