Using data from almost 75,000 people across 15 countries, the breakthrough report by an international team of researchers has been published in the Nature Genetics journal.
Jointly led by Cardiff University, the study was the largest of its kind and experts believe that it will significantly advance scientists' knowledge of Alzheimer's by throwing open new research avenues and enabling a better understanding of the disease's disordered functional processes.
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The work by the International Genomics Project details 11 new regions of the genome involved in the onset of the neurodegenerative condition. Part-funded by the Medical Research Council, the Welsh Government and Alzheimer's Research UK, the research builds on the genome-wide association analysis study that has since 2009 discovered 10 genes known to be associated with Alzheimer's.
Professor Julie Williams, the head of neurodegeneration at the Cardiff University School of Medicine's Medical Research Council Centre on Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, led one of four global research groups. She said: "This discovery will pinpoint new mechanisms underlying Alzheimer's disease.
"By combining the expertise and resources of geneticists across the globe, we have been able to overcome our natural competitive instincts to achieve a real breakthrough in identifying the genetic architecture that significantly contributes to our mapping of the disease."
Prof Williams said the next phase of the research will focus on people with early onset Alzheimer's.