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Credit: Son Nguyen

In the largest Alzheimer’s study ever conducted, Penn Medicine researchers have found links to five new genes that increase the risk of developing the disease. 

The International Genomic Alzheimer’s Project, led by Pathology and Laboratory Medicine professor Gerard Schellenberg, analyzed data from more than 94,000 people. The study was published in Nature Genetics in February 2019. 

The team also identified cellular pathways which are involved in the process of the disease, including the immune system, lipid metabolism, and amyloid precursor protein metabolism. Their findings suggest that therapies traditionally reserved for early-onset Alzheimer's patients can also apply to the late-onset form of the disease.

“The Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Consortium at Penn, one of the key components of IGAP, has helped organize a significant portion of the data used in this work,” Schellenberg told Penn Medicine News. “Only by pooling our data and working with international collaborators can we make these significant discoveries that we hope will pave the way for Alzheimer’s disease prevention and treatments.”

IGAP, founded in 2011, partners with and combines data from universities across the United States and Europe for research on the genetic causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Schellenberg is also the director of the Penn Neurodegeneration Genomics Center and chair of the Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Consortium at Penn. 

Penn has long been a site for Alzheimer’s research. Penn Medicine professor Yvette Sheline found in October 2016 that the use of antidepressants might delay Alzheimer’s. In April 2017, Penn student Michael Tran Duong received the Goldwater Scholarship for his work at Penn analyzing neuroimaging of Alzheimer’s.