Gerard Schellenberg, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has received an $18.3 million five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to lead a genome-wide association (GWA) study to identify genes that may affect risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Genome-wide association studies require a large amount of samples to be studied in order to detect significant change. Existing phenotype data and DNA samples gathered by the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers (ADCs) will be analyzed by the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC), which has also been formed to collect additional samples.
Researchers will be looking for susceptibility genes that potentially influence the age of the disease’s onset and the rate of progression through various disease phases – from the first symptoms through mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – leading up to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
They also hope to identify genes that influence specific Alzheimer’s disease-related biomarkers, such as the amount of amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary tangles, concentrations of amyloid beta and tau in cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the rate-of-disease progression, and responses to environmental factors (e.g. drugs, non-pharmaceutical factors).
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