Belgium: New breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research

9th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Scientists have discovered three new genes that play a role in the production of a protein which destroys brains of Alzheimer patients.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease. The discovery of three major genetic links to the disease is very important and the most significant discovery in years. 

Two studies found that the three new genes join the APOE4 gene as significant risk factors for the most common cause of dementia.

The new discovery will make it much easier to predict who will develop dementia at a later age. In time, medicines can be developed which will help inhibit the disease, explained Dr Van Broeckhoven. 

"Dementia is a very complex disease, just like the brain is a complex organ. The aim is to slow the disease down in the first phase, maybe by some 5 years for example. This will cut the number of patients by half.”

Alzheimer' affects 70% of all patients with dementia. 

The disease destroys the brain cells in the deepest parts of the brain, causing memory and knowledge loss. Since the disease was first discovered by Alois Alzheimer a century ago, scientists have been looking for a cure to the disease.

In Belgium there are an estimated 165,000 people who suffer from dementia. 

There are around 30 million people worldwide who suffer from dementia. Experts say that this could possibly double within the next 20 years.

Christine Van Broeckhoven is a molecular biologist and professor in Molecular Genetics at the University of Antwerp. She is also head of the VIB Department of Molecular Genetics at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology.

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