Researchers Find Gene Linking Age-Related Cataracts and Alzheimer's Disease

Posted on October 7, 2012

Investigators at Boston University Schools of Medicine (BUSM) and Public Health (BUSPH) recently identified a gene linking age-related cataracts and Alzheimer's disease. The findings were published here in PLoS ONE. The researchers say their findings contribute to the growing body of evidence showing that these two diseases, both associated with increasing age, may share common etiologic factors.

The investigators looked at brain MRI findings on or after 10 years from the original eye exam and concluded that there was a significant correlation between a quantitative measure of cortical cataract and several Alzheimer's disease-related measures of brain degeneration. The researchers say there was also a strong correlation in these same individuals between cortical cataract formation and poorer performance on several cognitive tests administered at the time of the MRI scan.

Lindsay A. Farrer, PhD, chief of the Biomedical Genetics Section at BUSM, and the study's senior author, said in a release, "Though much work remains to be done, a link between cataracts and Alzheimer's disease supports the idea of a systemic rather than brain-limited focus for processes leading to Alzheimer's disease. This study gives hope that we are moving toward earlier diagnosis and new treatment targets for this debilitating disease."

A correlation between cataracts and Alzheimer's has been seen before. A study last year found a link between cataract surgery and improvements in people suffering from mild cases of Alzheimer's disease.