“About 5 million Americans – including roughly 1 in 10 people age 65 or older & one-third of those age 85 or older have symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease”
News just in reports that a large new study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine, indicates that: “People with a gene variant that puts them at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease are protected from its debilitating effects if they also carry a variant of a completely different gene.”
Frequently, different people have different versions (variants) of particular genes, and as you can imagine, these can all generate different traits. Some good news for a small percentage of the population, however, is that “a substantial fraction of the estimated 15% of Americans carrying the high-risk gene variant are protected to some degree from Alzheimer’s disease by a variant of the other gene.”
Finally, Some Hope for Everyone
The medical journal, JAMA Neurology, which published the researchers’ findings this month, optimistically notes that, “this study helped drug developers better identify clinical trial participants and treatments for what, despite billions of dollars spent in pursuit of effective therapies, remains a disease without a cure.”
Billions of dollars have been invested in research, and all we have are medications that can only slow down the progression of cognitive symptoms by a minor degree. Nothing can halt this insidious disease, and no drugs can prolong patients’ lives. There is still untold suffering by the victims and their loved ones. But there is always hope, and we owe a debt of thanks to researchers such as those at Stanford, who are leading the way for the entire world.
In the Know
Even after years of tireless research, researches from across the globe are still not sure of the exact cause/s of Alzheimer’s, and no doubt there are multiple factors involved. However, over thirty years ago, researchers discovered one prime contributor; ApoE4, a gene variant which is more than three times more prevalent in Alzheimer’s victims. Yet, not all carriers of this variant go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Stanford Center for Memory Disorders’ director, associate professor of neurology, Michael Greicius, MD, MPH, who is also the study’s senior author, stated that, “while 15% of healthy people have the ApoE4 gene variant, it’s present in more than 50% of Alzheimer’s patients. One copy of ApoE4 triples or quadruples your risk, compared with no copies. If you are carrying two copies, your risk goes up tenfold.”
Further, lead author, Michael Belloy, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar, noted that, “having one or two copies of ApoE moves the age at which you get sick earlier by five to ten years. But it turns out, not all ApoE4 carriers are destined to develop the disease. The gene variant we studied protects you from getting Alzheimer’s.” Naturally, this five-or ten-year period is very significant, and can explain why some people are hit by this disease at a relatively young age.
Fortunately, however, those with two copies of ApoE4 are by no means subject to the fate of Alzheimer’s. Indeed, some of them will live life up to 90 years old, without any symptoms. Let’s hope that in the future, it will be the case for everyone.