Genetic studies have promised to help doctors assess people’s risk of many different illnesses. Recently, a new study found that a number of specific genes are linked to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in the African-American population, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and reported by the Los Angeles Times.

For the study, researchers reviewed DNA data collected from nearly 6,000 African Americans. In the data, scientists found several genes well-known as being linked with Alzheimer’s, an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. In addition, findings showed that one of these genes, ABCA7, registered a particularly strong link to the disease. Study subjects who showed this gene in their DNA were 1.8 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those without the gene. What’s more, the likelihood of those with the gene developing Alzheimer’s was 60 percent stronger among African Americans than those of European descent.

Researchers said that although further studies are needed in order to confirm the link between ABCA7 and late-onset Alzheimer’s in African Americans, if the association is confirmed, it could help scientists better understand the disease and develop genetic tests to help prevent and treat it.

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