Scientists have identified a gene that affects the risk of both Alzheimer’s disease and severe COVID-19, a discovery that could pave the way for new drug development targets for both diseases.
Researchers estimate that one genetic variant of the OAS1 gene increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by about three to six percent in an entire population, while related variants on the same gene increase the likelihood of serious COVID-19 outcomes.
The findings, published in the journal Brain, could open the door to new targets for drug development or to track disease progression in any given disease.
According to the researchers, the findings also have potential benefits for other related infectious conditions and dementia.
Study lead author Dervis Salih, from University College London, said: “While Alzheimer’s is primarily characterized by a harmful build-up of amyloid proteins and entanglements in the brain, there is also widespread inflammation in the brain that highlights the importance of the immune system in Alzheimer’s. ” (UCL) in the UK.
“We have found that there may be some changes in the same immune system in both Alzheimer’s disease and COVID-19,” Mr. Salih said.
The researchers said that patients with severe COVID-19 infection may also have inflammatory changes in the brain.
He said the newly identified genes may contribute to an exaggerated immune response to increased risk of both Alzheimer’s and COVID-19.
The OAS1 gene is expressed in microglia, a type of immune cell that makes up about 10 percent of all cells found within the brain.
The researchers sequenced genetic data from 2,547 people, half of whom had Alzheimer’s disease.
They found that people with a particular variation of the OAS1 gene called rs1131454 were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, increasing the carriers’ disease risk by an estimated 11 to 22 percent.
Their findings add OAS1, an anti-viral gene, to a list of dozens of genes now known to affect a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers examined four variants on the OAS1 gene, all of which downregulate its activity.
They found that variants that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease are inherited with OAS1 variants, which have recently been shown to increase the risk of needing intensive care for COVID-19 by 20 percent.
In immune cells treated to mimic the effects of COVID-19, researchers found that the gene controls how much of the body’s immune cells release pro-inflammatory proteins.
They found that microglia cells where the gene was more weakly expressed had an exaggerated response to tissue damage, which they called a ‘cytokine storm’, which leads to an autoimmune state where the body attacks itself. .
OAS1 activity changes with age, so further research into the genetic network could help understand why older people are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s, COVID-19 and other related diseases, the researchers said.
“Our findings suggest that some people may have an increased susceptibility to both Alzheimer’s disease and severe COVID-19, regardless of their age, because some of our immune cells share a common molecular mechanism in both diseases. Attached,” said Nasiye Magusali, a UCL PhD student. .
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)