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Alzheimer’s: New collaboration on one of the disease’s top risk factors

July 12, 2012
by pamela tabar
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Collaborative efforts among four university research institutes and British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will scrutinize a piece genetic code linked to late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Helen and Robert Appel Alzheimer's Disease Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College; The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research; The University of British Columbia and AstraZeneca have joined to form the A5 alliance to study the apolipoprotein E gene (ApoE).

In its normal form, ApoE plays important roles in metabolism and the processing of fatty acids, cholesterol and glucose. But a variant form, ApoE4, is considered the largest known genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s other than advanced age.

The E4 form of the gene appears to weaken the brain’s vascular system, including the blood-brain barrier, according to earlier research funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Those who have inherited two copies of the ApoE4 variant are 12 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with a normal ApoE.

"The formation of the A5 alliance represents a unique academic-industry partnership whereby these Alzheimer's disease experts will link their labs together and work closely with a pharmaceutical company to unlock the science behind ApoE in order to discover new disease-modifying drug targets,” said Steven Paul, PhD, principal academic collaborator for the A5 alliance and director of the Helen and Robert Appel Alzheimer's Disease Research Institute at Weill Cornell, in a press release. “We are convinced that ApoE represents a major piece of the Alzheimer's disease puzzle and that each member of the A5 alliance brings a critical piece of that puzzle to the table.”

In a related story, read about this week's discovery of a gene mutation that may be able to override the inheritance factors of the ApoE4 gene.

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