A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing a disease. Understanding someone’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s is complex, as there are many different elements that play a role. Age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s but genetics and lifestyle factors, such as smoking and education, can also play an important role.
Dr Riccardo Marioni and his team are asking the crucial question – to what extent do genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors influence Alzheimer’s risk and how do these factors interact?
Important findings from this project will allow researchers to identify people at the greatest risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is essential for supporting people in ways to reduce their risk, as well as recruiting the right group of people to research studies. Current methods, often based on a single genetic risk factor, have limitations and mean that clinical trials for new treatments are not as efficient as they could potentially be.
A better way of identifying people who will go on to develop Alzheimer’s will be a huge boost to clinical research and could help to identify people who will benefit the most from risk reduction strategies and future treatments.
Large cohort studies that collect detailed information about participants’ genetics, as well as their lifestyle and health over many years, are extremely useful for scientists piecing together the factors that can influence the risk of different diseases. By identifying the genes, health factors and aspects of lifestyle that are more common in people who go on to develop Alzheimer’s, researchers have been able to make huge strides towards understanding who is most at risk of the disease.
Dr Marioni and his team will use participants’ rich medical data to investigate risk genes for Alzheimer’s are linked to specific biological changes that contribute to the disease such as changes on brain scans, indications of inflammation or characteristic memory and thinking changes. They will use this data to gain a clearer picture of the interplay between different risk factors for Alzheimer’s and how this information can be used to develop new interventions to help those most at risk.
Dr Riccardo Marioni
University of Edinburgh
1 October 2017 - 1 October 2020
Full project name
Omics prediction of Alzheimer’s disease