Is Alzheimer's Genetic?


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My grandfather, a microbiologist, passed away from Alzheimer's when I was in elementary school, before I had a chance to know him well. While brainstorming blog post ideas, I began to think about the different diseases that have affected my family. Because of my grandfather's disease, is my mother more likely to develop Alzheimer's? Am I more likely to eventually develop Alzheimer's.

It has been discovered that family history can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's. It has also been discovered that there are genes associated with the disease, but it is much more complicated than that, and research about the subject is still ongoing as researchers think their could be dozens more genes associated with the disease that haven't been discovered yet. (They also believe this future research could lead to other ways of treating or preventing the disease.) While it is possible to develop Alzheimer's before the age of 65 (this is called early onset Alzheimer's) most who have the disease develop it after age 65 (late onset Alzheimer's) as growing older is the biggest risk in developing the disease.

         Scientists have discovered the most common gene associated with the disease, called apolipoprotein E (APOE). It has three forms, one that reduces the risk of the disease (but is also the least common), another that (which is a little bit more common) that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's, and a third form (the most common of the three) that doesn't affect someone's chances of developing Alzheimer's. An individual also receives genes from each parent, which can affect your risk even further. Additionally, there are even more genes associated to Alzheimer's being discovered.

Furthermore, these genes are not the only factor in developing the disease, and while most don't recommend genetic testing, it is available. While testing for APOE does not tell you much about whether you will definitely develop the disease or not, there are some mutant genes that have been linked to early-onset Alzheimer's.

alzheimers-brainpuzzle-512.jpg

Also, different types of genes called Deterministic genes have been discovered. These are the types of genes that directly cause Alzheimer's. When the disease is caused from a Deterministic gene it is called "Familial Alzheimer's Disease". However, they are much more rare, and only account for about 5% of people who have the disease. 

In conclusion, it has been discovered that genes can increase your risk, and there are documented situations where it does run in families, but it isn't the only factor in if you develop the disease.

2 Comments

wow that's so creepy that it's genetic in a way. This is a great topic for a blog very interesting.... here are some more facts on Alzheimer's http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001767/

I know it seems random that I'm commenting on this blog from so long ago but I had remembered reading it a long time ago and I had meant to write a comment but I forgot. Seeing as Alzheimer's is common in my family, i especially found some of the information in this blog valuable. I was curious as to if you heard the rumor of Alzheimer's skipping a generation? For example if your grandfather died from it than your mother/father would be okay and it is you who would have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer's later in life. I was always really afraid of that because if the theory were to be true than my mother would develop Alzheimer's. MSNBC did a report on this and it turned out to just be a myth!
Check out the video at: http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/bridgeoflife.asp

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