Manchester scientists unlock Alzheimer’s gene comparing brains of mice and men

A crucial breakthrough in detecting Alzheimer’s has been made by scientists at The University of Manchester – by comparing the brains of mice and humans.

The innovative approach has seen researchers comparing thousands of brain scans of both man and mouse to find a common gene that influences the incurable disease.

The lead researchers drudged through the world’s two largest scientific data stores of human and rodent DNA to make the surprising discovery.

Dr. Reinmar Hager is a senior at the university’s Faculty of Life Sciences.

He said: “What is critical about this research is that we have not only been able to identify this specific gene but also the networks it uses to influence a disease like Alzheimer’s.

The discovery of the gene, dubbed MGST3, will help identify people at risk of developing the condition as well as improve treatments and preventative measures.

Researcher David Ashbrook, who also works at the Faculty of Life Sciences, believes this comparison of man and beast will soon be common practice.

“The advantage of working this way is that it is much easier to identify a genetic variant,” he said.

“By taking information from mice and comparing it to human gene information we can identify the same variant much more quickly.”

And it is the modernizing world that will help halt afflictions such as Alzheimer’s.

He added: “We are living in a big data world. A lot of that information is now widely shared so by mining what we already know we can learn so much more, advancing our knowledge of diseases and ultimately improving detection and improving.”

The ENIGMA Consortium and The Mouse Brain Library are the world’s two largest data stores.

Combined, both contain nearly 35,000 brain scans of both man and beast.

The research paper: “Joint genetic analysis of hippocampal size in mouse and human identifies a novel gene linked to neurodegenerative disease” has been published in the journal BMC Genomics.

For the curious and appreciative of their work, these data stores can be accessed by clicking here.

Image courtesy of Garrat Garrison, via Flickr, with thanks

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