Markers added to DNA around the ANK1 gene could be linked to brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research published in Nature Neuroscience.
Two studies, one led by academics at the University of Exeter, looked at chemical markers on the DNA in the post-mortem brains of approximately 1,200 people who had died with dementia. In areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease, the DNA contained a different pattern of marks than in areas of the brain that were not affected. These epigenetic changes represent a mechanism where environmental factors can influence the expression of nearby genes. In the study led by Exeter University, DNA marks around the ANK1 gene were most strongly correlated with advancing stages of the disease.
Dr Clare Walton, Research Communications Manager at Alzheimer’s Society said:
‘Dementia is the most feared condition in people over 55. Despite an increase in public awareness scientists still don’t know enough about the intricate processes which cause Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Epigenetics is an exciting field of research that can help us to understand how the environment and our genes interact in the development of dementia.
This study provides strong evidence that epigenetic marks added to the DNA around certain genes are involved in Alzheimer’s disease, opening up new avenues to explore in the search for new treatments. Only through vital research like this can we begin to untangle the causes and make progress towards a cure. That is why Alzheimer’s Society is committed to funding £100 million of research over the next ten years to beat dementia.’