illustration of a head and puzzle pieces coming out of top.

In the race to solve Alzheimer’s disease, scientists find more needles in the haystack

Twenty-one million. That’s the number of genetic variations in the human genome that researchers are sifting to identify patterns predisposing people to Alzheimer’s disease.illustration of a head and puzzle pieces coming out of top.

Because of international collaboration being advanced by UT Health San Antonio faculty, more genetic variations for Alzheimer’s disease are known today than ever before. The gene variants recognized for late-onset Alzheimer’s grew from one in 2009 to 40 in 2022. Recently, scientists published an expanded list of 75, some of which are considered prime drug targets.

It’s a huge haystack, and Alzheimer’s-related genetic variations, like needles, are minuscule in comparison. Sudha Seshadri, MD, Habil Zare, PhD, and other faculty at the university’s Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases are investigators on a global project to answer the many Alzheimer’s riddles.

Seshadri is a founding principal investigator of the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project (IGAP). Biggs Institute faculty contributed data for the newest research from IGAP, published in Nature Genetics, and helped craft the discussion on implications of the findings.

“We are looking for the genetic basis to better understand all the different types of biology that may be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Seshadri, founding director of the Biggs Institute and professor of neurology in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. “As we include data from more and more people, we are able to find variants that are fairly rare, that are only seen in about 1% of the population.”

Older Hispanic adults are estimated to be at 1.5 times greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias than non-Hispanic whites.

The South Texas Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center — the only designated center in Texas — is a collaboration of the Biggs Institute and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

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