PharmaKure, a clinical stage pharma company, partnered with Sheffield Hallam University to focus on epigenetic markers for calculating risk scores for Alzheimer’s disease. Together with ALZmetrixTM, PharmaKure’s blood-based biomarker, the goal of the partnership is to increase the power of current Alzheimer’s diagnostics.

Specifically, the collaborative study between Sheffield Hallam University and PharmaKure aims to gain a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to identify those more at risk of developing the disease to enable interventions much earlier in the disease pathology.

Role of environmental stresses

“We have been working on the relationship of environmental stresses with respect to brain diseases,” said Gavin Reynolds, professor, Biomolecular Sciences Research Center, Sheffield Hallam University. Reynolds has published over 300 papers on the pathology of neurotransmitter systems involved in psychiatric disorders and now focuses on epigenetics effects in neuro diseases.

“Our genes are coded in our DNA, but epigenetics looks at how the cell turns genes on and off according to different environmental exposure, such as the aging process, stress, trauma etc. We want to identify abnormal epigenetic changes associated with brain diseases, and these changes may be modifiable with medications,” he explained.

“Mental health and the environment can both contribute to the development of brain diseases,” added Helene Fachim, PhD, neuroscientist PharmaKure. “Influences, such as trauma and chronic stress, can bring about epigenetic changes to DNA that may result in a range of psychiatric and neurological disorders. We are therefore looking for epigenetic factors that are specifically related to Alzheimer’s disease.

“We would like to use these epigenetic approaches for a better understanding of AD, so that we can stratify a person’s risk of developing it. Then, we could act in preventive ways, or administer AD drugs earlier in life when they are more effective.”

AD is a multifactorial disease, and it is known that environmental factors can make an important contribution to triggering it. The study’s main hypothesis is that there is differential methylation in certain target genes related to AD compared to non-AD controls. If this hypothesis proves to be true, PharmaKure can start the validation of an epigenetic predictive risk score for cognitive impairment and AD, according to Farid Khan, PhD, CEO, PharmaKure.

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