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Cardiff Leads $10M Study of Genetic, Lifestyle Factors in Alzheimer's

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Cardiff University scientists will use £6 million ($10 million) in funding to integrate and study genomic and environmental information from more than a million people and create a resource that could lead to new methods for assessing risk and personalized treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

The project aims to examine genetic markers along with lifestyle and dietary data to create "a fuller picture" of why Alzheimer's develops, how it is triggered, and why different individuals face different risks, Cardiff said today.

The researchers will look primarily at genetic and lifestyle data of people 65 years and older from Europe, the US, Australia, and Asia, to create a picture of the "genetic architecture underpinning Alzheimer's." The investigators believe that looking at data from so many participants will improve their accuracy and create a bigger research base to analyze.

"Put simply, this is a study large enough to get answers," Professor Julie Williams, a professor at Cardiff's MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics and leader of the project, said in a statement.

Williams said the goal of the project is to "harmonise the research of scientists studying the genetic risk of Alzheimer's with the work of those studying the lifestyle influences" to eventually create new ways of treating the disease, or to "offset it altogether."

She expects that the biomarker data and insights from this project could lead to tools that will enable general practitioners to "run a simple test" to analyze a patient's Alzheimer's risk, and to then prescribe a combination of gene therapy, drugs, and lifestyle changes that could lower that risk. This test would use a polygenic risk score that includes a patient's genetic, lifestyle, and dietary information, and would distinguish patient risk on a high to low scale.

Previous research at Cardiff has led to the discovery of 21 susceptibility genes linked to Alzheimer's and revealed clusters of genes that implicate potential biological pathways, such as cholesterol transport and the immune system, in the disease.

The project is being funded by the Medical Research Council; the EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research; Alzheimer's Research UK; the Welsh Government; and Icelandic Foods.