The research was led by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine with the findings published in PLoS Genetics.
The researchers used genome-wide association studies to investigate the genetic variation in 2,269 people with Alzheimer’s and 3,107 without the disease. They found a variation in a gene called MTHFD1L was associated with Alzheimer’s.
The gene is known to be involved in influencing the amount of homocysteine in the body, and high levels of homocysteine is a risk factor for Alzheimer's. It has also been suggested that MTHFD1L may increase the risk of coronary artery disease. The authors suggest that understanding more about the role of the gene could aid understanding of how homocysteine levels and blood vessel function in the brain affect Alzheimer's.
Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said:
"Our understanding of the genetics of Alzheimer’s is advancing at a pace now, with important new discoveries providing treatment targets for dementia scientists. The identification of this gene contributes another piece to the puzzle, particularly as it is involved with processes already known to be linked to Alzheimer’s.
“There is still much ground to cover in unravelling the genetic code of Alzheimer’s and further studies are crucial to future successes.”
“Over 820,000 people in the UK have dementia, a number forecast to rise as our population ages. We must invest in research now to find the treatments we so desperately need."