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Alzheimer's update.

Alzheimer's update

As recently as March of this year, genetic studies were pointing to the likelihood that a single genetic defect responsible for overproduction of amyloid protein in the brain might be the cause of the hereditary form of Alzheimer's disease (SN: 3/21/87, p.188). Two new studies, however, provide strong evidence that the gene coding for amyloid production is not the same gene that is responsible for the hereditary form of Alzheimer's --even though the genes are neighbors on chromosome 21, and even though the two syndromes often coexist.

The two multicenter international studies, one led by C. Van Broeckhoven from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and the other by James F. Gusella from Harvard University, followed familial inheritance patterns of the two syndromes using new genetic markers. Their findings, reported in the Sept. 10 NATURE, suggest that the two genetic defects are inherited independently.

Although the studies don't rule out some kind of link between amyloid plaques in the brain and Alzheimer's disease, the direction of causality remains unclear. It's likely, two of the researchers told SCIENCE NEWS, that either syndrome can be caused by any of a number of genetic or environmental factors.

"It's a very heterogeneous disease,' one researcher sighs. "Talk to me again in about a year.'
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Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 19, 1987
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