• Press Release

Mount Sinai Researchers Identify Genetic Markers Linking Risk for Both Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease

  • New York
  • (July 16, 2015)

Certain patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) may have specific genetic risk factors that put them at higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published recently in Molecular Aspects of Medicine.

Under the leadership of Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD, Saunders Family Chair and Professor of Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Director of Biomedical Training in the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Centers at J.J. Peters Bronx VA Medical Center, the study team used recent genome wide association study (GWAS) findings to investigate whether T2D and AD share common genetic etiological factors and the potential impact of these genetic factors on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that may contribute to the development of both these diseases.  

GWAS look at differences at many points in the genetic code to see if, across a population, one or more variations in the code are found more often in those with a given trait (for example, high risk for a disease).  Even the smallest genetic variations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), can have a major impact on a trait by swapping just one of the 3.2 billion “letters” that make up the human DNA code.

One of the major long-term complications of T2D is an increased risk for developing AD.  While previous studies strongly suggested a causative role of diabetes in the onset and progression of AD dementia, the specific mechanistic interactions connecting diabetes and AD had not been previously described.  

“We identified multiple genetic differences in terms of SNPs that are associated with higher susceptibility to develop type 2 diabetes as well as Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Pasinetti.  “Many of these SNPs are traced to genes whose anomalies are known to contribute to T2D and AD, suggesting that certain diabetic patients with these genetic differences are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s.  Our data highlights the need for further exploration of genetic susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease in patients with T2D.”

An estimated 312 million people suffer from T2D worldwide, exerting enormous burdens on individuals and on health care systems.  Similarly, AD affects nearly 45 million people worldwide and is costly to both individuals and healthcare systems. There is currently no cure for either condition.  

Mounting evidence suggests that AD dementia can be traced back to pathological conditions, such as T2D, that are initiated several decades before clinical AD onset.  Since T2D is one of the potentially modifiable risk factors for AD, it is critically important for scientists to uncover the genetics of this complex connection so that new therapeutic interventions may be developed and targeted to at-risk individuals with T2D prior to the onset of AD dementia.

This study will support ongoing research applications to further explore genetic susceptibility in patients with T2D for developing AD and help improve the design of future novel treatments for a subpopulation of T2D subjects with genetic predisposition to AD, which could benefit T2D and reduce the risk for subsequent development of AD.  Outcomes from these studies identifying cellular abnormalities common to both T2D and AD can lead to the development of T2D therapies that may also help prevent subsequent development of AD in genetically predisposed individuals.

This work is supported in part by the Altschul Foundation.

“Shared genetic etiology underlying Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes,” by Ke Hao, Antonio Fabio Di Narzo, Lap Ho, Wei Luo, Shuyu Li, Rong Chen, Tongbin Li, Lauren Dubner, and Giulio Maria Pasinetti (DOI: 10.1016/j.mam.2015.06.006), published online in Molecular Aspects of Medicine by Elsevier.

A copy of the paper is available to credentialed journalists upon request by contacting Elsevier’s Newsroom at newsroom@elsevier.com  or +31 20 4853564.

About Molecular Aspects of Medicine – The official Journal of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  As a review journal for Physicians and Biomedical Scientists, Molecular Aspects of Medicine, bridges the gap between clinicians of all relevant specialties and biomedical scientists working in areas from biochemistry and molecular and cell biology to physiology, pharmacology and pathology. www.journals.elsevier.com/molecular-aspects-of-medicine


About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in 4 out of 10 pediatric specialties. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: It is consistently ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools," aligned with a U.S. News & World Report "Honor Roll" Hospital, and top 20 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding and top 5 in the nation for numerous basic and clinical research areas. Newsweek’s “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York and in the top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside in the top 20 globally.

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