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Medical breakthroughs of 2009

11 December 2009

Professor Julie WilliamsProfessor Julie Williams

A key University study which helped uncover two new genes associated with Alzheimer's disease has been recognised as one of the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009 by TIME Magazine.

The University research joins a prestigious list of other medical breakthroughs recognised by TIME Magazine. They include the lifting of the ban on stem-cell research, research into a new AIDS vaccine, the development of the H1N1 vaccine and the discovery of new osteoporosis drugs.

Led by Professor Julie Williams and Professor Mike Owen, School of Medicine, the study was the largest-ever joint Alzheimer's disease genome-wide association study (GWAS) involving 16,000 individuals and helped uncover two new genes associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Professor Julie Williams, School of Medicine, said: "We are delighted that our team effort has been recognised internationally - but what pleases us most is that our genetic findings are helping us understand the biological causes of Alzheimer's disease, indeed these results have already highlighted new pathways to the disease."

Previously only one gene, APOE4, had been shown to be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. The study revealed, for the first time, that two further genes, CLU and PICALM, are also related to Alzheimer's disease.

The findings were some of the first to emerge from the University’s new flagship Medical Research Council (MRC) research centre.

The Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at the University – the only MRC Centre of its type in Wales, is aimed specifically at harnessing the genetics revolution for research in mental disorders.

The Centre was opened in April 2009 under the directorship of Professor Mike Owen of the University’s School of Medicine and officially launched by the then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan AM.

A full list of TIME Magazine’s top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009 is available at:,28804,1945379_1944376,00.html

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