Dr. Tariot explains if Alzheimer's disease is a hereditary condition.
The genetics of Alzheimer’s disease is pretty interesting, and a story has broken into two major parts. There is a malignant form of Alzheimer’s disease that occurs early in life and fortunately, that’s relatively rare. Probably only a few hundred families worldwide that the families know who they are because every generation is laid low, half of every generation dies perhaps in their early 50s, late 40s or early 50s.
That form of early onset of Alzheimer’s disease is known to be caused by specific mutations in the human gene that can be identified. Then there’s the rest of us, probably 98-99% of the rest of folks with Alzheimer’s disease who develop it later in life. In that group we know that there can be a normal gene variation that increases risk but doesn’t cause the disease.
So that’s an important clue in terms of how the disease unfolds, but it is not something we use in the clinic for diagnostic purposes. All of this said, I think where we’re going is better and better understanding of the genetics of this and many other diseases, and so we may be employing genetic testing in new and different ways before too long.
About Dr. Tariot:
Dr. Pierre Tariot is board-certified in internal medicine and geriatric psychiatry at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. He has devoted his career to helping thousands of patients and families cope with dementia. He is also a world leader in the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss.
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