A gene which may trigger a higher risk of a distressing early form of dementia has been discovered by Cambridge scientists.
The study has appeared in the journal Nature. Fronto-temporal dementia (FTD) is the second most common type of dementia in people under 65 years of age and can lead to a complete change in one's personality.
The study team analyzed the brains of 515 people with FTD and identified the gene on chromosome 7.rof. Maria Grazia Spillantini of the University of Cambridge and her team established an international collaboration with investigators in 11 countries including the UK, the US, Belgium and Spain for the study.
When the Cambridge team compared the brains of 515 people with known FTD with 2,509 brains of people without the condition, they came across several different mutations on chromosome 7 which are believed to affect around 50per cent of the people with FTD.
These mutations increase the amounts of the protein the gene codes for.
Nearly 20per cent of individuals with FTD have a different kind of genetic mutation known as a GRN mutation.
Professor Spillantini believes the new gene speeds up the harm caused by the GRN mutation and makes the disease develop faster.
"We found a specific gene that was associated with an increased risk of the disease," the BBC quoted her, as saying.
She added: "A better understanding of how the gene is involved could identify a new approach to tackle this disease."
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust that partly funded the study, said: "This significant new work adds to our understanding of the disease, and we hope it will boost research efforts."
Dr Susanne Sorenson, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "A gene causing fronto-temporal dementia in some families was identified for the first time last year.
"This is very exciting news as finding out what the proteins produced by these genes do could help us understand the processes that cause the condition."