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Genetic diversity could bring about better Alzheimer's treatment, study says

By
Tauren Dyson
Researchers found they can better model Alzheimer's disease in mice by introducing genetic diversity to experimental groups, according to a new study. Photo by Italo Greco/Flickr
Researchers found they can better model Alzheimer's disease in mice by introducing genetic diversity to experimental groups, according to a new study. Photo by Italo Greco/Flickr

Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Genetic diversity among the test subjects in Alzheimer's disease research could help bring about better treatment options for the condition, a new study says.

Researchers funded by the National Institute on Aging, or NIA, injected a mouse model of familial Alzheimer's known as 5XFAD into a group of genetically diverse mice. This group shared the cognitive, genetic, molecular and pathologic characteristics of Alzheimer's. However, the mice with different overall genetic backgrounds had largely different severity of onset of Alzheimer's symptoms.

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"This is the first study to show that you can replicate many of the molecular features of Alzheimer's disease in a genetically diverse mouse model," Richard J. Hodes, director at NIA Director, said in a news release. "It points to a strategy for better use of mouse models for precision medicine research-both basic and translational-for Alzheimer's disease."

The researchers noticed that a particular strain of mouse Alzheimer's -- C57BL/6J, which is often used to create Alzheimer's transgenic mouse models -- contains factors that help fight off the impact off genetic Alzheimer's risk factors. Since the researchers could identify this protective C57BL/6J strain, it means future research can focus on exactly how this strain works to bring about improved Alzheimer's prevention.

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Conversely, this discovery also showed researchers that mice with these genetic traits might not work for testing new Alzheimer's drugs.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder erodes a human's memory and cognitive ability. The NIH estimates that up to 5.5 million Americans age 65 and older have Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.

"The ability to model genetic diversity and its impact on multiple aspects of disease risk and resilience in transgenic mice in a robust and reproducible way will enable the research community to learn a lot more about the complex nature of Alzheimer's a lot faster," said Suzana Petanceska, program director in the NIA Division of Neuroscience. "This new resource adds to the series of new NIA/NIH programs generating data, analytical and research tools needed to enable more efficient and predictive drug development for Alzheimer's."

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This study was published Thursday in the journal Neuron and produced by Resilience-Alzheimer's Disease Consortium.

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