Monday, October 19, 2020

Large Genetic Alzheimer’s Study of African American Individuals Uncovers Differences in Risk Factors From Whites

In a large analysis of nearly 8,000 African American genome samples, researchers have uncovered more than two dozen genetic variants associated with the risk of Alzheimer’s. The findings were published today in JAMA Neurology.

Most of these variants were linked with biological processes already implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s—such as the immune response and fat metabolism—noted Brian W. Kunkle, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and colleagues. However, the variants themselves were different from those previously identified in White individuals. Additionally, the analysis pointed to a possible relationship between the kidney system and Alzheimer’s in African American individuals.  

The findings suggest that while the molecular pathways implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans are similar to those in Whites, the variants influencing these pathways may differ, the authors noted. 

Kunkle and colleagues analyzed genome data from 2,748 African American individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and 5,222 African American individuals without Alzheimer’s disease to look for variants associated with disease risk. Their analysis confirmed the relationship between several genetic variants and Alzheimer’s found in smaller studies, but also found nearly 20 new genetic Alzheimer’s links—most of which have not been implicated in White individuals. 

Of the eight biological pathways implicated by these new variants in African American individuals, seven have been previously implicated in genetic studies of White individuals. The novel pathway implicated in African American individuals was kidney system development. Interestingly, variants associated with the production of amyloid and tau proteins—which have been found in genome studies of White individuals—were not identified in this study. 

While Kunkle and colleagues noted that while additional research is needed, the findings “significantly help to disentangle [Alzheimer’s disease] etiology in African American individuals, aid to clarify the molecular mechanisms underlying observed health disparities, and help to pinpoint molecular targets for therapeutic intervention in this ethnic group.”

(Image: iStock\FatCamera) 


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