A new study has just revealed another possible cause of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease — mutant genes. The mutated forms of specific genes, which are known as “presenilins,” have been discovered in people who have an inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease.
Doctors are still unclear as to what exactly causes Alzheimer’s and its symptoms to happen in people, but in all likelihood there is more than one cause for the condition. Age is the biggest risk factor, where the number of individuals who develop the disease doubles every five years after the age of 65.
In fact, there are approximately 4.5 million Americans who are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s. It progressively ends up impairing a person’s memory, thought, and language — all devastating side effects of the disease. This fact is what makes new research, such as this study, so important.
The study, which was conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and will be published in the September 8th issue of the medical journal Cell, looked at the genes, which, until now, were only thought to have been primarily responsible for forming the plaques that are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers in the study uncovered something new about presenilins.
The presenilin gene is not novel to the research of Alzheimer’s, but what is new is the role that it plays in human cells. It turns out that presenilin may also control the balance of calcium within cells.
This is an important discovery, as calcium works as a signaling molecule that affects important cognitive functions such as memory and learning. When mutated forms of the presenilin gene occur, presenilin loses its ability to control that crucial balance of calcium, thus resulting in cells that become “overloaded” with the mineral.
According to the team, more research is needed into the presenilin/calcium link in people who have Alzheimer’s disease. However, the study does bring up the possibility of new potential treatments for individuals suffering from this devastating disease.
For example, since researches found that restoring the normal levels of presenilin helped normalize the calcium in mutant cells, drugs that are meant for helping restore normal calcium levels may be helpful in treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. This new gene/calcium link could, potentially, result in the creation of new drugs to help combat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s as well.
Hopefully this new research will offer scientists more insight into the potential causes behind Alzheimer’s disease and its symptoms. The key to understanding and solving the mystery of this horrible disease could be in human genes — only time and more research can tell. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments in this area of research in the future.