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Last Updated: Oct 20th, 2006 - 23:44:54

Memory Channel
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Latest Research : Neurosciences : Memory

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Human Memory Gene Identified
Oct 20, 2006, 23:37, Reviewed by: Dr. Himanshu Tyagi

"Using the latest whole-genome association technologies, we have shed light on the fundamental biological process of human memory performance. The capacity to remember is a defining feature of humans and we can now use this new understanding to develop drugs that will improve memory function."

 
Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) today announced the discovery of a gene that plays a significant role in memory performance in humans. The findings, reported by TGen and research colleagues at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, Banner Alzheimer's Institute, and Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, appear in the October 20 issue of Science. The study details how researchers associated memory performance with a gene called Kibra in over 1,000 individuals --both young and old-- from Switzerland and Arizona. This study is the first to describe scanning the human genetic blueprint at over 500,000 positions to identify cognitive differences between humans.

Image Courtesy: NHGRI

"Using the latest whole-genome association technologies, we have shed light on the fundamental biological process of human memory performance," said Dr. Dietrich Stephan, Director of TGen's Neurogenomics Division and a senior author of the paper. "The capacity to remember is a defining feature of humans and we can now use this new understanding to develop drugs that will improve memory function."

Researchers at the University of Zurich, collaborating with colleagues at Arizona's Banner Alzheimer's Institute, Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, and the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium, collected DNA samples from cognitively healthy people and measured memory performance. TGen researchers screened the collected DNA samples using the whole-genome microarray technology. Researchers then combined the scan data with the memory performance test results and found a connection between Kibra and memory.

According to the study's lead author, Dr. Andreas Papassotiropoulos, professor at the University of Zurich, "The link between Kibra and memory could lead to new treatments for memory loss and possibly help improve memory in patients with memory disorders such as Alzheimer's disease."

Not only did the research team identify that the Kibra gene was associated with memory performance, but they also showed that the gene is turned on in the hippocampus, a brain region known to be critical to memory function.

"Using sophisticated functional brain imaging techniques, we showed that individuals who had a version of the gene that is related to poorer memory potential had to tax their brains harder to remember the same amount of information," said Dr. Dominique de Quervain, professor at the University of Zurich.

"Researchers now have enough of the 'letters' to read the 'genetic book of life' with unprecedented power," said Dr. Eric Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute and one of the study investigators. "We're excited about the chance to identify a gene that accounts for some of variation in normal human memory and to use this information in the discovery of promising new memory-enhancing treatments."

Until now, researchers did not have access to the high-density technology to examine the genetic components associated with memory performance. The team at TGen used Affymetrix Human Mapping 500K Arrays to simultaneously analyze 500,000 genetic markers from the people who were tested. They made the memory discovery by comparing the genetic blueprint of people with good memory to people with poor memory; memory performance was based on a series of gold-standard tests for all individuals. The researchers then validated their discovery by replicating the Kibra gene finding in two separate and distinct groups of subjects.

"This memory study is a perfect example of how the use of advanced technologies in human genetics yields fundamental discoveries," said Dr. Stephen P.A. Fodor, Chairman and CEO at Affymetrix, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based manufacturer of the technology.

The impact of the study is that it gives the research community a new and important handhold into truly understanding the process of memory. The ramifications of this report are ultimately developing new and effective medicines that can combat memory loss, and that might also help improve memory in people with memory disorders like Alzheimer's disease.

The team has already begun working on new drugs to restore memory function in age-related memory loss and diseases that have a memory loss component.

Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona have used the Affymetrix 500K Array to discover a gene--called Kibra--associated with memory performance in humans. The team's findings may be used to develop new medicines for memory-based diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's by providing scientists with a better understanding of how memory works at the molecular level.

"Using the latest Affymetrix 500K Array, we have shed light on the fundamental biological process of human memory performance," said Dr. Stephan. "We can use this new understanding to develop drugs that will improve memory function."

Until now, researchers did not have access to the high-density technology needed to examine the genetic components associated with memory performance. The team at TGen used Affymetrix Human Mapping 500K Arrays to analyze 500,000 DNA markers simultaneously, providing a genetic blueprint for the memory-study participants. The researchers discovered the Kibra gene by comparing the genetic blueprints of people with good memory vs. poor memory and looking for the genetic variations consistently present in one group, but not the other. They then validated their discovery by replicating the Kibra gene finding in two separate and distinct groups of subjects.

"This memory study is a perfect example of how the use of advanced technologies in human genetics yields fundamental discoveries," said Stephen P.A. Fodor, Ph.D., chairman and CEO at Affymetrix.
 

