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Scientists design new model to further understand causes of Alzheimer’s disease

9 March 2020

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Scientists from Cardiff University have brought together all known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease for the first time to produce a new model of the disease which it is hoped will help speed up the discovery of new treatments.

The Multiplex Model is a new way of looking at Alzheimer’s disease developed by Professor Julie Williams, Dr Rebecca Sims and Dr Matt Hill of the University’s UK Dementia Research Institute (UKDRI) and unveiled in the Journal Nature Neuroscience.

The model was produced by looking at all known genetic risk factors to further understanding of what triggers Alzheimer’s and how it develops.

More than 50 risk genes have already been identified and this new theory uses these - and the impact of thousands of other genes - to create the most detailed look at the basis of the disease yet.

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and Alzheimer’s is the most common form. There is no cure for the disease, which causes problems with memory and thinking.

Professor Williams, director of the UKDRI at Cardiff, said: “The genetic breakthroughs we and other scientists have made over the past 20 years have shown us that Alzheimer’s is a multi-component disease.

Julie Williams
Professor Julie Williams

“The Multiplex Model assumes that changes to one or all of these components work together to form a disease cascade. In other words, we now know that Alzheimer’s can be triggered by a number of different defects in the genetic make-up.

“By using this multi-faceted approach, we can pinpoint our research and work even faster towards developing new therapies.”

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“Alzheimer’s disease begins some 20 years before symptoms emerge,” said Professor Williams, “and at the moment we just don’t know what triggers it.


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A photo of professor Julie Williams

Professor Julie WilliamsDirector, Dementia Research Institute

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Cardiff’s £20m dementia research centre is one of seven UK centres looking at finding new ways to understand diagnose, treat, prevent and care for people with dementia.

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