Researchers identify dementia gene

Researchers in Vancouver have identified the gene that destroys brain cells in people with Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and usually affects people over age 60. More than 238,000 Canadians are believed to suffer from Alzheimer's. By 2031 that and other forms of dementia are expected to affect about 750,000. The study was completed by researchers at UBC and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

"It will likely take years to find a therapy or drug that could block the spread of the disease and that's our next target," said Dr. Weihong Song, Canada Research Chair in Alzheimer's disease at the University of B.C.

The team found that the excessive production of a protein called Regulator of Calcineurin 1 sets in motion a chain reaction that kills neurons in the hippocampus and cortex regions of the brains of people with Down syndrome and Alzheimer's.

"Neuron death is the primary reason for the memory loss and cognitive impairments of Alzheimer's disease and it's the main reason people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer's disease long before most people, usually in their 30s," said Song.

Down syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that impairs cognitive ability and physical growth. About one in 800 Canadian babies are born with it, according to the Canadian Down Syndrome Society.

Source: Montreal Gazette

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