The Science Behind the Alzheimer's Genome Project

Posted: Aug. 20, 2009

Photo of GeneChipThe core research effort currently funded by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is the Alzheimer's Genome Project™ initiative. This project, entirely funded by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, is being led by Dr. Rudolph Tanzi at Massachusetts General Hospital. The objective is to identify all genes that contribute significant risk for Alzheimer’s disease, thereby identifying more targets for the development of therapeutic interventions.

Almost 99 percent of every person’s DNA is the same. So it is a very small part that makes individuals unique and determines such characteristics as height, eye color and susceptibility to diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. However, even in that little bit of variance, there is an enormous amount of information to sift through to identify variations that might account for or contribute to specific diseases.

Such recent discoveries as the completion of the Human Genome project, the creation of extensive databases of family-based DNA samples and the invention of technology to provide DNA microarrays for whole genome scans mean scientists can search more easily for errant genes.

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund researchers are using microarrays in their search for the remaining Alzheimer’s disease genes. Here is a description of how a DNA micorarray (also known as a gene chip) works.

Annotated illustration of the DNA microarray