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$2m study will map Alzheimer’s DNA

MINNEAPOLIS -- Working with $2 million in new grants to be announced this week, researchers for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative will, for the first time, start mapping the DNA of 800 participants in a study attempting to find the root causes of memory loss.

The goal is to see if physical changes from Alzheimer’s can be matched to genetic disparities, which can then be compared with findings from healthy people.

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While about 10 genes are already linked to the condition, crucial details about genetic variations and how they interact remain unknown, said Robert Green, a medical geneticist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston who is coordinating the sequencing efforts.

The research initiative, which is being funded by the US government, nonprofit groups, and private industry, began tracking physical and mental changes in people ages 60 and older in 2004.

The new grants are from the Alzheimer’s Association and the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, a charitable organization. Both are nonprofits.

The genetic samples have already been gathered, the researchers said, and will be sequenced at Illumina, the gene-mapping company based in San Diego.

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