Following a brief introduction and discussion of the pathological features of Alzheimer's disease, the main emphasis of this review article will be the genetic factors that have been implicated in this disease. These can be divided into two main categories. First, the three genes in which mutations are known to result in early onset autosomal dominant familial Alzheimer's disease will be discussed. These are well characterised but account for only a small proportion of Alzheimer's disease cases. Late onset, sporadic Alzheimer's disease is more common and evidence suggests that there is a genetic component to this type of disease. A number of genetic risk factors have been implicated that might increase the risk of developing sporadic disease. Many of these are controversial and studies have shown conflicting results, which are discussed in this section. Finally, a brief discussion of some of the mechanisms suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease is included. It is hoped that this will show why particular genes have been implicated in Alzheimer's disease and how they might be able to influence the development of the disease.
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