The Role of Genetics in Alzheimer's Disease
The call came at 9:05 p.m. on January 20, 2004. Mom had just finished telling the news about the girl's grandfather. He had Alzheimer's Disease and was not doing well at all. The ruling was that he probably would not make it through the night. She knew exactly what the news was the moment her mom said, "No." After the news came, the decision was made they would leave the next day to attend the funeral.
This girl began wondering, "If grandpa had Alzheimer's do I have a chance of getting it too? What can I do to avoid getting it? He suffered so much, I don't want to go through that." What if a person's genetics have something to do with whether or not they will get Alzheimer's? What are possible ways to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease? Genetics might have something to do with whether or not one will get Alzheimer's but their chances of avoiding the disease are better if they take care of themselves.
Let us start with some general history and facts and then proceed to the specifics. Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is named after a German doctor, Alois Alzheimer. He discovered the disease in 1906, while doing an autopsy on a woman who had died from an unusual mental illness. Dr. Alzheimer noted unique changes in the brain tissue (U.S 1995). His findings included clumps, which are also known as plaques, and tangled fibers, also called neurofibrillary tangles. These findings have become "hallmarks of AD" (U.S. 1995). AD is now considered the most common form of dementia (Travis).
Researchers from New York State did autopsies on 87 people who were seen at a dementia clinic to find out if any of them showed signs of a cerebrovascular disease. They all did and 87% of them also had Alzheimer's Disease (Nolan). According to Michael D. Lemonick of Time Magazine, three and a half million Americans have Alzheimer's. If you multiply that number by five you will get the approximate number of people worldwide with the disease. What Americans spend annually in healthcare costs for their family and friends with AD equals $24.6 billion (Drug Week, Company...). The ages that are primarily affected are those 65 and older; however, people that are younger than 50 can develop the disease (Shenk, p30-31).
Many of the people with Alzheimer's Disease will be misdiagnosed or have to wait two to four years after they start experiencing symptoms before they will officially be diagnosed, according to Nancy MacDonald, PhD (Drug Week, Failure...). Studies have shown that genetics play some sort of role in the development of Alzheimer's, but exactly what their role is has not yet been determined. Since Alzheimer's disease is not the result of one single gene, sometimes a person may have to get a deformed gene from both of their parents in order to get Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists believed in 1995 that there was a genetic influence in over half the cases of Alzheimer's disease. The gene scientists are giving...