NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A multi-center project led by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and funded by the National Institute on Aging will create a network focused on developing advanced knowledge of the genetics involved in Alzheimer’s disease, WUSTL said this week.
Working under an NIA grant of $16 million, WUSTL will lead the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network, which will organize and enroll a pool of as many as 300 qualified volunteers who are children of Alzheimer’s patients. The goal is to learn more about the genetic basis for the disease in order to allow treatment to begin earlier.
"For treatments now in development to be optimally beneficial for patients, we have to find ways of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease as early as possible," DIAN’s principal investigator and WUSTL neurologist John Morris said in a statement. "That's likely to happen much more quickly as we move from studying the few family members in St. Louis with inherited Alzheimer's to the 300 family members who will be accessible through the DIAN."
We already have some potential biomarkers for the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but the only way to confirm their validity so far is to wait to find out if volunteers who have the biomarkers eventually develop the disease – a process that could take decades, according to WUSTL.
"If a parent develops Alzheimer's disease at a relatively young age in a family with no known mutation that causes the disease, a genetic factor that we have yet to identify may be present, and this can notably increase the risk to the children," Morris said in a statement.
This program may help to shorten the process by allowing scientists to look for potential biomarkers in individuals who have a known mutation from an affected parent, and who “are almost certain to develop the disease,” the university said.
The DIAN program will include a consortium involving Harvard University; Massachusetts General Hospital; Brown University; Columbia University; Indiana University; the University of California at Los Angeles; the University College of London; and an Australian consortium of the universities of Brisbane, Perth, and Sydney.