Scientists Discover Gene Linked to Alzheimer's and Diabetes

Gene SorCS1 associated with Alzheimers and diabetes

(RxWiki News) Scientists have deciphered how a gene works. They were aided in part by the gene's link to both Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes, which could prompt new treatment options.

The identified gene can cause type 2 diabetes, and may also kill brain nerve cells contributing to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

"Ask your doctor about new treatments on the horizon."

Dr. Sam Gandy, the Mount Sinai Professor in Alzheimer's Disease Research, professor of neurology and psychiatry, and associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, led the study which provided new insight into the gene called SorCS1, which controls the production of amyloid-beta in the brain. Amyloid-beta plays a pivotal role in the development of Alzheimer's.

The gene was previously associated with Alzheimer's, and researchers had identified where in the cell it resided, but not how it controlled amyloid-beta.

Researchers found various "traffic patterns" in the cell, and were able to determine how much is ultimately converted into the nerve killing amyloid-beta.  The investigators altered the activity of the gene and observed how that prompted a change in the traffic pattern.

The findings suggested that the gene controls the movement of protein between areas where the amyloid-beta is easily produced to the areas where it is not. It was also discovered that the traffic pattern affects amyloid-beta production.

This implies that those with deficiencies of SorCS1 are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's because the protein that later forms the amyloid-beta too frequently stays in a region where it is broken down to make toxic amyloid-beta.

Dr. Gandy said the discovery has provided new ideas about treatment options for both Alzheimer's and type 2 diabetes, including the targeting of insulin receptors within a cell. He said the research put the team one step closer to new therapies.

The research was recently presented at the Alzheimer's Association's Annual International Conference in Paris. Research presented at academic meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
July 19, 2011