March 1 (UPI) -- As they inch closer to understanding how the condition works, researchers report they have uncovered five new genes associated with Alzheimer's disease.
These genes, known as "genetic hubs," are linked to cell trafficking, lipid transport, inflammation and the immune response within the Alzheimer's process, according to a study published Thursday in Nature Genetics.
The findings suggest that these five genes have a may play a part in mutating the amyloid precursor protein, or APP, which is directly associated with Alzheimer's development. Past research have also linked APP mutations to early onset Alzheimer's
"This continuing collaborative research into the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer's is allowing us to dig deeper into the complexities of this devastating disease," Richard J. Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging and study author, said in a press release. "The size of this study provides additional clarity on the genes to prioritize as we continue to better understand and target ways to treat and prevent Alzheimer's."
The researchers analyzed common and unique gene variants in more than 94,000 people with late-onset Alzheimer's, confirming 20 known risk genes for the disease, in addition to finding the five new ones.
The study also showed that tau, a protein heavily associated with Alzheimer's development, may help bring on the disease in an earlier stage than once thought.
The researchers say this study is important because it means therapies used to treat people with early onset Alzheimer's could also be used on patients with late-stage forms of the disease.
"Having more and more samples in GWAS data sets is like adding more and more pixels to a photograph -- it helps researchers see details that they otherwise wouldn't and helps them decide where to focus further study," said Marilyn Miller, who runs the Genetics of Alzheimer's Disease program in the Division of Neuroscience at NIA. "If the genes only appear in one out of ten thousand people, you need to find several samples containing those genes for results to be statistically significant."