Feinstein researcher awarded NIH grant to better understand genetic causes of Alzheimer's disease

Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Assistant Professor Yun Freudenberg-Hua, MD, has been awarded a five-year, $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute on Aging to identify genetic risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. A better understanding of the genetic causes of the disease will help develop possible treatments for the estimated 5.5 million Americans currently suffering from the condition along with intervention programs for those at risk.

"Though we have identified common genetic risk variants associated with Alzheimer's disease, most of the inherited risk factors remain unexplained," said Dr. Freudenberg-Hua. "With the support of this grant from the NIH, I will be able to expand upon the preliminary work supported by Dr. Peter Davies and the Feinberg Initiative and continue the search for and identify rare genetic risk variants which can further explain why certain individuals develop Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, this project may allow us to identify biological pathways that can provide new treatment opportunities based on a patient's specific genetic makeup."

Dr. Freudenberg-Hua and her team will examine the genes of patients with Alzheimer's disease against those of healthy individuals who are 100 or older in her study: "Identification of Risk Genes by Comparing Whole Genome Sequences of Alzheimer's Disease Patients and Cognitively Healthy Centenarians." Healthy centenarians are ideal "super-controls" for the study since healthy individuals the same age as typical Alzheimer's patients may still develop the disease at a later age.

"NIH investment in Dr. Freudenberg-Hua's study of the genetics of Alzheimer's disease is significant and timely. Federal support for this important peer-reviewed research is a crucial step towards filling an existing knowledge-gap, one that must be filled, in order to provide answers to help patients," said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute.

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