- Oct. 20, 2006 issue of Science
 

www.tgen.org

 
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The study entitled, "Common KIBRA alleles are associated with human memory performance," will be published in the Oct. 20, 2006 issue of Science. The research team was led by Dietrich Stephan, Ph.D., director of TGen's Neurogenomics Division. It included colleagues at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, Banner Alzheimer's Institute and Mayo Clinic Scottsdale.

About Affymetrix

Affymetrix scientists invented the world's first high-density microarray in 1989 and began selling the first commercial microarray in 1994. Since then, Affymetrix GeneChip® technology has become the industry standard in molecular biology research. Affymetrix technology is used by the world's top pharmaceutical, diagnostic and biotechnology companies as well as leading academic, government and not-for-profit research institutes. More than 1,400 systems have been installed around the world and more than 7,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published using the technology. Affymetrix' patented photolithographic manufacturing process provides the most information capacity available today on an array, enabling researchers to use a whole-genome approach to analyzing the relationship between genetics and health. Affymetrix is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., with manufacturing facilities in Sacramento, Calif., and Bedford, Mass. The company maintains important sales and marketing operations in Europe and Asia, and has about 1,100 employees worldwide. For more information about Affymetrix, please visit the company's website at www.affymetrix.com.

All statements in this press release that are not historical are "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act as amended, including statements regarding Affymetrix' "expectations," "beliefs," "hopes," "intentions," "strategies," or the like. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially for Affymetrix from those projected, including, but not limited to: risks and uncertainties associated with the use of the Affymetrix 500K Array discussed in this press release; risks of the Company's ability to achieve and sustain higher levels of revenue, higher gross margins, reduced operating expenses; uncertainties relating to technological approaches, manufacturing, product development; personnel retention; uncertainties related to cost and pricing of Affymetrix products; dependence on collaborative partners; uncertainties relating to sole source suppliers; uncertainties relating to FDA and other regulatory approvals; competition; risks relating to intellectual property of others and the uncertainties of patent protection and litigation. These and other risk factors are discussed in Affymetrix' Form 10-K/A for the year ended December 31, 2005, and other SEC reports, including its Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for subsequent quarterly periods. Affymetrix expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in Affymetrix' expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statements are based.

NOTE: Affymetrix, the Affymetrix logo and GeneChip are registered trademarks owned or used by Affymetrix Inc.

About TGen The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, is focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen's research is based on personalized medicine and the institute plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.

About the University of Zurich The University of Zurich is the largest university in Switzerland with more than 20000 students and more than 4000 academic, administrative and technical staff. Founded in 1833, it is organized in 7 faculties (Medicine, Science, Arts, Veterinary Medicine, Theology, Law, Economics) and proud to have hosted 12 Nobel Prize Laureates since 1901. One of the main foci of the University of Zurich is related to basic, preclinical and clinical neuroscience research.

About Banner Alzheimer's Institute The Banner Alzheimer's Institute's (BAI) mission is to end Alzheimer's disease without losing a generation, set a new standard of care for patients and families, and forge a model of collaboration in biomedical research. Memory test scores and genetic samples from a BAI and Mayo Clinic Arizona study were used to confirm the association between the Kibra gene and differences in normal human memory. This study was supported by the National Intitute of Mental Health, the National Intitute on Aging and the state of Arizona.

About Affymetrix Affymetrix Inc. (Nasdaq:AFFX) GeneChip® technology has become the industry standard in molecular biology research. Affymetrix scientists invented the world's first high-density microarray in 1989 and began selling the first commercial microarray in 1994. Today, the company's technology is used by the world's top pharmaceutical, diagnostic and biotechnology companies as well as leading academic, government and not-for-profit research institutes. More than 1,400 systems have been installed around the world and more than 7,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published using the technology. Affymetrix' patented photolithographic manufacturing process provides the most information capacity available today on an array, enabling researchers to use a whole-genome approach to analyzing the relationship between genetics and health. Affymetrix is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., with manufacturing facilities in Sacramento, Calif., and Bedford, Mass. The company maintains important sales and marketing operations in Europe and Asia and has about 1,100 employees worldwide. For more information about Affymetrix, please visit the company's website at www.affymetrix.com.

About the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium The Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium (AAC) capitalizes on the complementary resources of its eight member institutions to promote the scientific understanding and early detection of Alzheimer's disease and find effective disease-stopping and prevention therapies. The AAC is comprised of both the NIA-funded Arizona Disease Core Center (ADCC) and the state-funded Arizona Alzheimer's Research Center (AARC). The AAC's member research institutions include Arizona State University, the Banner Alzheimer's Institute, the Barrow Neurological Institute, Mayo Clinic Arizona, the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Healthcare System, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the University of Arizona.


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