Alzheimer’s disease is a dangerous disease that many people fear. The thought of not recognizing family, not remembering who we are, and not being capable of taking care of ourselves is a sobering one that many Americans will unfortunately have to deal with. While researchers still don’t understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease, they have identified several factors that lead to the development of Alzheimer’s, which is helping them to find cures.
One of the factors behind Alzheimer’s is a genetic predisposition to the disease. Depending on how that Alzheimer’s comes about, researchers are hoping to be able study the genes that cause Alzheimer’s to find a cure.
Researchers in Colombia have studied an extended family of over 6,000 people that have developed dementia for centuries. They even identified which gene was responsible for that dementia, a gene called presenilin 1. And they also discovered that one woman in that family didn’t begin experiencing symptoms of dementia until she was in her 70s, a full three decades later than most people in her family began suffering from dementia. That was despite the woman having the gene mutation that gave rise to Alzheimer’s and having high levels of amyloid protein plaques in her brain.
Researchers are hoping that by studying this woman and her genetic makeup that they can identify how Alzheimer’s develops in those who are genetically predisposed to develop the disease. While it may only help a small number of Alzheimer’s patients who suffer from this same gene mutation, every little bit can help.
And by figuring out how Alzheimer’s development was delayed in this woman’s case, perhaps researchers can carry their findings over to other cases of Alzheimer’s, finding similarities and figuring out how they can prevent Alzheimer’s development among other groups. It will probably be a long time before a cure or preventive procedure for Alzheimer’s is fully developed, but every advance that is made is one more step in halting a dangerous and life-altering disease.