Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative neurological disease similar to dementia. This condition affects millions of people all over the country. The impact Alzheimer’s disease can have on a family is quite profound and ultimately heartbreaking.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease will slowly have trouble remembering basic information. They may lose their train of thought mid-sentence or forget where they were going after leaving the house. Eventually, the condition worsens, and they will start forgetting more important information about their lives, including the names and faces of family members. They will also lose the ability to live independently as they may forget to eat or take required medications. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Sadly, one in three senior citizens will pass away while experiencing some form of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Alzheimer’s Research into Genetics
Alzheimer’s disease not only has a profound effect on the families of those who suffer from the disease, but also on the American economy, the healthcare system, and on the medical research community. Research into the causes of and potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease continues throughout the world. Medical researchers who specialize in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are exploring potential genetic markers that may predispose an individual to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
When it comes to genetic markers for the development of a disease, two factors come into play. Risk genes determine whether an individual is at risk of developing a specific disease, but their presence does not guarantee that the individual will indeed develop the disease. Deterministic genes, by comparison, do guarantee that an individual will develop a specific disease.
The most commonly found risk gene for Alzheimer’s disease is the APOE-e4 gene. About 65% of people who develop Alzheimer’s disease have this gene. If an individual inherits the APOE-e4 gene from one parent, the individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is higher. If they inherit two APOE-e4 genes, one from each parent, the risk is even greater, but it is still not a guarantee that the individual will certainly develop Alzheimer’s disease. Only about 2% of the population has two copies of the APOE-e4 gene.
Deterministic Genes for Alzheimer’s
While the presence of risk genes for Alzheimer’s disease do not inherently guarantee a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease, the presence of certain deterministic genes will. Fortunately, the appearance rate of these genes is very low. Scientists have identified rare genes responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease in only a few hundred family lines across the globe. These deterministic genes for Alzheimer’s disease are only responsible for roughly 1% of all known Alzheimer’s disease cases. People with these deterministic genes typically develop Alzheimer’s disease in their 40s or 50s, compared to most other cases that develop after the age of 65.
One of the greatest benefits to come out of the discovery of these familial deterministic genes for Alzheimer’s disease is that research into these genes have uncovered a solid link between beta-amyloid production and processing and Alzheimer’s disease. There are several medications currently in production that target beta-amyloid processes to stop or slow Alzheimer’s disease from progressing.
Should I Have a Genetic Test to Assess My Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease?
Despite the identification of deterministic genes for Alzheimer’s and the known APOE-e4 risk genes, medical researchers and health professionals generally do not recommend routine genetic testing to identify Alzheimer’s disease risk. Ultimately, there is currently no known way to treat, slow, or cure Alzheimer’s disease, so investing in genetic testing could drain valuable resources that ultimately contributes very little to fighting the disease.
Caregivers across the country provide a great deal of unpaid labor when it comes to caring for their relatives struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. Hopefully, research into the genetics behind Alzheimer’s disease could eventually lead to a cure or viable treatment for the disease’s symptoms, but only time will tell. At Rocky Mountain Assisted Living, we understand the tremendous burden facing families of people struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and provide a full range of professional memory care services devoted to patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Contact us today for more details about the memory care services available at Rocky Mountain Assisted Living.