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International gene experts meet to tackle Alzheimer’s

18 November 2010

A leading Cardiff University expert in identifying genes that cause Alzheimer’s disease will meet with some of the world’s other leading figures for the first-time in Paris (Friday 19th November) in a bid help share knowledge and speed-up the genetic fight against the disease.

The International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project (IGAP) is a major consortium which brings together four of the world’s leading groups that work on Alzheimer’s disease genetics.

Professor Julie Williams from Cardiff University, who leads the Genetic and Environmental Risk in Alzheimer’s Disease group (GERAD), said: "Bringing together the world’s leading experts in the identification of genes that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease is an extremely exciting development and the end of a seven year effort.

"This meeting has the potential to help pool resources and knowledge, which means we could help find more genes, more quickly.

"Genes help us pinpoint what is going wrong and map the development of Alzheimer’s. Finding genes that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease will provide insights into its causes and new targets for drug discovery. "

Professor Julie Williams recently completed the largest-ever joint Alzheimer's disease genome-wide association study (GWAS) involving 16,000 individuals and sponsored by the Medical Research Council, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Alzheimer’s Research Trust.

The study, published in Nature Genetics, uncovered two new genes associated with Alzheimer's 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 related to Alzheimer's disease.

The four groups that will meet in Paris includes: the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC) from the United States led by Gerard Schellenberg from at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; the European Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative (EADI) in France led by Philippe Amouyel, MD, PhD at the Institute Pasteur de Lille and Lille University; the Genetic and Environmental Risk in Alzheimer’s Disease (GERAD) from the United Kingdom led by Julie Williams at Cardiff University; and the Cohorts for Heart and Aging in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) led by Sudha Seshadri, MD, at Boston University.

Identification of genes that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease risk and that influence the progression of disease will help reveal basic pathogenic mechanisms; identify proteins and pathways for drug development; and provide genetic methods for determining subjects at greatest risk for Alzheimer’s disease when preventative measures become available.

While each consortium work on their own research, the creation of the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project (IGAP) recognises that by working together,a large enough collection of participants could be amassed to accelerate gene discovery.

"We are very excited by this collaboration that brings together, for the first time, all of the large genetics groups in the world working on Alzheimer's disease," says Amouyel, Schellenberg, Seshadri.

"We have high expectations that this type of cooperative effort will greatly advance our knowledge about this important disease," they added.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder for which there are no prevention methods. Current medication only marginally affects disease severity and progression, making Alzheimer’s disease effectively untreatable. Alzheimer’s disease invariably progresses to complete incapacitation and death over a period of several years.

In last year’s World Alzheimer Report, Alzheimer’s Disease International estimated that there are 35.6 million people living with dementia worldwide in 2010, increasing to 65.7 million by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050. The total estimated worldwide costs of dementia are US$604 billion in 2010.



Further information is available by contacting:

Chris Jones
Public Relations
Cardiff University
Tel: 029 20 874731

Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University President Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Three major new Research Institutes, offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places were announced by the University in 2010.