What Is the Alzheimer's Genome Project?

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So the Alzheimer's Genome Project takes place right here, literally right here in this lab and was the brain child of a collaboration between to Cure Alzheimer's Fund and myself but five or six years ago we had the discussion. We said if you think about what we know about Alzheimer's disease, there is a before and there's an after.

Before a certain event we knew nothing about what causes the disease. We could describe it, but we had no idea what caused it. It was the equivalent of going to Gillette stadium at 6 o'clock on a Sunday after 1 o'clock Patriots football game, and trying to figure out what happened there, and you wouldn't come up with football, if you didn't know, if you are martians coming down from space trying to figure it out. So that's how we were from, when Alzheimer described the disease in 1906 to 1986, in 1986 we found the first Alzheimer's gene.

This was a gene that I found as a, just found it when I was a student at Harvard and then two other groups independently found the same gene. And this gene told us where the amyloid came from, this toxic sticky substance in the brain and suddenly we said, oh, this isn't just junk that just accumulates from this and that. It's a specific junk that comes from this one big molecule, a protein, and it's funny because when I was a student and I said I was going to go after this gene. Some of my mentors and advisers at Harvard Medical school said hey, wait a minute, that senile plaque you see in Alzheimer's it's a big dump, it's a big garbage heap, you go after the gene that makes this amyloid you are probably going to find where one team came from in your garbage dump, it's not going to help you and I was a young rebel guy, so I didn't listen and sure enough that gene it turns out, the first gene that makes the amyloid is still the target for drug discovery today, the number one target.

And then we found three other genes, so by 1995 we had four genes that caused Alzheimer's. At that it was before those four genes we knew nothing about the cause, we had no idea how to even think about treating it. So when I talked to the founders of the Cure Alzheimer's Fund, the families the Morbys, the McCances, the Rappaports, said, look, everything we know about this disease right now came from these four genes, the last one we found was in 95, it's been 10 years this was back in 05, and we also know that these four genes only account for 30%, 30% of the genetic puzzle, 70% remains unknown.

Look what we've done with the first 30%, imagine what we could do with the remaining 70%. That's the Alzheimer's Genome project and everything was perfectly set. There were new gene hunting technologies using gene chips. The Human Genome Project had provided new databases for how to interpret the human genome.

Everything was just right, we had collected nearly hundreds now thousands of families with Alzheimer's where you have multiple members so we could analyze their DNA so it was just a perfect start. Around 05, we said it's time to do it and so we did it and it's been immensely successful. The first report it came alive in 08, Time Magazine made it the top ten medical breakthrough of 08, and since then now we have a 100, 100 new Alzheimer's gene candidates they are right where we' re analysing that DNA trying to find the variations on that DNA, the mutations that cause the disease. Every new gene gives you a new clue and a new shot and goal in terms of therapy, and not just here, all around