Genetics

Chasing the elusive causes of Alzheimer's disease

Photo of home for people with Alzheimer's who are participating in gym activities
Gym lessons for residents with Alzheimer's disease in a French facility. Photo: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The dramatic increase in funding for Alzheimer's research in recent years is spurring hope that scientists will be able to discover the elusive biological causes of the disease.

Why it matters: A total of 5.7 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer's and, as baby boomers age, 14 million are expected to develop the illness by 2050. In response, the U.S. has dramatically stepped up funding for Alzheimer’s research, from $400 million a year to over $2 billion annually, a fact that Bill Gates touted in his end-of-year blog.

Nature beats nurture when it comes to causing diseases, study finds

Photo of baby twins
Photo: Sigarru/iStock by Getty Images

Genes play a larger overall role than environment or socioeconomic factors in causing human diseases, according to a comprehensive analysis of health insurance data, including a large cohort of twins, according to a Nature Genetics study published Monday.

What's new: Nearly 40% of human diseases can be linked to genetic factors, while 25% are at least partly driven from the environment. However, socioeconomic factors only play a modest role, the scientists find.

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