Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

New Alzheimer’s Gene Found

Gene May Explain 5% of Inherited Alzheimer's Disease Cases
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 14, 2010 (Toronto) -- A newly identified gene appears to increase a person’s risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of Alzheimer’s disease.

People with a particular variation in the gene, dubbed MTHFD1L, may be nearly twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as people without the variation.

Still, the absolute risk of developing Alzheimer's will be "very small" for any given individual that carries the variant, says Margaret Pericak-Vance, PhD, director of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Gene May Explain 5% of Inherited Alzheimer's Disease

The search for new genes that predispose people to Alzheimer's disease has been quite slow, Pericak-Vance tells WebMD.

It's been nearly two decades since researchers discovered the variants in the ApoE gene that are associated with an increased risk for late-onset Alzheimer's disease, which affects people 60 and older.

A mixture of genetic and environmental factors is thought to cause late-onset Alzheimer's disease. About 60% to 80% of the disease is attributable to genetics, and about 40% of that genetic effect is attributable to the ApoE4 variant.

MTHFD1L may help explain another 5% of inherited cases of the disease, Pericak-Vance says.

What makes this discovery "so exciting" is that the gene is known to be involved in the metabolism of folate, which in turn influences the body’s levels of homocysteine, she says.

High levels of homocysteine, which are associated with too little folate in the diet, have been shown to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, she says.

"A lot of the time we find a gene and have to figure out how it ties in to the disease. This finding melds the genetics with the biology," Pericak-Vance says.

Genome-Wide Technique Aids Finding of New Alzheimer's Gene

Pericak-Vance says the discovery was made possible by a technique known as a genome-wide association study (GWAS) that lets scientists look throughout the entire genome for small differences, or variants, in long stretches of DNA that are more common in people with a particular disease.

Today on WebMD

Remember your finger
When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
senior man with serious expression
Which kinds are treatable?
senior man
Common symptoms to look for.
mri scan of human brain
Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
eating blueberries
Colored mri of brain
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
mature woman
Woman comforting ailing mother
Senior woman with serious expression