Scientists have long been frustrated with a lack of viable discoveries to prevent or thoroughly treat Alzheimer's disease. But a new genetic mutation may hold the key to preventing the development of Alzheimer's in the general population.

The Gene Mutation

Scientists have recently discovered a rare mutation in human DNA which may contribute to the prevention of Alzheimer's development. The mutation is found in a gene known as APP, and affects a part of genetic code with a single differentiation in one of its bases. Ordinarily, the gene contains the genetic information that forces proteins in the body to break down into smaller components.

One of these components is known as beta amyloid, a compound suspected of initiating early onset of Alzheimer's disease by building up in massive quantities in the brain. Other mutations of the APP gene have been discovered in the past, but most of them actually increase the quantities of beta amyloid,contributing to faster amyloid plaque buildup in the brain.

The most recently discovered mutation affects the gene by reversing this tendency. It is thought that this strain actually disrupts one of the enzymes responsible for breaking down protein, reducing the beta amyloid formation in the body by up to 40 percent. This hypothesis is further substantiated by research showing carriers of this mutation over the age of 85 are seven and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, than their ordinary-gene carrying counterparts.

The Importance Of The Study

Other mutations have been found to protect against the development of Alzheimer's disease, such as the previously studied APOE2 allele, which breaks down beta amyloids within and between cells.

But the new APP mutation is thought to have more significant effects, reducing the aggregation of beta amyloids to a much greater degree. The study also lends more evidence to the science of beta amyloids as the biggest indicator or cause of Alzheimer's disease.

Possibilities For Future Drug Development

Previous tests of experimental drugs have targeted the elimination of the buildup of beta amyloids in the brain, but the failure of these drugs has led to questioning as to whether targeting beta amyloids effectively prevents Alzheimer's.

New theories suggest that these types of drugs will always be ineffective, because they take action only after the damage has been done. A successfully developed treatment eliminating beta amyloid buildup before it occurs may effectively prevent Alzheimer's disease from ever occurring.

However, such a drug would be years away, and require further research and biological development, but the notion is promising in a field with few viable hopes for preventative treatment in decades.

The mutation of APP may be years away from leading to a useful pharmaceutical development, but with a 750% drop in Alzheimer's development among the population with the gene mutation, the potential future for the treatment is enormous.