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Using sophisticated techniques that scan the genomes of patients, researchers at the Mayo Clinic campus in Florida have found that a gene appears to either help protect against development of Alzheimer’s disease, or promote the disorder, depending on the level of gene in the brain.

In two research studies published almost simultaneously in the journals Neurology and PLoS ONE, the scientists found strong evidence for the role of the gene, insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE), in influencing risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The Mayo researchers were one of the groups that first found an association between IDE and Alzheimer’s several years ago, but these new findings now offer a novel theory about how the gene could be involved in the disease process.

“We found a new mechanism of action for this Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility gene, that acts by altering gene expression levels,” says neuroscientist and neurologist Nilufer Ertekin-Taner, M.D., Ph.D., the lead investigator on the Neurology study and contributor to the PLoS ONE research.

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